Today Mariam is here with all the other women in the village to take part in the monthly meeting of the solidarity circle and the mothers’ support group. She is a mother of two herself and lives in the village of Hamdalaye Pont with her farmer husband. She is pregnant and has no income of her own.
The issue of mother and baby health is a pressing one in the Missirah area, particularly Hamdalaye Pont, where 52% of pregnant women do not complete their four compulsory prenatal check-ups*. A lack of means is what mainly prevents women affording examinations, tests and medicines.
In order to alleviate this problem, World Vision has worked with communities in order to set up solidarity circles** for pregnant women as well as mothers’ support groups***, under the banner of its programme which promotes mother and baby health and nutrition. The membership is made up of all the women in the village and their objective is to make the community self-sufficient in meeting its own health care needs, especially the four prenatal check-ups. The way the system works is that each woman pays 100 CFA a month into the solidarity chest, which is earmarked strictly for addressing current health issues.
During her first pregnancy, Mariama was unable to take advantage of even basic medical attention. She could not afford to pay for the four medical check-ups, nor the cost of transport to get to the nearest health centre 15km away. She ended up risking her own health and her baby’s with an unassisted home birth.
Question and answer session run by a midwife with the solidarity circle and the support group
However, World Vision made sure that things had changed by the time of her second pregnancy. “Before the solidarity circle and mothers’ support group were up and running, I swear that I couldn’t follow through with four prenatal check-ups. My village is a long way from the health centre and my husband is not a wealthy man. But since the solidarity circle, I have had some help which has enabled me to keep up with the consultations. The monthly instalment system that all the village women pay into has taken a weight off our husbands’ shoulders and the women themselves are less anxious now about the health of their kids and themselves.”
Mariama gave birth to a baby girl at the village health centre, with a midwife**** in attendance. The various regular meetings held by the circle and the support group have driven up the number of women completing all four check-ups, from 38% in 2015 to 48% in 2016*. This change in behaviour represents some real progress towards the prevention of mother, baby and child mortality.
The innovative strategies of the solidarity circles and support groups exist to strengthen solidarity amongst women and to confront health issues affecting women and children in the community. Building up the self-sufficiency of women constitutes a boost for the development of the entire community, and fundamental investment in the well-being of all members - particularly the most vulnerable children.
* Source LQAS1 survey 2015 - 2016 - Lot quality assurance sampling
**Solidarity circle: This is a forum where women can exchange experiences and support each other on issues around pregnancy, childbirth and aftercare.
***Mothers’ support group: The mothers’ support group is a collective of women in the community whose objective is to share knowledge and help each other to prevent or at least take care of health issues that crop up frequently. The hope is that the rituals prevailing at traditional gatherings of women can be adapted for the purposes of information education communication (IEC) and mutual support through stages such as pregnancy, childbirth, aftercare and the supervision of serious illness requiring emergency evacuation.
Photos Credits: Diaretou Diao