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2007.10.11

* UNICEF uses mobile units to bring healthcare to the masses.
* 24 Aug 2007

Today health agent Maria Dos Santos will visit 20 families living around Fortim, Brazil. She travels on foot, treating  everything from diabetes to heart disease, as well as offering a host of services to pregnant women and new mothers.

Her first stop today is the home of a new mother named Iris Nojuerira, who gave birth to Amanda just two months ago. Iris Nojuerira: "Every month we are visited in our own house. Today the health agent weighed my baby, performed a physical examination, and offered me advice on proper child care." Today Amanda weighs 5.7 kilograms, two kilograms more than she weighed at birth. She is just one of many babies under the care of Maria Dos Santos, who walks to the homes of 238 families each month.

"This program is very important, because before, pregnant women had to travel to another town 25 kilometers away to get their prenatal exams," says Dos Santos. "Now they can do the exams here, in their own community. The only time they need to leave town is when it's time to deliver their baby." Two years ago, only 30 percent of pregnant women in this area received prenatal examinations. Now, that number has jumped to 70 percent. A nearby health center offers support to the mobile health agents. The staff includes doctors, nurses and dentists. The push for mobile health workers, including this team in a horse cart, was part of a 2005 UNICEF initiative that rewards communities that meet tough standards for improving the lives of children. It's called the UNICEF Municipal Seal of Approval, and it has won the support of more than 1,000 cities and towns in Brazil's semi-arid region.

These communities have committed themselves to ensuring health, education, and protection to more than 10 million boys and girls, including two-month-old Amanda.


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