Supplies and Logistics

Saving Mother's and Babies' Lives in Senegal

UNICEF buys medical equipment through its Procurement Services

UNICEF Image: Oumou Kalsoum Dramé sits at her second ante-natal visit at the Nioro District Hospital.
© UNICEF SD/Senegal06/Sandie Blanchet
Oumou Kalsoum Dramé sits at her second ante-natal visit at the Nioro District Hospital.

NIORO, Senegal, September 2006 – Oumou Kalsoum Dramé is 30 years old and pregnant with her third child. This is her second ante-natal visit at the Nioro District Hospital. In her bright pink and blue dress, she looks very happy: after a thorough examination, including an ultra-sound, the mid-wife has declared her and her future baby to be healthy. Oumou will come to the hospital for the delivery because “everything is clean here and the equipment is brand new. I trust the mid-wives and doctors and I know everything will be fine.”

What seems a very ordinary scene in a small district-level hospital is in fact remarkable in this remote region of Senegal. Until recently, Nioro had a run down hospital, lacking equipment and trained staff. Because it was not possible to operate, pregnant women who needed caesareans had to be evacuated to the regional hospital of Kaolak (55 km away), either in a crowded bus or on a horse cart, sometimes in an old ambulance. Many women and babies died on the road. 

© UNICEF SD/Senegal06/Sandie Blanchet
A health care worker in one of Senegal's new highly equiped District hospitals.

The Nioro District Hospital is part of a large health project in Senegal, in which all partners are playing complementary roles. The Government built the hospital, the African Development Bank provided funds, and UNICEF bought the equipment through its Procurement Services.

Purchasing medical equipment is challenging. Specifications require a high level of expertise, items can be expensive and demand an excellent knowledge of the market, and quality is of utmost importance. As part of the loan agreement, UNICEF Procurement Services handles the whole procurement chain, from the need assessment and development of specifications to the delivery of equipment and the training of staff. The project, which covers 9 District Hospitals like the one in Nioro, 36 rural maternities and 74 health centres, started in 2000, with a budget of nearly $2.5 million. Purchases included all the supplies needed by health facilities, from basic items like surgical instruments to complex equipment like X-ray machines.

“This is a very ambitious project,” says Ms. Dramé Ndèye Coumba Guissé, the Project Coordinator at the Ministry of Health. “We are very satisfied with our partnership with UNICEF. We’d like to make this collaboration a common practice in the Ministry. Procurement Services has allowed us to save money and time and has guaranteed the quality of all the medical equipment.” Based on the success of this first project, the Government and the African Development Bank have decided to start a second one with UNICEF Procurement Services, in the even more remote region of Matam, near the border with Mauritania.

© UNICEF SD/Senegal06/Sandie Blanchet
A newborn at a District hospital in Senegal. Survival rates for mothers and babies are on the increase in the region.

Doctor Aliou Diallo, the Head Doctor of the Nioro hospital, is very proud of the new facility. “It represents a huge improvement, “he points out. “We now have more staff and better quality equipment. We are able to offer more health services, because we have an operating theatre, a laboratory (especially useful for malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS tests), and a blood bank. When women come for ante-natal visits, we inform them about HIV/AIDS and testing.” The hospital also promotes breastfeeding and long-lasting nets, and offers immunization services.

Already, the new health facilities have resulted in concrete improvements for women and children. In Nioro, the number of patients, especially women and children, has tripled in a few months since the opening of the hospital. A preliminary survey of all the sites covered by the project shows that immunization rates have improved, and the number of caesareans has increased, saving the lives of mothers and babies. The long-term objective for the Government of Senegal, the African Development Bank and UNICEF is to decrease maternal and neo-natal mortality rates by decentralising health services to avoid emergency evacuations to distant regional hospitals.

“It’s a question of survival. We are saving human lives,” concludes Ms. Dramé with a broad smile.




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