Rural healthcare in Morocco focus of antipoverty effort
By Siham Ali for Magharebia in Rabat – 27/04/11
Rural areas in Morocco lag far behind cities in terms of access to medical treatment, Health Minister Yasmina Baddou concluded at the first national meeting on rural healthcare.
"Our goal is to enable citizens and children to have the same chances of survival regardless of whether they are in cities or the countryside," the minister said at the April 18th conference.
According to the health ministry, 43% of the rural population lives at least 6 kilometres away from a healthcare centre, and 25% of people live more than 10 kilometres from one.
Baddou said that despite the efforts made to boost infrastructures and human resources, there was still a long way to go before people living in rural areas would be able to access the proper healthcare. She added that her agency had drafted an action plan in order to bridge the gaps.
"This strategy will focus not only on the construction of healthcare centres, but also on mobile units, especially for childbirth and specialist services," the minister told parliament on April 18th.
But the government effort was criticised by parliamentarian Abdelhamid Saadaoui, who said that there was a shortage of doctors, adding that "sometimes there is just one nurse who gives consultations and only comes once a week".
"To facilitate access to healthcare in rural areas, we must take infrastructures and human resources into account," Saadaoui said.
Zohra Ouardi, who lives in a douar in Taza, told Magharebia that although there was a community health centre a few kilometres from her home, it only provides basic healthcare and local people have to travel to the city to see specialists. Often, she said, people prefer to treat themselves with plants as they do not have enough money to travel to the city.
Among the authorities' efforts, the health minister pointed to an increase in the number of healthcare facilities to 2,630, 74% of which are located in rural areas. These basic facilities house a total of 518 maternity units, 373 of which are in rural areas, she said.
She added that other measures implemented include the provision of emergency obstetric care, greater availability of medicines and ongoing training. She also said that nearly half of newly recruited doctors were posted to rural areas.
Baddou ent on to say that under the 2011-2012 plan, healthcare services provided by basic facilities will be expanded and improved in line with accredited national standards. Furthermore, outpatient care in remote areas will be expanded and improved, and partnership schemes will be consolidated.
The 2008-2010 period saw an improvement in terms of infrastructure and equipment, service provision, the supply of medicines and the boosting of human resources, according to Khalid Lahlou, population director at the health ministry. Despite this improvement, he added, partnerships with healthcare programmes must be forged.
The partnership with the National Human Development Initiative, for instance, has contributed 1.8 billion dirhams since 2005. The money was used to purchase ambulances for mobile teams and to build healthcare centres.
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