KARIONGO VILLAGE, Angola, 15 November 2010 – Nurse Judith Abrantes has a warm and kindly face, and a tough temperament. The women who jostle in the queue of her paediatric clinic can expect care and understanding, but the ones who push to the front get a stern telling-off
No wonder. The clinic is just a school desk and chair in a mud hut in the village of Kariango, central Angola. The women have waited all morning for help with their sick children, and the nurses have a heavy caseload. Tensions run high.
Nurse Judith, 50, has been a nurse for well over 20 years, but the story she sees – day in and day out – is the same: children with diarrhoea, respiratory illness suspected malaria.
Kariango village is just 8 km from Andulo, one of the municipalities in Angola where health care is being revitalized with support from UNICEF. The new hospitals in Andulo and the local village outreach clinics are evidence of the Angolan Government's efforts to rebuild health services after years of civil war and neglect.
Nurse Judith doesn't care much for politics. She grew up and worked in a hospital in a rebel area. Her daily life was bringing children into the world and helping them to survive the first few years.
Mothers wait to have their children examined by doctors at the mobile health clinic in the Kariongo village, set up with support from UNICEF Angola.
Now that peace has come, she does the same job and gets the same satisfaction – but with a better chance of success.
Outside the cramped dark schoolroom – where the nurse takes temperatures and doles out pills and advice in equal measure – the queues build up for paediatric treatment, ante-natal advice and vaccinations.
The director of the local maternity hospital is on hand and explains the importance of outreach clinics.
"Village people do not have a culture of going to hospital," he says of the past era when hospital services were unavailable. "Here we have two strategies: the fixed services, which are hospitals where mothers can give birth and where complications can be treated; and the outreach clinic, where we give advice as well as primary health care."
The revitalization of Angola's health service is politics turned into action, Andulo Administrator Maria Lúcia Nganja Chicapa says during an interview with UNICEF in her office.
"We have made a qualitative jump in the health sector," she notes. “We have three new hospitals, including the maternity unit, and we have the outreach clinics.” She is quick to praise UNICEF, listing mosquito nets, an immunization programme and refrigeration facilities as key improvements it has made possible.
Together with the Government of Angola, UNICEF is revitalizing the health sector in 16 municipalities around the country, bringing improved care to almost a third of the population. If it works well as in Andulo and the other municipalities, the programme should be rolled out across Angola.
Administrator Nganja Chicapa is especially proud of a growing relationship between the town and the villages. The development problems of the area are discussed with village leaders, and priorities are set. So when the mobile clinic goes to Kariango village, the local ‘Soba,' or chief, is there to meet the outreach team.
Although the clinic has been announced on the radio, it is the Soba who mobilizes mothers to come and seek advice.
With UNICEF's help, most of the children in the village now have been vaccinated against tetanus, polio, measles and other deadly childhood diseases. Most children sleep under bed nets to prevent malaria, and most mothers go to hospital to have their babies.
Even though Andulo is in a remote area, UNICEF has put the district on the development map by making it a focus municipality. As evening approaches, the lights go on in the centre of town. It might be some years until electricity reaches Kariango village, but the benefits of peace and development are already beginning to spread
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