Proving that mosques can play a larger role beyond merely serving as places of worship, a Hyderabad-based NGO has opened a community healthcare centre at a mosque in the city to specifically cater to the health needs of women and children in the slums.
Helping Hand Foundation (HHF), in collaboration with US-based Support for Education and Economic Development (SEED), has opened the clinic at Masjid Mohammed-e-Mustafa, in Wadi-e-Mahmood, a slum area in Rajendranagar mandal.
The exclusive women and child centre located on the first floor is catering to a cluster of 31 odd slums in Rajendranagar Mandal, covering a population of about five lakh.
This is the second community health centre to be opened in a mosque by the HHF. It is already running one in the old city of Hyderabad.
The NGO embarked on the new initiative realising the need to focus on the healthcare needs of women and children, especially during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has made things worse for women and children’s health.
Covid, lockdown induced joblessness, loss of income, coupled with closure of schools which serve mid-day meals and anganwadis, which provide supplementary nutrition, has only added to lack of adequate nutrition in children and women and more so pregnant women in the last few months, says the HHF.
Apart from hunger and malnutrition, lack of access to basic health care services in the public and private health care domain has made health care inaccessible and expensive for the weaker sections, particularly maternal health for pregnant women, consequently health issues like anaemia in women, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Women and immunisation services for children have been majorly compromised in the past few months.
The NGOs choose Wadi-e-Mahmood as the area lacks basic healthcare facilities.
The women and child centre at the mosque has an all-women team comprising a senior general physician, a child specialist, obstetrics and gynaecology specialist, a dental surgeon, dietician, nurses, counsellors and front desk support staff.
The centre, named Rabia Clinic in the memory of the mother of one of the principal donors, provides basic primary care in which women and children can approach for seasonal illness and for health services like nebulisation, IV fluid replacement, wound dressings etc. Free third-party lab services including TIFA scans will be provided to pregnant women from weaker sections during ante-natal period.
All patients coming to the clinic will be assessed in a triage, which has trained counsellors, who are doing thermal screening and checking oxygen saturation levels, and entering the details in an ICMR-developed risk assessment form which gives scores on a scale of 1-10.
A dental chair with state-of-the-art features has been installed to carry out simple to medium level procedures in women and children like removing dental carries, root canal procedures etc.
Apart from curative aspects, the focus is on preventive health to check for non-communicable diseases among women, anaemia during the ante- and post-natal periods and malnutrition in children.
Counsellors and dieticians use a WHO recommended template to check blood pressure, height, weight, waist circumference and family history to assess the overall NCD score on a scale of 10. Those who score above 4 will be counselled for weight loss, diet and physical exercise along with early diagnosis and treatment of NCDs like diabetes, hypertension, obesity, thyroid problems and other chronic health issues.
Similarly, children will be also assessed using WHO recommended form to determine the extent of stunting and wasting and the ones who are chronically malnourished will be provided protein supplements and mid-day meal will be provided to 100 school going children under 10 years at the mosque three times in a week to fill in the gap.
Children will be checked for immunisation and will be vaccinated in due course if found not compliant. Iron supplements to women found anaemic and nutritional supplements along with vitamins will be provided to children found stunted and wasted through an exclusive Nutri Rehab Programme.
Mujtaba Hasan Askari of the Helping Hand Foundation said the clinic was catering to women and children, irrespective of their religion, caste and creed.
“Most of the health issues faced by women and children are being neglected in the current pandemic plus there is no focus on preventive health which we intend to focus on through this clinic at the masjid,” he said.
The women and child clinic is fully Covid-compliant with special cabins for doctors protected with plastic curtains, glass mounted tables to protect front desk staff, a triage at the entry point, pedestal-mounted sanitisers stands and large exhaust fans for free flow of air across the entire space of the clinic and a separate waiting area for patients coming to the clinic.
HHF has already been running a community health centre at Masjid-e-Ishaq at Nawab Saheb Kunta in the old city since November 2018.
The health centre last year introduced yoga to help people fight non-communicable diseases. The organization said since yoga was found to be effective in tackling non-communicable diseases, they made it part of the prescription.
The counsellors at the clinic teach various asanas to the patients every alternate day besides giving them YouTube links to follow yoga on their mobile phones.