By Ange Ayé-Aké
ABIDJAN, Côte d’Ivoire, 21 April 2011 – Health centres in Côte d’Ivoire’s economic capital Abidjan are progressively re-opening after weeks of near shutdown.
UNICEF has started to deliver basic kits with drugs, supplies and other materials to help the health centres to function again quickly and treat patients. Many had been forced to close due a shortage of staff, drugs and supplies.
The hospital in Marcory, a district of Abidjan, is responsible for an area covering about 250,000 people. It is now also providing healthcare for neighbouring districts where hospitals remain closed. It has not been fully functional since the beginning of the year, and was completely shut for the past 20 days.
There are still many challenges ahead, the most important of which are access to medical supplies to perform basic surgeries and a lack of personnel. There is not even currently access to safe water.
“We have reopened on Monday, but we still have difficulties having clean water. The pressure in the tap is very low,” says Julien Kassi, Director of the hospital. “We need a pump to boost the water pressure. We also need drugs to treat malaria, diarrhoea and other common diseases.”
A lot of displaced people from other districts of Abidjan, such as Abobo, are also coming to Marcory to be treated.
Essential care needed
The hospital pharmacy is almost empty, even though needs have never been more urgent following fighting in the city over the past few weeks. The pharmacy doesn’t have any more anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs to treat about 100 HIV-positive patients, most of whom are women and children who rely on regularly receiving their treatment for free. About 20 more patients from other districts have also come to the hospital to ask for ARV drugs.
There is a similar shortage of vaccines. Madoussou, 25, is from the district of Port-Bouët in Abidjan. She drove 45 minutes to reach the hospital in Marcory with her 10-month old son, Ismael, to vaccinate him against measles.
“For more than a week I have tried to get my son vaccinated but the health centre in my district is closed. I went there twice as well as to another centre closer to my home, but it’s also closed,” says Madoussou.
UNICEF has airlifted over 60 tons of supplies to Côte d’Ivoire to help health centres get back up and running. But pockets of insecurity, continuing bank closures and difficulties in supply distribution are hindering efforts to act quickly.