Our medical clinic for nomads continues to treat several hundred patients each month, but pregnant women in labor typically can’t make the journey to the clinic and instead stay in their encampment giving birth with little or no assistance. This led to one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world. The foundation launched a traditional birth attendant (called matrone in Niger) training program in November 2011, not just because we saw the need for it but because the nomads asked for medical care in their encampments. Wherever possible, the foundation’s goal is to give the nomads the means and materials to help themselves. With this in mind, medical director, Dr. Bob Skankey created a program to train matrones and health care liaisons in remote nomadic communities. By 2015, the matrones had assisted at over 800 births with no maternal mortalities and no mortalities of children born alive. Dr. Bob at 85 years old decided he would not return and the local staff left to pursue other opportunities, so we found a new team. In their third year the new team has been so successful we expanded to the new community of Iferouane and doubled the number of trainees.
The new team in 2016, updated training for 12 matrones, who reported 166 new births.
Four of the original trained matrones now qualify to be trainers and continue the program whether we are present or not. We have been asked by the American Army, who now have a base in Agadez to participate in their health fair to present maternal health. Our local staff and matrones will do this on their own.
When the program started in 2012, each received a kit with medicine, equipment and a cell phone allowing her to call the nurse at the medical clinic as needed.
Prenatal care emphasized hydration and nutrition including the use of prenatal vitamins and the value of moringa leaves as a supplement.
The need for sanitary technique including a clean birth place, proper hand washing and use of sterile gloves were covered.
Complications and the use of essential medicines to prevent infection and post partum hemorrhage.
Each midwife was then asked to demonstrate her understanding of the birth process and the use of every piece of equipment and medicine in her bag.
All completed with flying colors and received their graduation certificate and a rotary pin. Many thanks to Rotary club for funding this mission.
The program will continue each year with a mission of the local staff before the rainy (malaria) season to collect reports, distribute mosquito nets and resupply meds and equipment. Each fall a mission of the American medical team will do revision, addition of assistants and expansion to new communities who need it. We have, for the first time been able to compile the most accurate statistics to date in the nomadic community. Our brilliant, illiterate matrones understand from the pictures on the report we created how to make the appropriate mark and from these we are able to understand how our program is working.
This program began because I had lost many young friends to childbirth and know too many grandmothers raising their orphaned grandchildren. I showed the two year old son of Kiki (below) a photograph of his mother who died while giving birth to him. He had never seen her. He is now 7 years old and healthy, living with his grandmother, but still has no mom. In over 1,200 assisted deliveries we have now lost only five mothers, all died after evacuation to the hospital in Agadez and no child born alive. Thanks to your help at our annual fundraiser–film Roadtrip Niger–we raised enough money to purchase a motorcycle ambulance for quicker evacuations–maybe some of those mom’s who died in hospital could have been saved it they’d gotten there quicker.