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Dr. Sang Duen, right, and other visitors walk into the Laotian village of Ban Vang Ma to conduct and observe a mobile health clinic. Angelika Dawson

Dr. Sang Duen, right, and other visitors walk into the Laotian village of Ban Vang Ma to conduct and observe a mobile health clinic. Angelika Dawson

Health workers serve remote villages in Laos

Angelika Dawson
May 6, 2008

The village of Ban Vang Ma buzzes with activity during a one-day visit from the Sangthong District Mobile Health Clinic.

After arriving the previous night, a team of six Laotian medical workers spends the day seeing a wide variety of patients in the village square. They weigh and vaccinate children, check the blood pressure of elderly patients and give medical advice to pregnant women and new mothers.

The mobile clinic, supported by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), is the primary health care provider for Ban Vang Ma and 36 other villages in Sangthong District, Laos.

Many of the villages are in remote, mountainous areas. To reach Ban Vang Ma, medical workers ride up steep roads in a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Most local people do not own vehicles and do not travel to hospital or clinics unless they are seriously ill.

MCC began supporting health work in Sangthong District in 2001. The goal is to improve the health of low-income, rural people through water and sanitation projects, a mobile health clinic and a variety of educational efforts.

Medical workers report that water and sanitation projects are a particularly urgent need. MCC is helping to drill wells and build latrines in villages with high rates of waterborne diseases.

"Diarrhea is the most common problem, but worms and parasites are very common in children," said Sang Duen, a Laotian doctor working with MCC on health projects.

Sometimes, health education is done through skits. In Ban Vang Ma, medical workers acted out a scenario in which a male staff person played a pregnant wife and his female counterpart played the husband. Children and adults laughed as they learned information about childbirth and newborn care.

"I hope this clinic can continue for a long, long time," Dr. Sang said. "They do a good job reaching the poorest and remotest communities who cannot get to a doctor or a hospital."