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Health: Boosting care in communities
Differences in access to health care can have serious consequences. Those without access to affordable medical treatment may live shorter and poorer lives. A community-based insurance scheme in Nigeria brings down the cost of health care. In Iraq, trained women volunteers are taking health advice into family homes. And in Kazakhstan, Shell is working closely with other companies to improve care at a major hospital.
Good health plays a vital role in our lives. When it starts to fail, doctors and nurses provide help for many. But millions of people across the world are unable to access medical treatment. Shell is working to help overcome this in areas around its operations, supporting training programmes and providing new equipment.
Affordable health insurance
In the Niger Delta, Nigeria, many people have limited access to health care.
They may have to travel far to reach a clinic and the cost of treatment can be beyond their means.
Now the first community health insurance scheme of its kind in the Niger Delta is helping local people obtain care for a fraction of the typical cost.
Women in the Niger Delta, for example, can pay $300-350 for hospital childbirth care. Under the scheme, costs are covered.
This is vital in a country which has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the world.
“I was able to go for my antenatal check-up for free,” said Therese Okere, who lives in the Delta. “I got free pain-killing drugs and the delivery was plain sailing.” Hers was one of 3,000 babies delivered safely under the programme.
A commercial health-care provider runs the scheme, while the Shell Petroleum Development Company subsidises premiums. More than 14,000 people have signed up. Many pay as little as $21 a year.
The project is an example of how SPDC and partners give local people the power to develop and implement projects themselves.
Other projects using the same approach include the building of schools and improvement of fresh-water supplies.
More medical workers
After decades of war and instability, outbreaks of typhoid, cholera, malaria and tuberculosis remain a threat in Iraq.
At the same time, there is an acute shortage of doctors and other medical staff.
Around the southern Iraqi city of Basra, Shell is supporting AMAR, a UK-based charity, as part of efforts to rebuild the health-care system.
AMAR is working with the Iraqi Ministry of Health to deliver a programme at the Al-Nashwa health-care centre.
The programme gives doctors and nurses centre new skills, and has trained two female health volunteers. The volunteers administer child vaccinations, assist with family planning, and advise on hygiene and nutrition.
They visit nearly 1,000 families at home a month, helping more than 4,000 people directly, and many more indirectly as advice passes through communities.
“I participated in a national campaign promoting vaccinations where I guided health teams to the families I visit in my ordinary work,” says one volunteer. “I feel so proud of my humanitarian work.”
AMAR also trains teachers in 30 primary and secondary schools to educate children on health issues.
Around 500,000 people live in the Atyrau province, Kazakhstan.
Many have limited access to medical care. Some health facilities date from the Soviet era.
In Atyrau city a programme is helping to boost the skills of medical staff and improve facilities at a 500-bed hospital.
The programme is supported by consortium of seven energy companies exploring for oil and gas in the Kashagan oil field in the Caspian Sea and managed by NC Production Operations Company B.V.
It has invested around $1.5 million in new equipment and provides necessities such as paper towels, soap and waste disposal bags for patients.
Funding also pays for a team of international medical experts at the hospital.
“They share their experience and knowledge daily,” said Dr. Mendykhan Utepkaliyev, head of the health-care management department in Atyrau’s regional government.