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Central African Republic: A day in the life of a Mobile Health Worker

It’s 7am and the Mobile Health Team are up and on the road. We’ve had coffee, washed using the plastic bucket that serves as our bathroom and loaded the pickup with as many medicines as it can hold.

Three hours later we arrive at our destination, a small village called Maorka located 80km down a dirt track road from the field base in Kaga Bandoro.

It rained heavily last night and now parts of the track are completely submerged, more swamp than road. For most of the 3 hours we are thrown around like rag dolls as the vehicles climb up and down endless craters and push through thick red mud.

When I first arrived in the CAR, about 2 months ago, I visited this village. Back then its health post was deserted. Maorka was one of the many ghost towns left as thousands, escaping the violence sweeping across the country, fled to the bush.

Mothers and children queue to be seen by Save the Children's mobile health team
Mothers and children queue to be seen by Save the Children’s mobile health team

Now its tiny waiting room, fashioned from branches and sticks, is overflowing. There are 150 people, or 200, or maybe even more, according to the team’s initial estimates as we climb out of our mud-caked vehicles.

Even though we have just got here, one eye always remains on the clock. This area is still extremely volatile and being out after dark is not advised. So it is immediately all hands to the pump.

First, we look at the really sick, then one by one we screen every child. Weights and temperatures are taken and so, using a simple MUAC band, is each child’s nutritional status.

With many of the children, taking their temperature is a mere formality. It is obvious as soon as we touch their skin and feel the heat emanating from it that they are sick. Here, fever often means one thing: malaria, the country’s highest cause of death among children under 5.

Those with high fevers are automatically checked for malaria and if positive, sent to the mobile pharmacist to collect the medicines needed to combat the illness.  Slowly but surely, we work to ensure that as many of the children as possible see a doctor.

Before we know it, 3.30pm arrives and we are forced to start packing up for the day. We’ve had no lunch and no toilet breaks – but the waiting room is almost empty.

Unfortunatel,y we haven’t been able to see everyone but medicines are left with community health workers for those yet to be seen and we head back knowing that the sickest – those most likely to have succumbed to their ailments – have been treated.

We arrive back at Field Base well after dark. The rains have started again and it has taken even longer than expected to get home. By 8pm, I’m fast asleep.

Before I know it my alarm is loudly informing me that it is 6am. I quickly drink my coffee, wash from the bucket and jump in the pickup. We’re off to the next village, to do it all over again.

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