Vaccinations in Toe Town Clinic
Health Care for Refugees from Ivory Coast
As someone who is interested in Merlin’s health activities in Liberia, here is a quick update about our emergency work (including maternal health care) following the influx of refugees from the Ivory Coast following the disputed presidential elections and the civil war that broke out in March.
At the height of the violence, over 180,000 Ivoirians were in Liberia. While some refugees have chosen to return to the Ivory Coast, as of last month (Sept 2011) over 178,000 refugees were still registered in Liberia, with more than 76,000 in the Grand Gedeh County and 36,000 in Maryland.
Merlin's emergency response
As Merlin has been working in Liberia for over 12 years, staff could respond immediately in Grand Gedeh and Maryland counties (which border the Ivory Coast), by sending a mobile health team to the border town of Tempo, as the nearest static health clinic was a nine hour walk away. Merlin was also appointed co-ordinators of all relief operations in Maryland by UNHCR. As the weeks went by mobile clinics and outreach activities were scaled up as the numbers of refugees continued to rise.
As well as managing the dire health needs of the refugee population, Merlin’s health teams also scaled up their activities in the host communities - to make sure local people were not losing out on opportunites to recieve health care. Merlin scaled up health operations by:
· Providing extra support in Merlin-managed health facilities and the Zwedru Hospital in Grand Gedeh.
· Establishing transit camps for refugees, outreach facilities and mobile clinics. All of which offer post and pre natal maternity care and prioritise mothers and children, and pregnant women. Merlin recruit locally trained health care workers to run the health services.
· Initiating screening and registration programmes, so that communities will have a basic record of their health care in the longer term (which will help them to be diagnosed effectively in the future).
· Testing children for malnutrition, and offering intensive care for children who are severely malnourished.
· Distributing pregnancy health kits and offering pre-natal education classes.
· Since malaria is the leading cause of morbidity (>40%), health workers are raising awareness amongst refugees and host communities.
· In Maryland, Merlin continues to provide essential health care through five primary health clinics, the county hospital and via mobile clinic services.
· The Maryland County Health and Social Welfare Team have hosted two cross-border meetings on polio eradication and immunization. Merlin is a key participant in the immunization process and provid logistical support.
Merlin cares for people like Mabelle
Mabelle Marcel, arrived at the Merlin-supported clinic in Zleh Town, with her sick nine-month old son. Like many refugees, Mabelle fled her village as soon as the rebels arrived:
“We heard gun shots, but I didn’t see the rebels; we just left everything and ran. The disabled and the old couldn’t run so they got shot, people were dying from stray bullets.”
Mabelle brought her baby to the Merlin-supported clinic after he had started vomiting continuously. The baby, who had a swollen spleen, was diagnosed with malaria. Luckily the health workers caught it early, and were able to prescribe medication. Her son has made a full recovery.
Mabelle's son is treated in Zleh health clinic