Overcoming distance to improve child health
In south Senegal, the ratio of health care professionals is just one doctor for every 53,387 inhabitants and one nurse for every 6,549. This shortage of professionals means that primary health care services and surgery are largely inaccessible to the majority of the population. AMREF’s programme of intervention in 60 primary schools, 7 health centres and 47 smaller health facilities in Kolda and Sédhiou has extended and increased access to preventive and curative primary care and specialist care, including paediatric and reconstructive surgery, for 35,000 children.
In Senegal, general medical practitioners and specialists are concentrated in the capital’s hospitals, resulting in a large disparity between the medical and surgical services available in Dakar and those in the remote areas of the south, where child morbidity and mortality rates are the highest in the country.
In five years, Amref has successfully increased access to preventive and curative primary care as well as specialist care for more than 35,000 children at 60 primary schools and over 50 health facilities in Kolda and Sédhiou.
- 35,000 children benefited from 160 screening missions at the schools and health centres, focused on the early detection and treatment of the most common childhood diseases (respiratory infections, diarrhoea, malaria and anaemia). These missions mobilised on-site multidisciplinary teams comprising a general practitioner, dentist, ophthalmologist and nurse. The consultations were open to all the children in the surrounding communities, whether they attended school or not.
- As a direct result of these screening missions, 1,558 children were referred to specialists and received free, quality care during 9 surgical camps and 12 specialist consultation mini-camps.
- 333 health care professionals received training in pre-and post-operative care as well as in aspects of maternal and infant health.
- Nearly 16,000 pupils gained access to preventive healthcare services and passed on what they learnt to their families.
- The 60 target schools were provided with kits containing all the necessary hygiene and sanitation equipment, while the parents’ associations proved able to ensure good school governance.
- 60 teachers and 62 community outreach workers were trained in preventive care and health promotion at village level.
- More than 37,500 women of reproductive age (and their spouses or fathers) improved their knowledge of and skills in reproductive health, children’s health, hygiene and nutrition.
Amref successfully mobilised and connected the key stakeholders involved in promoting and improving child health – teachers and healthcare workers, parents, extended family and the community.
We are currently considering how these interventions could be formalized into a replicable and scalable model.