Access to any sort of health care is almost nonexistent in the Azawak. There are few health posts, and those that exist are held by non-qualified government staff (people with no medical background). Typically, getting to one of these centers takes several days by donkey.
The only two “hospitals” that exist in the region are those in Abalak and Tchintabaradene — these would not be considered hospitals, or even clinics by our standards. There are approximately 20 other health posts throughout the region, that provide extremely rudimentary services.
Lack of available health care has the following consequences, among others:
- Overcrowded health centers
- Limited qualified staff to treat patients
- Limited treatment or lack of treatment
Many people never seek health care and perish or are permanently handicapped by otherwise easily treatable ailments (infected wounds, diarrhea, complicated childbirth, etc.).
Health education and knowledge is also greatly limited. People have little to no understanding of hygiene, nutrition, infectious disease, etc. Illness is understood to be caused by Allah or genies (spirits), that is treated by music and dance.
Improving overall health by reducing morbidity and mortality is one of AI’s primary objectives. We plan on doing this by:
- increasing health knowledge through education,
- helping to provide quality basic services, and
- improving infrastructure that has implications on health.
We have begun addressing these objectives through the following activities:
Health Extensions Program
Our health extensions program provides free health care to over 13,000 pregnant women and children, conducts health education, particularly in the domains of WASH, reproductive health and nutrition. We focus on prevention, care and education.
We launched this project at the beginning of 2015 to offer basic health care services and health education to all of our communities. Our three nurses live full-time in the villages (one week in each). While in a village, they conduct basic health care (including providing treatment if possible), or refer patients to Abalak or Tchintabardene.
The majority of their time is devoted to conducting health education. They conduct classes on hygiene and sanitation, nutrition, exclusive breastfeeding, contraception, malaria prevention, HIV/AIDS, etc.
Our nurses have also developed health “teams” in each community that learn and are responsible for health projects. For example, the village clean-up team, the matrones who help during childbirth, etc.
Our mini laboratory tests for pregnancy, malaria, STDs, glycemia and other illnesses or conditions
Malaria is one of the primary causes of infant mortality, after waterborne illnesses and malnutrition. Mosquito nets, if used properly, are an effective measure greatly reducing malaria incidence.
We distributed 400 mosquito nets in Ebagueye (2013) and in Couloubade (2014), 300 in Kijigari (2014), and 150 in Tangarwashane (2014). We did this distribution with a nurse, to explain the importance of proper use of the mosquito nets in order to have them be efficient. Every village reported a significant reduction in morbidity (at least 70%), and no mortalities due to malaria among the beneficiary families over the past two years.
Status: This project should be renewed as mosquito nets have a short life span in these conditions. Also more families need to benefit from the project.
Sanitation goes hand in hand with hygiene and water distribution. Given the lack of health education, our populations have a limited understanding of the importance of sanitation and health.
We have focused our energy on
- maintaining the villages free of both human and animal excrements
- maintaining the areas around the boreholes, grain mills, etc. clean and free of contaminants
- reducing weeds, stagnant water, etc. that can attract flies and mosquitoes.
- building latrines
Latrines are nearly non-existent in our villages. Traditionally, people find it taboo to defecate on top of another person’s feces. When people live in camps and small villages, they can manage defecating far from the village, and latrines are less crucial. However, as villages grow, people have a tendency to defecate closer to the village center, or in the village.
We have therefore begun building latrines in the villages. We have built two four toilet latrines in Ebagueye, one for the men, one for the women (2013), and one four toilet latrine for the school of Couloubade (2014). Many more are needed. We focus on educating the school children so that using latrines and sanitation in general becomes a part of their day to day behavior.
Status: While the latrines have been built, sanitation education is ongoing in all of our villages. We would like to build many more latrines (subsize home latrines) in all our villages.
Kijigari In-Patient Care Unit
Kijigari is one of our borehole villages, and happens to be one of the few communities with a health center. The health center offers services to communities within a 50 mile or more vicinity.
The health center could not provide in-patient care due to lack of facilities. We built a one room in-patient care facility early 2014. The community is extremely grateful, as this has improved the quality of care given to more serious ailments and conditions.
Status: We would like to improve the center by adding on to it, and by contributing supplies and materials.