After participating in Tostan’s Community Empowerment Program (CEP) and creating a Community Management Committee (CMC), the village of Keur Sanou has succeeded in organizing the construction and upkeep of a health clinic using micro-credit funds.
In collaboration with Tostan and the organization, Sponsor A Mum, community members of Keur Sanou began the project to build and equip a health center in their village in 2009. While Sponsor A Mum contributed the building materials and even trained the staff, the community of Keur Sanou took responsibility for continuing the clinic’s functioning after its construction. They planned to provide salaries for the staff and take care of maintenance and repairs using micro-credit funds. Sponsor A Mum contributed a total of 2,000,000CFA ($4,000) in micro-credit funds that were distributed to each of the ten villages that would use the health clinic, and the interest from those funds would cover all clinic costs.
The original amount was distributed in 2010, and continues to thrive today, with community members taking out loans and repaying them in full with ten percent interest in three-month cycles. Microcredit funds are managed by the Community Health Committee and the Community Management Committee, who distribute and collect funds. The interest collected covers the monthly salaries of all staff members, the purchase of medications, and repairs. Extra funds are saved for future needs.
The clinic itself is a major success, providing excellent care within walking distance of many families’ homes. It is equipped with a large variety of medications, a birthing table, an incubator, a balance to weigh babies, a horse and cart used as an ambulance, and more.
Soda Dione, the midwife of the clinic, sells medication and sees on average two to three patients every day. Many women give birth at the clinic each month and so far in 2012, every one of those births has gone well, with all babies and mothers healthy and thriving. Health staff are so well trained that no one has needed to be evacuated for any further care at the nearest health center in Latmingué.
Ms. Dione works with the head nurse in Latmingué, Ibrahima Touré, who comes to Keur Sanou once a month to help with pre-and post-natal consultations, administer vaccinations, and assist in awareness-raising events. Since the clinic was built and the awareness-raising activities began, the number of women attending pre- and post-natal consultations and the number of children being vaccinated has significantly increased. The awareness-raising events cover topics beyond birth and pregnancy, discussing family planning, malaria, AIDS, and more. Community members have noted fewer cases of malaria and understand the importance of sleeping under mosquito nets.
In the past, community members needed to travel more than ten kilometers, often by foot, to reach any sort of medical care. Women in labor may have needed walk under the hot sun or during the night to deliver their babies, risking giving birth along the road.
Since building the health clinic, giving birth has become a much safer process, as Bollo Thiam, a 28 year-old woman from Keur Sanou, explains. She has four children, the last of whom was born at the clinic. The birth of her fourth child began with abdominal contractions just as she finished preparing dinner. She asked her husband to call Soda Dione, the midwife, who met her at the clinic just minutes later. She gave birth to her son, Mohamed Touré, a healthy baby boy. Bollo said there were no complications and commented on the comfort of the clinic where she was able to rest and shower before returning home. She was especially thankful for the close proximity of the clinic since she delivered her last child on the road between Keur Sanou and Latmingué, attempting to reach the health center.
Keur Sanou’s health clinic project has touched every member of the community. Mothers are no longer afraid of receiving inadequate healthcare during childbirth, babies are born healthier, and consultations and vaccinations ensure they stay that way. More children are attending school due to less illness and the fact that sickness can be treated locally. The clinic is supporting the community economically too, with the popular and successful micro-credit loans that give families more opportunity to improve health and address other difficulties they might face. The leadership of Keur Sanou and the surrounding villages in the construction of this highly effective clinic has improved the health of their communities and contributed to their economic empowerment.