By Maryanne W. Waweru
IPPF’s Member Association in Cape Verde - Association Capverdienne pour la Protection de la Famille (VERDEFAM) was established in 1995 with the mission to defend, promote and guarantee people’s accessibility in the the area of Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR).
VERDEFAM endeavors to provide quality health information and services to all, more so the youth, vulnerable and most-at-risk populations. VERDEFAM implements its activities through its centers found in seven municipalities in Cape Verde. To achieve its objectives, VERDEFAM works closely with a host of partners including the government, civil society organizations, the media and other national and international institutions.
Reaching Vulnerable Populations with Services
One of the major health challenges that vulnerable populations in Cape Verde face is their access to quality Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) information and services. These populations include: sex workers, drug users, migrants, Men who have Sex with Men (MSM), migrant populations, the poor and other populations in resource-limited settings.
Driven by the need to improve these vulnerable populations’ access to quality, safe and effective services, VERDEFAM expanded its service delivery approaches through introduction of mobile clinics. An initiative started in 2010, the mobile clinics are well-equipped mobile vans that are run by skilled healthcare workers including; a doctor, nurse, psychologist and social workers.
The intervention by VERDEFAM targets these populations by locating the mobile clinics in strategic places where these populations are found, such as in entertainement spots, night clubs, bars and music festivals. The mobile clinics are open every working day, some weekends and during the night. The mobile clinics are found on the islands of Santiago, São Vicente, Sal and Boa Vista.
Through these mobile clinics, VERDEFAM offers a wide range of sexual and reproductive health services including:
- Family planning
- Counseling on Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV)
- Information about abortion and unsafe abortion
- Promotion of good health practices
- Screening and treatment for HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) inlcuding hepatitis, chlamydia and syphilis
- Promotion and distribution of condoms
- Support for drug users
- Counseling and screening for breast, uterus and prostate cancer
Peer-Peer Approach for Increased Service Delivery
To enhance its reach to these vulnerable populations, VERDEFAM identified and trained a select group of Men who have Sex with Men (MSM) and sex workers. The trained 15 MSM and 12 sex workers were imparted with the knowledge and skills necessary for them to reach out to their peers with information about sexual and reproductive health. The volunteer peer educators also mobilize and refer their peers to VERDAFAM clinics where they are assured of accessing a variety of sexual reproductive health services.
To reach more people, VERDEFAM participates in health fairs and other related exhibitions. Participating in these forums has increased the visibility of VERDEFAM and enabled it to reach more people with SRHR information and services.
Benefits of the Mobile Clinics
- The mobile clinics have enhanced VERDEFAM’s collaboration with local organizations, institutions, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and community members.
- The mobile clinics have presented high visibility for VERDEFAM and has helped the MA reaffirm its position as the leading NGO in sexual reproductive health in the country. The media reports on local television and radio stations have also boosted this visibility
- The mobile clinics have facilitated the involvement of VERDEFAM volunteers, including members of the Youth Active Movement (YAM) who participate in community awareness and mobilization activities
Proximity of Health Services Influences Uptake by Populations
Through this initiative, VERDEFAM has established that proximity is a key determining factor in the uptake of sexual reproductive health services, especially among vulnerable and most-at-risk populations. Taking health services closer to them; where they are found, leads to their increased uptake of services in a timely manner.
Partners and donors have commended VERDEFAM for this intervention, recognizing it as a good tool for health services.
This mobile clinic intervention was identified as one of VERDEFAM’s Good Practices during the 3rd Cycle of Accreditation. A Good Practice is an activity or practice that has been proven to work and yields positive results. The sharing of Good Practices by IPPF Member Associations offers learning experiences for their counterparts.
Connect with VERDEFAM on Facebook here.