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2007.01.12
Two weeks ago, Sarata Hydara gave birth at this health clinic in The Gambia to a healthy baby boy. Since then, he's grown nearly half a kilogram, which she learned today when nurses weighed him. The clinic takes a one-stop approach to health care. Women and their children often make the trek from surrounding villages on foot, so it's crucial that they receive as many services as possible during the same trip. First, the women register. Then their children are weighed, and at the same time, the mothers are asked about the child's overall health. Immunizations are next, plus vitamin A for the mother. If specialized services are required, for an injury or an illness, it's taken care of on the same day. Fatou Camara is a nursing officer who is currently the acting head of the clinic. "These services are more important for the child, because their survival and development depends on the services that we offer – services like immunization, services like weighing, services like when like they are sick they go for consultation. Their survival and development depends on the services that we offer to them during the course of their stay in the clinic." Perhaps the most important developments is a tracking system that records a baby's health on a blue infant welfare card. UNICEF has just spent $10,000 on new cards, to make sure there are enough cards for all children. There's also been a strong push to educate women about HIV and how they can protect themselves and their children. Testing is offered, as well as counselling and medication, if needed. Sarata says that knowing about the clinic and its integrated services helps her sleep easier. "The most important thing for me is knowing that my health and the health of my children is protected, and that if we get sick, we know that we will get treatment. There is nowhere else we can go." Considering that more than 10 million children die totally preventable deaths each year, often from common infections like diarrhoea and malaria, clinics like this one offer a highly-efficient and convenient way to save lives. This is Thomas Nybo reporting for UNICEF in Fajikunda, The Gambia. Unite... for children.
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