RUTF boxes transformed into shelves

The head of the health centre turned into a craftsman

Nancy Ndal-lah
UNICEF Chad/2020/Nancy Ndal-lah
16 February 2021

In the village of Tagal in canton Ngéléa 1 in the Lac province, head of the health centre Djerabe Rotoloum, 40, has turned into a craftsman. In addition to treating the sick, he had the ingenious idea of recycling the ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) cardboard boxes: "There were not enough shelves to stock medicine at the Tagal health centre, where I work. We use between 20-30 RUTF boxes a month as part of the malnutrition treatment programme at the centre, and when I saw the empty boxes, I wondered if these could be used. And today, in all the rooms, we don't lack places to store either medicines nor health care materials," Djerabe tells us.

Djerabe Rotoloum
UNICEF Chad/2020/Nancy Ndal-lah

Ever since I was a child I have enjoyed making toys out of cardboard.

Djerabe Rotoloum

Shelves are usually made of wood or metal. In Tagal, a small village on the shores of Lake Chad, located 7 km from Baga Sola, wood is not always available and the health structures are often not equipped with all the materials needed, such as shelves. Djerabe Rotoloum used glue and pins to put together empty RUTF boxes and place them against the wall.

With this technique, the pharmacy now has plenty of storage space, with all the essential care products and medicines at its disposal. The RUTF boxes are provided by UNICEF through contribution from the United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

"When I arrived in Tagal in 2017, the health centre did not have a permanent structure. I was working in a shed. After a few months, I met the village chief to introduce him to the idea of having a dedicated building. Then the consultation was extended to the community and the village chief agreed to grant a plot of land for the project. With the help of the community, we made bricks together, raised voluntary contributions and engaged young people to build the health centre, including consultation room, maternity ward and pharmacy. Then I advocated with partners such as UNICEF for the construction of the buildings. We were able to receive 6 tarpaulins. Other donors and the provincial health delegation of Lac province then helped us to build a permanent building. This health centre is therefore the fruit of the goodwill and effort of the whole community. I am so proud of it”, he adds.

UNICEF Chad/2020/Nancy Ndal-lah

The Tagal health centre covers a population of 4,274. The average number of monthly consultation is 225. This includes between 60-70 pregnant women who visit the prenatal consultations (CPN1). 10 women are currently enrolled in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV programme and 53 children are in the programme for malnutrition treatment. Some of the main illnesses covered by the consultations are malaria, respiratory infections, malnutrition and HIV. Malnutrition mainly affects the villages surrounding Tagal.

outside health centre
UNICEF Chad/2020/Nancy Ndal-lah

Some of the difficulties in maintaining the health centre are mainly related to the lack of transport means for patients, the low number of health workers (there are only the head of the centre, an assistant nurse, and no midwife) and the lack of cold chain for storing vaccines. Vaccines have to be transported each time from Baga Sola for immunisation activities.

FCDO funding for the prevention and treatment of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) targets six priority provinces including Chari Baguirmi, Hadjer Lamis, Lac, Logone Occidental, Tandjilé and N'Djaména. The priority provinces were selected on the basis of the criteria of high prevalence of global acute malnutrition and aggravating factors such as food insecurity and/or population movements (refugees, internally displaced persons and returnees).