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The Podor region in the north of Senegal is a poor, arid region. The healthcare structures, few in number and often difficult of access and with under-qualified staff, make Podor one of the country’s areas most severely affected by mother and child mortality. The main diseases responsible for this were, or still are, severe acute malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections. 401 babies out of 100,000 die at birth, compared to 10 in Switzerland; a tragedy due to the lack of access to proper treatment.
At the beginning of 2012, the Terre des hommes delegation started up a project to improve the health of mothers and children. Planned for three years, it should help 20,000 children under 5 and 9,000 expectant mothers who can have recourse to a functional, autonomous health service. Following the principle of the Integrated Management of Childhood Illness developed by the WHO, the aim is not only to come to the aid of the people requiring immediate care, but is mainly to develop the health system in the region by improving the abilities of the Senegalese nursing personnel, the functioning of the health system and family and community practices.
Looking after and training
Every day, Tdh health workers move around in the most remote regions, far from the towns. They inform and advise the people on the way to act so that children, expectant mothers and young mothers can benefit from good health and suitable nutrition. At the same time they teach local agents to carry out the checking of pregnant woman and children having medical treatment, and to know how to quickly refer the women who have not registered their pregnancy and sick children to the health centres.
In these centres, the health workers have the job of accompanying the Senegalese medical staff so that they can by themselves bring quality care to their patients. Doctors and nurses are trained on the care and monitoring of pregnant woman and children under 5, and also on their reception, how to listen to them, and the advice to give them.
Change can already be seen
The direct involvement of rural communities and regional health authorities ensures that the local populace takes over the ideas more seriously. Today people are more aware of their right to be able to access the quality healthcare on offer. The functioning of the health system has already improved considerably, thanks to the training courses given to health personnel and to the work of community agents, at both quantitative and qualitative levels. More women attend prenatal consultations and give birth at the health centres, as well as breastfeeding their babies exclusively for the first six months. Finally, regular monitoring of the children under 5 enables the early detection of illnesses and cases of malnutrition, so they can be treated in good time.