Dr. Bob Skankey has been directing a midwife program which serves the nomadic population since 2011. The women he has trained have proven invaluable to their communities. At the level of training they have received, they are called “matrones” in Niger. This mission was to refresh the skills that the women have acquired, replenish their supplies and expand their roles to serve the children of their community through a pediatric outreach program in which we distributed antiparasitic medicine, mosquito nets, vitamins and installed handwashing stations. Our intent was to visit all the communities to seek financial support from their patients or communities for them for their work. We asked in each community we visited if they were happy with the work of the matrones–to which all responded a resounding: yes! There have been no maternal deaths since the program began in a country where 1 in 7 have a lifetime risk of death in childbirth, our women have assisted at over 270 births with no maternal deaths. We then asked if they would be willing to pay for the service. Some already were and the rest agreed to. Then we made sure all the matrones had a solar panel which could provide income for them through charging other peoples phones.
After proving to Dr. Skankey that they were competent and had understood the training, each received supplies to carry them through February.
Touma was at Fatima’s tent at Aboye when Bob used the baby mannequin to reinforce training in delivery of breech babies. She cradled the baby and then draped her with an indigo scarf. This mannequin is now truly Tuareg.
Bob gives Fatima medicines, which include prenatal vitamins. When Fatima ran out of vitamins, she purchased moringa leaves to give to her patients. The success of this nutritional supplement and its acceptance by the nomadic population, is what we had hoped for to replace the vitamins carried from the US by volunteers. We now have to get more moringa planted in the region.
Community meeting at Aboye to garner support for the midwife. Aboye is the community that inspired the start of this program as there have been so many maternal deaths there. I personally knew five young women who died…but all the the children survived and are being raised by grandmothers. Since the start of the program–there have been no maternal deaths.
The nomads and the Nomad Foundation cannot thank Dr. Skankey enough for his tireless work in devising and implementing this program. He is now thinking of expanding it next year to reach a much wider population. It has become apparent from the matrones reporting, that the training in prenatal care, nutrition, hydration and hygiene has made the biggest difference in maternal health and survival. This training alone, without the necessity to provide supplies and supervision by the clinic staff will allow us give a larger and more widespread population the tools to improve the health and chances of survival to far more women.