Aid agency opens mobile health clinics to treat hundreds of patients, focusing on women and children
Portland, OR— In the southern Pakistani province of Sindh, Mercy Corps is addressing urgent medical needs with two mobile health units that can treat up to 300 people per day. One of the units is exclusively focused on meeting the needs of women and children. Mercy Corps’ medical, hygiene and sanitation facilities at a camp in the city of Sukkur were visited by USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah and other US government representatives on Wednesday.
The agency’s mobile health units opened earlier this week to treat a growing number of illnesses such as dehydration, diarrhea and skin rashes – all of which are caused by lack of clean water, adequate hygiene and sanitation. In addition, many patients suffer from cuts, bruises and broken bones. The two units treated 220 on the first day of operations, and have the capacity to treat dozens more. Availability of medical care on site in camps helps people gain access to treatment, and lightens the burden for strained area hospitals.
The health unit in Sukkur is specifically for women and children. “We originally conceptualized this as a facility for men and women, but we realized that many women weren’t receiving medical care because they couldn’t find a female doctor,” said Dr. Arif Noor, Mercy Corps Director of Public Health. “We quickly switched gears, bringing in a female doctor, a midwife, and a female hygiene expert. The response has been very positive – lots of women and children receiving much-needed treatment.”
The two health units – one in the city of Sukkur, where hundreds of thousands of displaced people have fled, and one in the surrounding areas – are stocked with pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to treat minor and moderate illnesses. Patients with more serious illnesses are transported by Mercy Corps to a nearby hospital. The health units move every three to four days to reach people in a variety of camp settings, and are paired with facilities where people receive hygiene trainings and kits containing soap, shampoo, rehydration salts, feminine hygiene products and other essentials. Mercy Corps has also built more than 100 latrines in Sindh displacement camps.
Mercy Corps staff note that the health units are a temporary fix for what will be a long-term health challenge in flood-affected areas. “When people return to their homes, their local health clinics and infrastructure will likely be washed away,” explained Dr. Arif. Mercy Corps plans to tackle this challenge in the coming weeks and months. The agency expects to help reconstruct, stock and train staff in rural health facilities.
Health challenges in Pakistan remain closely linked to the need for clean water. Mercy Corps’ team is working to provide water for families in Swat Valley and Sindh province, using a combination of trucking and chlorinating water, repairing water-related infrastructure such as tubes and wells, and restoring and building new water sources. In Swat Valley alone, Mercy Corps has reached more than 110,000 people with clean water.
Mercy Corps has been working in Pakistan since 1986, running a range of health, economic development and emergency relief programs. The agency previously operated in both Swat Valley and Sindh province, focusing on a mix of boosting incomes, promoting health and caring for livestock.
HOW TO HELP:
Pakistan Emergency Fund
PO Box 2669
Portland, OR 97208