Guinea, 16 November 2023 - In remote areas of Guinea, access to healthcare remains a major challenge for many communities. The Prefecture of Siguiri, in the heart of the Kankan Administrative Region, is a prime example of this situation. The region’s gold-mining areas, which attract large numbers of people not only from Guinea but also from neighbouring countries, are particularly vulnerable. These informal settlers form communities, sometimes numbering more than 100,000, with no basic social infrastructure, making them exposed to epidemic-prone diseases. It is in this context that mobile health teams (MHTs) play a decisive role, providing care directly to those who need it most.
Project Presentation Video
Designed to bridge the gap between traditional health services and remote populations, the mobile health teams, equipped with motorbikes fit for difficult roads, provide essential primary healthcare. Each team, consisting of a technical health agent or nurse and a community relay, visit key areas such as Doko, Bankon, Siguirini and Niagassola.
Sidi Diallo, a qualified nurse, has been working for six months as a member of the Bankon mobile health team. “My main role is to raise awareness among people, direct them to the health centre, prevent diseases under surveillance or inform them of the importance of getting immunized.”
Fodé Traoré, his partner, adds: “my role as a community relay is mainly to raise awareness. With my microphone, I speak directly to the community, in public places such as bars and cafés.”
Apart from routine care, the mobile health teams play a crucial role in detecting epidemic-prone diseases and support national initiatives such as National Immunization Days. They are always ready to be deployed in the event of an emergency. With this proactive approach, they are redefining access to healthcare in Guinea and are perfectly aligned with the guidelines of the country’s national community health strategy.
“We have seen a significant increase in visits to our centre since the launch of the IOM project and deployment of the mobile health teams,” says Dr Adama Sidibé, Head of the Bankon Health Centre in the Siguiri Prefecture.
Sidi’s day begins early, long before the sun rises, inspired by an unshakeable passion for his profession as a nurse and an unwavering dedication to the communities he serves. “Every morning, our team meets to define an area of intervention with the Head of Centre, who guides us through the way forward. We choose a specific theme, whether it is malaria, prenatal care, pre-curative care, immunization or family planning, before heading out into the field,” says Sidi Diallo.
“Before each outreach session, I hold discussions with the mobile teams lasting between 30 minutes and an hour. We discuss the equipment to take with us, medicines to distribute and awareness-raising messages to pass on. This close collaboration between the health centre and the mobile teams is essential to ensure our community’s health and well-being,” states Dr Adama Sidibé
When we get out into the field, the interaction with the local population begins. Sidi and Fodé build on their expertise and empathy to raise awareness among communities, inform them of health risks and provide the necessary care. The team frequently encounters critical situations that require immediate and effective intervention. In such situations, Sidi’s training and experience are essential. “During our visits, we are often confronted with emergency. For example, during an operation in the Kodjo mine, we provided care for a person who had injured his foot. We sutured the wound on the spot, gave the patient medication and referred him to the local health centre,” says Sidi Diallo.
The team’s visits are varied, sometimes covering great distances. Whether it’s from Ikité to Koumandougou or Nafadji, every visit is a mission to reach the most vulnerable. And despite the challenges on the ground, the team makes sure it is as effective as possible. “Every day, our mobile team defines a specific intervention zone. These areas can vary from 5 km to sometimes more than 60 km from our starting point. And here we don’t count in distance but in hours, as the areas are very remote and difficult to access, and the motorbike is often the only way to get there.” says Sidi Diallo
In mining areas, the relentless quest for gold often outweighs the miners’ priorities. They are reluctant to take a day off to see a doctor, because every day they spend not working represents a loss of earnings, a potential undiscovered treasure. This is where the work of the mobile health teams becomes particularly important. “One of our key missions is to raise awareness among workers in the mines. When we arrive, we often see workers exposed to various risks. We make them aware of the importance of looking after their health and provide first aid,” says Sidi Diallo.
Sidi explains that a large part of their work is also devoted to informing young women about the importance of prenatal care. Dr Sidibé adds that these direct community interventions have had a significant impact on routine immunization. “This awareness-raising has considerably increased the number of consultations we have had. Before the project began, we had an average of 80 consultations per month. Today, this figure has more than doubled,” says Dr Adama Sidibé.
Interaction is not limited to simply providing care. The mobile team takes the time to listen to feedback from the community, acknowledging their thanks, concerns, and suggestions. This active listening enables the team to adjust its interventions and respond even better to the community’s needs. In a world where access to healthcare remains a major challenge for many communities, particularly in remote and hard-to-reach areas, mobile health teams are emerging as a revolutionary solution. By visiting communities directly, these teams break down geographical, socio-economic, and cultural barriers, offering quality healthcare to those who need it most.
“Mining areas, which are home to many ethnic groups and nationalities, also present health challenges. The mobile teams play an essential role in raising awareness among these populations, particularly in terms of immunization and the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, tuberculosis, and other infectious diseases,” says Dr Adama Sidibé.
The “Creating a Healthcare Model for Mobile Populations in Mining Areas of Upper Guinea” project, financed by the IOM Development Fund, was initiated by the International Organisation for Migration. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health and Public Hygiene, and more specifically its National Directorate of Community Health and Traditional Medicine, it has been deployed over a one-year period, from December 2022 to November 2023.