Donors Making a Difference: Building Stronger Health Systems

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Every day, contributors are helping WHO in its work to support countries build stronger health systems.

Recent stories from WHO Regional offices highlight efforts to expand primary health care, reach fragile communities, and fortify health systems to handle disasters, disease outbreaks and the effects of climate change.

Read about progress in Belize, Burundi, Cambodia, Fiji, Madagascar, Nauru, South Sudan, Sudan, Tanzania and Yemen.

In Madagascar, mobile clinics bolster health surveillance during cyclones

After the Batsirai and Emnati cyclones hit Madagascar’s southeastern Vatovavy region in February 2022, Toky Rabemaharo suddenly found himself and his community cut off from basic health services.

“Being able to attend a health centre was an unattainable luxury for us,” he said. “But today, thanks to mobile clinics that provide free care, we now have access to this luxury again.”

With funding from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, WHO has rehabilitated 13 of the 20 health centres that were damaged or destroyed last year, seven of which are already operational.

In Yemen, community volunteers empower pregnant women and nursing mothers

KSrelief is funding a network of WHO-trained community volunteers in Yemen to guide pregnant and breastfeeding women on health and nutrition, with the aim of reducing illness and death among mothers and babies.

The WHO-trained volunteers go door to door, working to instill health and nutrition literacy that will serve communities in the longer term.

Dhiya Said, 28, an expectant mother displaced by armed conflict, said her time with a community health worker has improved her health awareness and prepared her for feeding and caring for her baby.

“I am so much looking forward to giving birth,” she said. “I cannot wait to hold my baby for the first time.”

Contributors help Tanzania support Marburg survivors

In the aftermath of the February 2023 Marburg outbreak, the Tanzania Ministry of Health, with support from WHO and partners, established a programme to guide survivors in their mental and physical recovery from the Ebola-like infection.

“God gave me another chance at life and helped me survive up to this moment, because what I experienced was out of this world,” said Dr Mahona Ndulu, 36, a physician at Maruku Health Centre in Kagera, the north-western Tanzanian region where the outbreak was detected. “My family and community members viewed my illness as a spiritual battle between good and evil. As a doctor and a survivor, I keep correcting and educating them, so we are all safe and protected.”

With financial support from the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), WHO is working with the Tanzanian government to raise public awareness through door-to-door campaigns, educating people on the risks associated with Marburg and how to stay protected.

Fiji works with WHO to build climate resilience

Fiji’s health system is building its resilience to climate change through a joint project of WHO, the country’s government, and the Korea International Cooperation Agency.

The project began with an assessment of more than 200 healthcare facilities, with a focus on determining which were most at risk from the effects of climate change. The project now enters a phase of upgrading health centres, and in some cases, relocating them to higher ground.

WHO-trained health workers and community representatives can now carry out climate vulnerability assessments in their own communities, to identify their needs, and to suggest interventions. This will support communities build climate resilience into their day to day lives and enable health workers and health facilities to continue treating patients even in the face of a changing climate.

WHO works with Cambodia to strengthen health security along borders

In early 2023, up to 200 people might cross the Thai-Cambodian border every day at Daung checkpoint, in Battambang Province in Cambodia.

But two years earlier, thousands of people could be found passing through Daung checkpoint into Cambodia on a single day. Many were migrant workers who had lost their jobs in Thailand and were seeking medical care back home or wanted to be with their families during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The flow of returning migrants would intensify after border closures were put in place to control transmission of the coronavirus. Daung border official Kou Poravuth, 43, clearly remembers one such busy day.

“About 600 migrants arrived at the border a day earlier, but the border was closed. They slept overnight in tents and in the open air,” he said. “It was the most memorable event. I felt most empathetic about Cambodian migrants being allowed to enter Cambodia.”

Read the full story from WHO Cambodia’s country office, which describes a project by the United Nations Joint Programme to build up health, border and quarantine staff in Cambodia, while strengthening emergency systems. WHO and other agencies supported the work. The Government of Japan provided funding.

WHO certifies Belize malaria free

WHO certified Belize as malaria free in June after a seven-decade battle against the life-threatening, mosquito-borne disease.

“WHO congratulates the people and government of Belize and their network of global and local partners for this achievement,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Belize is another example of how, with the right tools and the right approach, we can dream of a malaria-free future.”

With this latest success, 42 countries and 1 territory  have been certified as malaria free by WHO. Belize is the third country to be awarded a malaria-free status in 2023, following the certifications of Azerbaijan and Tajikistan in March.

With funding from USAID, the WHO Regional Office for the Americas/PAHO provided technical support for Belize’s anti-malaria campaign.

Defeating malaria was among the goals of PAHO’s Disease Elimination Initiative, which seeks to end more than 30 communicable diseases in the Americas by 2030. 

WHO helps South Sudan combat disease threats amid a refugee crisis

Mary Ukuach Deng, 34, recalls the morning when she and her three young children were awakened by a volley of gunfire in the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. “I was so scared because of the loud sound of guns that engulfed our neighborhood; we could see soldiers running all over,” Deng says.

She knew that the time had come to gather her belongings and begin the journey back to South Sudan, her country of origin which she fled two decades earlier due to civil war. But it wasn’t going to be an easy journey.

Taking refuge in the border town of Renk in South Sudan, about 453 km south of Khartoum, the family spent several days with no access to water, shelter, food or health care.

Deng is among more than 113 000 people who have sought refuge in similar settlements in South Sudan, prompting a large-scale response from that government, supported by WHO. Multi-disciplinary teams of experts are being dispatched to support the health needs of those arriving from across the border. USAID and the African Public Health Emergency Fund are also supporting the response.

Source : Relief Web