Moving from treatment to prevention for child infections in the West Bank

Umm Mohammad, a new mother living in the West Bank, was anxious when her 11-month-old son Mohammad became ill. "My dear Mohammad is my first child and I worry about him a lot," she says. Concerned for his health, she brought Mohammad to see the doctor at the Zababdeh Clinic in Jenin District in the West Bank. The doctor diagnosed and treated him for an acute respiratory tract infection.

Umm Mohammad is deeply concerned about the health of her family, but didn't know to bring her child to the clinic for regular check-ups. "I was told about the well-baby clinic when I brought Mohammad to the Zababdeh Clinic when he was sick."

This mother and her child have benefitted from the Zababdeh Well-Baby Clinic in Jenin, one of more than 63 Hanan-supported clinics.

One week later, Umm Mohammad took her son to the well-baby clinic. Community health workers checked his weight and height, and reviewed his growth. Umm Mohammad told the health workers that Mohammad was not eating the food she offered him and they reviewed the importance of balanced nutrition. "The community health workers counseled me on how to feed my child," says Umm Mohammad. After his examination, she was told that Mohammad is anemic. "The doctor gave me the needed treatment and told me how to give it to my child," she says.

Many barriers still exist for women and children to obtain access to health care in West Bank and Gaza. Although things have improved in recent years, limited health-seeking behavior, lack of social security, and continually deteriorating living conditions are on-going challenges.

Umm Mohammad is one of more than 300,000 women who have benefited from the USAID-funded Hanan Mother, Child Health and Nutrition project, which is dedicated to improving the health of Palestinian women of reproductive age and children under the age of five.

Implemented by JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., Hanan trains clinic staff in well-baby nutrition counseling, immunization, growth monitoring, anemia screening, infection prevention, ante- and postnatal care, and childbirth delivery services. The project also works with clinic staff to track community usage and service benefits.

"For the last six months, I have been working hard to establish a well-baby clinic at Zabadeh," says physician and Hanan program officer Tasneem Atatrah. "I worked with the general practitioner to encourage staff to educate parents who come with sick children about the importance of well-baby visits."

At first community health workers weren't sure of the benefits of well-baby services. Since a training given by Hanan, they now began to ask women to come back for well-baby visits. "The clinic started to detect many cases of anemia and other health problems, and began to realize the importance of addressing the causes of common health issues, rather than just the symptoms," says Atatrah.

The success of the Zabadeh well-baby clinic caught the attention of the Jenin Health District Manager, Dr. Jamil. Initially skeptical about the well-baby clinics, his mind changed after witnessing the results. "I was really encouraged to see that in the past month, the number of women using the well-baby services has increased dramatically," he says. He strongly supported training the existing doctors in the district clinics to increase the capacity to provide long-term well-baby services.

Umm Mohammad was so pleased with the clinic's well-baby services that she told her relatives and neighbors, which prompted some to bring in their own children. "I am grateful to the physician and the community health workers for the care they provided for Mohammad and me," she says. "I am very thankful for this help from the clinic."

USAID funded Hanan health promotion activities in 53 communities. Topics included understanding the danger signs during the first six days after delivery; appropriate care for newborns; growth monitoring; understanding the danger signs of pregnancy; and breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months.

USAID also supported Hanan's partnerships with community clinics in Hebron, Southern West Bank, Jenin, Northern West Bank, Gaza, and North Gaza to improve access and quality of mother and child health.

Hanan was implemented by JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., in collaboration with American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) and Emerging Markets Group, Ltd. (EMG).