Providing health care in regions affected by conflict

Violence and poverty characterise the life of the population in many parts of Colombia. The impact of the decades of civil war is particularly severe in the regional departments of Putumayo and Chocó. As local public health care is largely unavailable, GRC together with the Colombian Red Cross deploys mobile health units to bring health care to remote vulnerable communities.

In each department a mobile health unit consisting of two doctors, a dentist and other experts such as nutritionists and psychologists provides general medical treatment to the population and offers pre- and post-natal care and advice on nutrition. If specialized medical or psychological treatment is necessary, our team arranges help. Both teams stop in about 20 rural communities each and reach 11 680 people.

Capacity building and equipment ensure sustainable impact

Even if our mobile health units can only be present for one to two weeks in each place, we also  aim to improve the health situation of the population in the long term. In order to achieve this, we offer training courses that tech the population how to protect itself against diseases such as dengue fever and diarrhoea - but also how to handle and store water correctly. In addition, there are workshops on contraception and reproductive health. The mobile health units also carry out Psychological First Aid workshops for community leaders, health workers and Red Cross volunteers, in order to increase local capacities for crisis response and reduce the occurrence of post-traumatic stress. This knowledge helps people to protect themselves better in the future and react appropriately in crisis situations. 

In addition, GRC and CRC provide communities with health care materials and basic equipment, such as mosquito nets, first aid kits; malaria testing kits, as well as safe birth kits with umbilical clamps and hanging scales.

Mobile health units and children

A large number of the people who use the services of the mobile health units are children. Due to the contaminated water in the communities, children often suffer from parasites and diarrhoea. Furthermore, many of them suffer from malnutrition due to the absence of variety in their nutrition, which can affect their growth. Caries is also very prevalent. The project's specialists not only provide medical and dental care, but also perform growth monitoring and advise parents on healthy nutrition. In child-friendly workshops children learn what causes caries and other dental problems and how to clean their teeth properly; at the end of the workshops children receive oral health kits that contain toothpaste, toothbrushes and dental floss to last for several months.

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