Two months ago our project launched the first MSF preventive mobile clinic in Afghanistan. The aim of the clinic is to meet the needs of people in the Ahmad Shah Baba area. There is a high load of patients coming to the Ahmad Shah Baba Hospital and the mobile clinic has been planned to provide preventative health care and to ease the load of the hospital. We also hope the clinic will increase the coverage of vaccinations.
In the first two weeks of the clinic, jubilant guests wanted to visit and everyone in MSF showed a lot of interest. However, the population of the area is not always well informed about the healthcare available at the clinic. It’s not an easy task to advertise and explain the activities of the clinic to the population. It’s not like we can hang up a poster on the streets announcing the opening hours and what we do. Preventive clinic; what does that really mean for people that do not have social health care or that have never used health care facilities? We are, however, sure that there is need for the clinic as the birth rate in our target area is very high and most of the mothers and children in the area do not have any kind of medical follow up by anyone. Every day the mobile clinic is in a different place. Some days the clinic is hosted in a tent and other days in buildings provided by the community. Most of the time we are close to a school and so often the students stop by and hang around to find out what we are doing. The children are curious about what on earth we are doing here, but most of our patients are women, pregnant or with their young children. In the clinic we have two health promoters, one midwife, one vaccinator and one nurse along with the mobile clinic supervisor.
One morning a large crowd of street kids and school boys gathered outside the clinic location, which on that day was in a tent. The group was very curious about the activities and they were trying to get in. The health promoter tried to tell the group to go away as they had no business there and it was hard for the women to get through. As we all know, kids are not always willing to obey and they ignored our requests. Our health promoter then had a good idea. Why not use this opportunity to give these kids some health promotion and information about MSF since they were so eager to know what we where doing? He explained to the kids about brushing their teeth, washing their hands and other basic hygiene information that are a part of our health promotion messages as well as giving them information about MSF. The kids fell silent and listened carefully to the words of the health promoter. It was quite fascinating to see how interested they were and after his speech the questions flooded in. It was great to see this positive reaction of the kids and they left the clinic happily after that. It’s not always easy to spread information about the clinic but anyone interested is welcome to listen to our message. Hopefully we taught the young kids something about basic hygiene. Even if they didn’t learn anything special with any luck they now know something about MSF and will in the future help us gain acceptance in the community.