The World Abaza Congress began medical examination of students in rural schools with the support of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Abkhazia.

The Department of the World Abaza Congress on Education, Social Activism and Health (OSAZ) launched a new project for medical examination of rural schoolchildren with the support of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Abkhazia.

The first visit of doctors for a medical examination of schoolchildren was to the village of Bedia in Tkuarchal district. The medical examination took place in two stages: on the first day, the students of the Bedia Secondary School donated blood for a general analysis and glucose level, and on the second day, with the available test results, they were examined by a wide range of doctors.

Schoolchildren were examined by Esma Gunia, chief specialist of preventive help of the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Abkhazia, pediatric and adult neurologist, ultrasound diagnostician, head of the Alba-Med Medical Center Albina Khodzhava, nurses of the center Ilona Barkalaya and Emma Kakubava, ophthalmologist Fatima Sangulia, radiologist Aslan Berzenia  and otolaryngologist Lana Eshba. All laboratory blood tests were made by the "MedLife" laboratory.

The head of the WAC department for education, social activity and health (OSAZ WAC) Izolda Khagba told about why the prophylactic medical examination project is carried out exclusively for children in rural schools.

"Early diagnosis of most diseases is the key to successful treatment. The Covid pandemic, as you know, has significantly affected the health of people, and children in particular. The WAC's clinical examination project began with a survey of school-age children living in remote villages.  When planning the project, we proceeded from the fact that large medical institutions in Abkhazia are located mainly in towns, which significantly limits access to medical services for residents of many villages. Obviously, for this reason, people living in rural areas, especially the poor ones, either postpone the visit to the doctor, or do not seek medical help at all," Khagba said.

According to her, the WAC addressed the Minister of Health of the Republic of Abkhazia Eduard Butba with this project. The minister highly appreciated the initiative and decided to provide support.

"According to our agreement, the Ministry of Health provides technical support and prepares teams of doctors, while the WAC has taken responsibility for solving organizational issues and all financial expenses for the project. We are grateful to the Deputy Minister Saida Delba and pediatrician Esm Gunia for their advisory assistance in preparing all stages of medical examination. We are confident in the importance and timeliness of our project, and we know that it will be a good help for our citizens and for the state. Additional care for the health of our children today is the key to the health of the nation tomorrow," Khagba said.

Pediatrician Esma Gunia noted the importance of organizing joint work of the WAC and the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Abkhazia in this direction.

"Representatives of the WAC addressed the Ministry of Health of Abkhazia with a proposal on the possibility of conducting medical examinations of rural schoolchildren. I believe that the organization and implementation of such a project is vital. During the first trip, more than 50 children were examined by doctors. In the future, we plan to conduct preventive examinations and identify health problems among school-age children and in other villages of Abkhazia, to inform citizens about the need for regular medical examinations," she added.

According to Naur Khishba, an employee of the OSAZ WAC, medical examination of the children’s population of school age is one of the largest and most expensive projects of the WAC.

"Today we have to qualitatively scale up the successful experience of a trip to the village of Bedia. We are going to travel to at least to two villages a month, and by the end of the year to conduct medical examinations of about 1,000 school students. Today, there are 111 rural schools in Abkhazia, where more than 10,000 children study," Khishba said.

He noted the impressive scope of the work ahead and the willingness of the Congress to seek partnerships to co-finance or otherwise support the project.

"There are already many examples of manifestations of indifference. For example, on the initiative of the head of the MedLife Sukhum laboratory, Larisa Akhuba, it was possible to significantly reduce the cost of blood tests, and it also allowed quick follow-up examination of blood of any student for a wider range of indicators if this information is needed by the doctor during the examination. The Gagra Medical Center ALBAMED joined us, which provided great support with specialists and the provision of equipment and expanded the initially planned depth of research for every child. Moreover, thanks to the personal relations of the director of the medical center Albina Khodzhava, the cardiograms of the children were decoded free of charge by specialists from Moscow, with whom her center cooperates," Khishba noted.

Children's and adult neurologist Albina Khodzhava summed up the results of the medical examination of the students of the Bedia Secondary School.

"Today, for the first time, together with the WAC, we went to the medical examination of schoolchildren from remote rural schools in order to conduct a comprehensive medical examination. Together with the nurses of the ALBAMED Medical Center, we conducted an electrocardiogram for students of the Bedia Secondary School with a decoding from Moscow cardiophysiologists, an ultrasound scan of the vessels of the brachiocephalic arteries (vessels of the neck and brain) was also performed with further consultation of a pediatric neurologist, an ECG and fluorography were performed," Khodzhava said.  

The neurologist noted that neurological symptoms were detected in almost all schoolchildren, especially in elementary school students.

"Practically every examined child had a small neurological deficit. In the lower grades, a violation of the delay in speech development was revealed. Identification of such symptoms should take place before school age. Thanks to the screening project, we have the opportunity to diagnose developmental delay problems and further help these children with treatment. For such children, an individual selection of therapy will be carried out, followed by the management of children under 14 years old," Khodzhava added.

The Head of the Bedia Secondary School Iya Meladze expressed her gratitude to the organizers of the project and the team of doctors for the preventive examination of children.

"Today our school was visited by representatives of the WAC together with a team of doctors from the Ministry of Health. We are very grateful to all the organizers of the medical examination project. Many residents of our village do not have the opportunity to undergo preventive medical examinations. The schoolchildren passed tests, were examined by a general practitioner, an ENT specialist, an ophthalmologist, they did X-rays, ultrasound, and fluorography.  Parents could consult with doctors about the identified violations. Some of those examined were registered in the medical records," she said.

The medical examination project aims to provide qualified medical care to students in rural schools who live far from medical centers located in towns. The project organizers plan to conduct medical examinations for more than 1,000 students in rural schools by the end of 2023.