Ausaid Annual Report

australian agency for international development
  • Bringing health care to remote communities

Bringing health care to remote communities

“Nearly everybody in my village is sick,” said Haji Mohammad Mir, a village elder in Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan. “Some people only have small diseases. But small sicknesses can become life-threatening very quickly.”

In Uruzgan Province, one-third of the population does not have access to any health services. Less than half of children under the age of two have received basic immunisations. Every year around 300 mothers and more than 3000 children under the age of five die. Nine out of 10 women give birth at home without any skilled support.

Dr Mangal Shinwari, 45, is head of the Save the Children's new mobile health team, which aims to address this very issue. “My team and I care for 61 villages. Some of them are 40 or 50 kilometres away from the nearest health facility. Many of these people have never seen a doctor.

“When we arrive, we go to the elders or the mullah first. We mostly stay right in the elder's house and set up our equipment. Then the sick men of the village come to us and also bring the sick children.

“Palwasha, 18, our midwife, takes care of the women in a separate house. Palwasha's task is to find the pregnant women or new mothers and advise them about how to deliver safely and keep the babies healthy and clean. When a woman is in the process of giving birth, Palwasha helps. She has already delivered two babies.”

The Mobile Health Team is part of the Australian Government funded Children of Uruzgan program, which is being delivered by Save the Children Australia to improve the health and education of 300 000 people, particularly women and girls. By 2015, five mobile health teams will be set up to service communities most in need.

Caption: Dr Zabiullah examines 10-year-old Nazdana at the Garmab Health Centre, where the most common diseases are diarrhoea and pneumonia

Credit: Courtesy of Elissa Bogos, Save the Children