Introduction to the work in Burkina Faso

Connecting Deou’s 28,000 Inhabitants to Medical Care

Since 1986, AMURT has held a presence in Deou and its surrounding territory, engaging in forestation and the development of hospitals, wells, cooperatives and cereal banks. The organization and its volunteers were first assigned to this incredibly rural and disconnected part of Burkina Faso by the country’s Ministry of Health and has been helping to improve the lives of the area’s inhabitants with ever since. In 2001, health education became the program’s primary focus. AMURT’s general objectives include:

  • Further training the 33 community-based TBAs (Traditional Birth Attendants)
  • Improve the health care provided to mothers of the Sahel region
  • Organize educational activities through theatre and meetings
  • Find efficient ways to reduce the scarcity of water during the dry season.

In remote communities of the Moussi and Peuhl tribes, as many as 60 % the girls have their genitals cut at the age of 12-14. This Peuhl girl is from the Ndiawe village, a nomad community.

AMURT’s activities are spread within a radius of about 50 kilometers of the Sahel region, comprising more than 35 villages and a population of over 28,000 inhabitants. The Sahel is a particularly poor and environmentally damaged region of Africa south of the Sahara that became infamous in the 1970’s when almost 200,000 people died as a result of drought and famine.

Most villages have nothing resembling a medical center, and the only things that can get a person in danger to a government clinic are the donkey cart ambulances provided by AMURT. These clinics are around 50 kilometers away and are poorly equipped, often lacking doctors to care for patients. Pregnancies are can be especially dangerous as women rarely receive medical checkups and are exposed to heightened risk of anemia and malaria in addition to the normal difficulties encountered in childbearing.

Accessing clean water is a daily struggle in Deou. During the long dry season, people line up day and night in often distant places to fetch just enough water for their daily needs. Many wells and bore holes have dried up as the underground water table is consumed faster than it regenerates. Cattle are forced to move greater and greater distances between water points and grazing areas. This places great stress on them and several die from the trek.

Our trainer Madame Oubda takes time to answer questions personally after her class on breastfeeding Fanta from Boulekessi Soum was trained in 2005 and has established herself well in her community

Village midwives

The AVs are earning the respect of their communities. They are assuming a position of leadership that has been unavailable to women due to the traditional separation of the sexes. The AV’s effectively fulfill the role of the health promoter for mothers and babies. Their training has also brought them to the frontline to raise awareness in this conservative society about concerns crucial to the welfare of women. For example, they are advising women in their communities about family planning and the threat of HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS is brought to the area by men who travel to find work in the dry season.

The Peuhl AV at Ndiawe village gets help from visiting UK midwife Suniiti Crowther to understand how to better use the instruments in her midwife kit
The AV from Bungelday gets read to practice oral resuscitation. The use of teaching aids (visuals and dolls to demonstrate/practice on) are particularly important when teaching the illiterate, who find it difficult to follow theoretical classes
Before the program started, virtually no women of the Bella tribe would come for pre-natal consultation or deliveries at the medical centers. With the efforts of the AV´s (village midwives) these attitudes have started to change, and the Bella tribe no longer remain aloof from the health infrastructure of the country.