MHealth services reach mothers and children in remote villages
It is a slightly warm morning in Guija, southern Mozambique, as a cool breeze wafts through a small verandah packed with patients. In one of the rooms, 28-year-old Atalia Rafaela Jamine, who is seven months pregnant, sits contentedly on the bed having her blood pressure measured. Atalia smiles radiantly after one of the health workers gives her a clean bill of health.
"I am very happy that my blood pressure is improving and the baby is growing well. The nurses told me to avoid stress, to relax and stay calm. I've also reduced salt and high fat in my diet and all this is working," she says.
Atalia, who is expecting her second child, says she found out about the importance of prenatal visits through radio and television programmes, a result of the collaboration between the Government of Mozambique and UNICEF's communication programme to create awareness about the importance of prenatal care.
While Atalia is a success story, a few kilometres away in the Chibuto Rural Hospital, 23-year-old Isabel Tivane is sitting with her almost two week old twin girls. At birth the girls each weighed just 1.4 kg. One baby is quietly suckling from her breast while the other is crying.
Three health workers come to her aid, so that she can attend to the smaller one who needs more attention. She takes a syringe, dips it into a cup of therapeutic milk designed to treat severe malnutrition and squeezes a few drops into her mouth. The crying stops briefly. Although the girls were full-term, they are small because Tivane stopped attending her prenatal visits. Her health and that of her unborn children was never fully monitored. Nor did she receive any nutritional advice or supplements like iron and folic acid given to pregnant women.
The babies do not look any bigger than an average newborn, with the quiet one weighing 2kg, while her sister is only 1.9 kg. The girls are fed F100 formula, a therapeutic milk specially designed to treat acute malnutrition, which is distributed by the government with UNICEF support.
"I am happy because of the service I get here. The children are showing great improvement," says Tivane.
"I am happy because of the service I get here. The children are showing great improvement" - 23-year-old Isabel Tivane.
Arcenia Faustina, an 18-year-old mother of two, brought her child to the Chibuto Health Centre. Arcenia has a baby on her back and another who is lying next to her who can barely move; she has severe malnutrition. The little girl is two and a half years old but looks younger than her six-month-old sister. Arcenia tries to help her daughter stand but her frail legs fail her. Even crying is an effort.
Arcenia left school and was forced to get married at the age of 14 when she fell pregnant. She was only in grade 8. The unemployed mother feeds the children porridge with sugar.
"I came here because I know that the health centre provides nutrition products for children like mine. So I am here to get help," says Arcenia.
"I came here because I know that the health centre provides nutrition products for children like mine. So I am here to get help," - 18-year-old Arcenia Faustina.
One of the people who are likely to help is Gil Casimiro Zacarias who leads a health centre team that deals with nutrition. The team is busy screening babies; some mothers are given sachets of micronutrient powder to take home, while those with malnutrition are referred to specific treatment programmes related to their problems.
Gil says poverty causes malnutrition. "For instance mothers who work on farms give their children only one meal in the morning when they leave for work. These children have to wait for their mothers to come back home in the evening before they get their next meal," says Gil.
"We have nutritional education in the health facility where we teach members of the community to feed their children, but the mothers do not have the means of acquiring these foods, it is very difficult to make sure that the children get proper meals," he adds.
The immunisation station headed by 36-year-old Florinda Alexandre Mossane, receives an average of 300 children per month for various inoculations. "The community is becoming aware of the importance of immunisation, therefore the clinic has reached its vaccination targets," says Florinda.
Vaccination targets may have been reached but Florinda is of the opinion that much more could be achieved if distance was not a challenge. She also believes that even long distances can be overcome.
"Working with community based health workers, our mobile clinic visits remote communities to ensure that the children's vaccination calendars are updated, if they are not up to date, they are immunised in the village," she says.
"Working with community based health workers, our mobile clinic visits every household to ensure that the children's vaccination calendars are updated, if they are not up to date, they are immunised in the village" - 36-year-old Florinda Alexandre Mossane.
She adds that UNICEF assists the government with planning and implementing outreach sessions to remote communities. UNICEF's support ranges from procurement, shipment, improving logistics for distribution through to developing capacity for the handling and administration of the vaccines. UNICEF also helps with community mobilization, reaching families, community leaders and other influential people to get their support.
- The Millennium Development Goal (MDG4) target achieved on reducing under-five child mortality, reaching the target of a two-thirds reduction with 79 deaths per 1,000 live births
- To tackle limited progress in maternal and neonatal mortality an Acceleration Plan to Reduce Maternal, Neonatal and Child Mortality developed
- During two rounds of National Health Weeks reached more than 3.4 million children, including birth registration and screening for malnutrition. More than 16,000 children detected and referred for treatment of acute malnutrition
- With UNICEF's support, 3 new vaccines: rotavirus, inactivated polio vaccine and the second dose of measles vaccines
- More than 1.5 million people in remote rural communities treated by community health workers, including 113,862 newborns and 504 939 children between the ages of 2 months and 5 years.
- Reduction of chronic malnutrition included as indicator in Government of Mozambique 5-year plan (PDG)
- Adolescents bring their own voice and concerns during the HIV AIDS 'ALL-IN' consultation
- The National Strategic Plan for the HIV Response 2015-19 approved
- Nutrition programme is supported by:
- The Government of Netherlands
- Health programme is supported by:
- Canada Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
- RMNCH-TF (Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn, Child, Health – Trust Fund)