OBO, Central African Republic (October 29, 2012) — In a hospital pediatric ward, three babies are recovering from malaria. Moris Mbodoli is looking after his son Anissa. “When Anissa had fever, vomiting and diarrhea, I brought him here. We have been here for three days now. He is getting better and will be able to leave today,” he says.
Outside the maternity ward, a stream of mothers and children are being vaccinated.
But providing healthcare around Obo has been full of challenges.
Conflict has plagued this part of the Central African Republic for three years.
As of July 2012, continuous attacks on civilians by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) had forced over 6,700 internally displaced persons and 2,000 refugees to seek protection within a security perimeter set up around the rural town of Obo, cutting them off from already scarce basic services. Access to the secure area by road is hazardous. After one attack that left the regional health director slain, other medical staff fled the area, and services were much reduced.
With funding from the USAID Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA), UNICEF’s partner Merlin, an international health charity, started supporting the local hospital in 2012.
Dr. Calvin of Merlin describes how healthcare has been restored for the people of Obo: “In January, a team of one doctor, two midwives, three nurses, a lab technician and a community health worker arrived from Merlin. Medicines and equipment arrived by road and air.
“The hospital treats around 80 patients a day now, and there are enough staff to attend to them. The staff can now carry out operations and deal with emergency cases. We are also pleased there has been a high demand for vaccination.”
An ambulance and four motorbikes are now available for emergencies and outreach services. To provide the clean water and hygiene vital to running a hospital, with support from the Government of Japan, UNICEF partner Action Contre la Faim (ACF) has installed two water pumps.
Efforts to remove the security threat of the LRA are ongoing. But, the many displaced families in Obo are unable to return to their villages and will continue to rely on this hospital for healthcare.
“The progress made to improve the hospital facilities and equipment has made a huge difference to the lives of local people,” says UNICEF Chief of Child Survival and Development Pierre Signe. And funds have continued to arrive. “In August,” he continues, “UNICEF received more funds from OFDA to keep the hospital services operational, support and train medical staff and to ensure supplies of medicines, delivery kits and other essentials.”