The matrones all went home to their mobile communities–wherever they are–and we started the second half of our mission: to visit each community to have a follow up session with actual patients and to inform the community of the capabilities of the matrons in order to get them to support the program. We visited the six new communities.
Tagharchirt is a large communitiy where Raisha, probably the brightest of the new matrons, lives. When we got there they had built a house, Tuareg style, which served as our consultation room so the women would have privacy. We took their history and then did an abnominal exam to show Raisha how to determine the position of the baby and to verify how many months pregnant the mother was.
Here Bob and Louine next to their tent with the “examination room” Tuareg style behind.
Here Raisha explains vitamins to a patient.
At each stop, we gathered the entire community and Ali explained to them what they now had available in their own community that could save lives. The farther into the program we go the more we realize that it is the basic advice of keeping hydrated–very rare in the nomadic community, good nutrition and prenatal vitamins and hygiene for delivery that is making the big difference. It is rare that our matrons have to resort to medicine to save a life. We are far bettering the national statistic of maternal mortality with 58 assisted deliveries and no maternal mortalities when one in seven women in Niger have a lifetime risk of death in childbirth. We expect our statistics to increase exponentially when our new matrons bring 6 new communities into the program.
Last year Ali delivered triplets at Ijerane who are relatively healthy, but not developing as fast as they should so we brought them some special cereal for malnutrition “distributed free” from the World Food Program–of course we had to buy it. Somehow many of the products sold in the market place are labeled “Gift of USAID–not for sale” or a gift of the World Food Program–so much for efficient use of our foreign aid money.
At any rate you can see that your donations to the Nomad Foundation are well spent.
Unfortunately the baby named Fatima was premature and Bob was concerned she would not survive so we evacuated her, her mom and grandma to Ingall. Four days later we brought them back to Tamesna and both were doing fine.
We finished our mobile visits at Foudouk where many of the women were absent due to a custom whereby they leave their camps in the dry season to go to neighboring countries like Nigeria to sell their traditional medicines. This relieves the burden of feeding them when milk is scarce in the dry season and allows them to make some money. We were able to visit a women’s co-op house we constructed for them last year with a microcredit from Thacher school and a new installation of electricity at their school–made possible by a grant from the Caster Family foundation.
At the end of the mobile mission we had the support and gratitude of all the nine communities who agree to do what they can to help the matrons do their essential work. One of the ways in which they can support is to pay to charge their cell phones with the solar chargers, made by our solar students in Agadez and provided to the matrons as part of their equipment. This costs them far less than traveling to a town to charge their cell phones and gives the matron the ability to pay for phone calls to the clinic for advice and replace supplies when needed.
We have applied to be part of the national health system and thereby be allowed to be a part of national programs. We think that the clinic and matron program, with the supervision of local personnel qualified by the national health system will, after one more follow up visit, be able to continue with minimal support from us. We have had many supporters to this program and cannot thank them individually, but biggest thanks go Rotary Club, the Caster Family Foundation, the Shearwater Foundation, our intrepid volunteers who each visit ,work to make the programs a success. But most of all the thanks go to Dr. Robert Skankey and his wife Louine who work tirelessly not only when in Niger, but at home in Ojai to improve and supply the program. It is Dr. Skankey’s vision and hard work, with the support of his wife who handles the pharmacy (Alhassane once asked me when she was packing the medicine late one night “Doesn’t she ever get tired?”) Neither she nor her husband ever seem too.
Bye for now,