Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Matter of Health

Recently we were able to assist a team of occupational therapist conduct a health survey in several villages. Their purpose was to gather data to assess the health needs of children in Burkina Faso.
It was interesting and eye opening.

One of the questions was "How many children in your care have been sick in the last two weeks?" I would say that nearly every mother has had or currently has a sick child. The symptoms typically are diarreah, vomiting, headache, cough, runny nose, fever and skin rash. When asked what they did to seek help, the answers varied depending on which village they lived in.

Not every village has the same access to health care. In one village where we hold a weekly clinic, most of the women said that they have used and have been helped by our nurses. They wish that the clinic was permanent because the other six days they would have to walk to a neighboring village if their children were sick. In another village, the closest health clinic or pharmacy is miles away. They would have to walk or ride a bicycle while carrying their sick child and they fear that they won't have enough money to cover the fees once they get there. In this village they use traditional medicine most of the time.

Traditional medicine can mean boiling different leaves and drinking the water, rubbing mud on your forehead and even seeking the help of the traditional healer (witch doctor) of the village. The mothers report that usually these methods help, but that the symptoms eventually come back. In many cases, by the time they decide to make the trip to a clinic, pharmacy or hospital, it's too late.

On our recent visit to Kimini, a remote village in the southwest, we talked with the chief. He stated that healthcare was the top need in their village. We asked him what happens to babies when their mother dies and his response was pretty blunt. He said, "The baby dies".

One in five under the age of five dies here in Burkina. Life is fragile. The things we take for granted in the developed world are becoming painfully real for us. Just this evening we nearly lost one of our own babies at the orphanage. He developed a very high fever and, with no exaggeration, was clinging to life. We are so incredibly blessed to have two nurses on staff. Our nurse was able to insert an IV, administer medication and stabilize him. Needless to say it was an incredibly emotionally draining night for all of us. If this baby was in one of the villages he would not have made it. I can say that with certainty.

As a result of the survey in these villages we were able to make a plan to return and begin clinics to assist with malnutrition. Our nurses are Burkinabe nationals. They were once young girls living in our orphanage and through continued sponsorship were able to receive their training. If every village was able to have a trained nurse the statistics could change.

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