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In Chad, health care for mothers and babies around the clock

WATCH: In Chad, revitalized health centres open 24 hours a day to save mothers and babies lives


By Manuel Moreno

An initiative to revitalize health clinics aims to provide better care for mothers and children in Chad, where maternal and infant mortality rates are among the world’s highest.  

N’DJAMENA, Chad, 7 August 2015 – After spending a few minutes chatting with Roseline Tallot, one quickly realizes that she is not an ordinary person. Her eyes emanate inner strength and deep wisdom. Her voice is soft, but her words make an impression in the heart and soul.

© UNICEF Chad/2014
Roseline Tallot, director of the Atrone Health Centre, in N'Djamena, which was part of a revitalizing initiative to provide better care for mothers and children.

Ms. Tallot, 52, is an energetic and experienced midwife. She is responsible for the Atrone Health Centre, located in a neighborhood in the outskirts of N'Djamena, the capital of Chad. With a team of a dozen nurses and midwives, she has directed the centre since its revitalization in 2014.

“Since February, we operate 24 hours, seven days a week. Every day we receive around 50 women who come to the antenatal clinic. We assist between six and 10 deliveries daily,” explains Ms. Tallot.

Chad has one of the highest maternal and child mortality rates in the world. It is estimated that only two out of 10 women give birth under assistance of qualified personnel, and one child out of 10 dies before his first birthday.

Expanding access

To accelerate the reduction of maternal and child deaths in the country, the Ministry of Public Health launched an initiative to reopen 14 health centres in urban and peri-urban areas in Chad, making services available 24/7 to hundreds of thousands of mothers and children. The initiative is financed by the French Muskoka Fund, in collaboration with UNICEF, the United Nations Population Fund, UN Women and the World Health Organization.

“Before, the centre was open seven hours, and now the whole day. Women come here day and night,” says Nadjilembaye Kormbaye, one of the nurses at the Atrone Health Centre. “Many things have changed, because before we used to be on duty, but now we do nightshifts,” she continues.

According to the centre’s records, since the reopening of Atrone, a total of 457 deliveries have been assisted under supervision of midwives and nurses, and they have received about 6,493 consultations for antenatal care.

The Atrone centre serves a population of more than 34,000 inhabitants, and the main consultations are children with diarrhoea, respiratory illness and suspected cases of malaria. But assisting births is one of the principal tasks of Ms. Tallot´s team.

A growing relationship

On one night, the team had to assist five deliveries almost at the same time, and no baby or mother’s life was lost. It was a particularly stressful ocassion – but also a joyful one.

© UNICEF Chad/2014
“Before, the centre was open seven hours, and now the whole day. Women come here day and night,” says Nurse Nadjilembaye Kormbaye.

“We only have a delivery room with just three birthing tables. When we received the five pregnant women about to give birth, we experienced enormous difficulties. Some of them had to wait outside. A woman in labour should not wait,” she says.

The services provided by the health centre and the health team have created a growing relationship between the town and the community.

“I came to the health centre for a routine checkup,” says Rahmata Hissein, who is  a mother of two and eight months pregnant. “The women in the community have encouraged me to come.”

Ms. Hissein, 25, had her two previous children in the main hospital. It is the first time she will give birth in the health centre, within walking distance from her house, something that makes her very happy.

“The health of mothers and children must be at the heart of the national development policies,” says Dr. Nestor Azandégbé, Chairman of the Technical Committee of the French Fund Muskoka, during a recent visit to Chad. “Governments and their development partners should continue to work tirelessly together, to improve the health of women and children.”

Greater investment needed

Despite the efforts of the health workers, mother and child deaths do still occur. Further strengthening of human resources and access to essential medicines and medical equipment are needed to improve delivery of maternal, newborn and child health.

“One night, while I was working, I received a patient with a complete dilatation. Her blood pressure was high and she started to have convulsions, having an eclamptic crisis,” explains Nurse Kormbaye. “The story of that pregnant woman really marked me.”

She says, “I called the ambulance, and the ambulance arrived and took her to the main hospital. She was operated on. Her child died but she survived.”

Stories like this one are a common reality in Chad, and greater investment is needed – the Government and the international community must redouble their efforts and learn from midwives and nurses, who sometimes experience the loss of life in front of their eyes, but do not lose their courage and strength to continue their hard work on the front lines.



UNICEF Photography: Maternal deaths still high

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