Senegal

Countdown to 2015: Health centre in Senegal works to reduce child mortality

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© UNICEF video
A mother holds her child outside of the new health centre in the village of Mounting Hamady, Senegal. The centre serves about 10,000 people from 35 villages.

By Thomas Nybo

On 17-19 April, leading global health experts, policy makers and parliamentarians will gather in South Africa for Countdown to 2015 – a conference on child and maternal mortality. This is one in a series of related stories.

MOUNTING HAMADY, Senegal, 10 April 2008 – Bintou Sabaly, 21, has given birth to three healthy children in the remote Senegalese village of Mounting Hamady, where no one has access to running water or electricity.

Ms. Sabaly says the biggest development in her recent memory was the creation of the new health centre, located just 5 km away, which serves 10,000 people from 35 surrounding villages. The centre has a pharmacy, examination rooms and even a delivery room.

“In my village, there is only a small medical station, which is very basic,” she says. “For me and other women in my village, this health centre is very important because without it, we would need to travel 30 or 40 kilometres, which is very expensive.”

A nutrition success story

Ms. Sabaly is fortunate to live in a country that is showing a strong commitment to improving child survival, in part by focusing on nutrition.

Senegal’s national nutrition coordinator, Dr. Biram Ndiaye, says that by using nutrition as an entry point to providing other services, Senegal has achieved the lowest malnutrition prevalence in West Africa.

“Senegal has succeeded in reducing malnutrition from 22 per cent to 17 per cent between 1995 and 2005,” he says. “The government has taken the problem of malnutrition seriously. We have a national committee against malnutrition, which is located in the prime minister’s office.”

The battle against malnutrition includes a national exclusive breastfeeding campaign, as well as strengthened partnerships with non-profit sector research and training institutions.

A ‘continuum of care’

UNICEF Representative in Senegal Ian Hopwood emphasizes an approach that protects mother and child during their most vulnerable years.

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© UNICEF video
Senegal has one of the lowest malnutrition rates in West Africa, but needs to make more headway in reducing child mortality in order to attain the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

“I think the continuum of care is quite crucial because essentially you’re really talking about the same couple – the mother and the child,” he said.

Mr. Hopwood noted that half the children in Senegal who die under the age of five are, in fact, less than a year old.

He stressed that one important goal is to provide an integrated package of health services at the closest possible point to the community. This arrangement not only increases the effectiveness of care, but also increases the likelihood that women and children will seek it out on a regular basis.

Creating country-wide programmes

At the new health centre, Ms. Sabaly received medical help to treat her nine-month-old daughter’s breathing troubles, a common ailment among families in her village. About 30 women a day visit the health centre, nearly all of them seeking treatment for malaria, breathing problems or intestinal parasites.

The country’s leading paediatricians say the next step is to take Mounting Hamady’s successful programme and apply it to the rest of the country.

“Now the big challenge is to go to scale,” said Dr. Ousmane Ndiaye of Hôpital Abass Ndao de Dakar. “There have been some very interesting and successful pilot efforts, which have shown that even with limited resources, you can really reduce neonatal mortality.”

By focusing on what works, Senegal is showing how protecting one village can help lead the way to protecting an entire country.


 

 

Video

March 2008:
UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on how a health centre in a remote Senegalese village is helping to reduce maternal and child mortality rates.
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9 April 2008:
UNICEF Chief of Health Peter Salama discusses the latest global figures on child and maternal mortality.
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