Pregnant women in Founougo benefit from better health services thanks to the mobilization of local actors and the private sector

Pregnant women in Founougo benefit from better health services thanks to the mobilization of local actors and the private sector

Written by Nawal Ramkrest Yallou for the USAID Integrated Health Services Activity, implemented by Management Sciences for Health

Ms. Barikissou Djibril, who lives in the district of Founougo in the department of Alibori (Benin), knows only too well the difficulties related to the absence of equipment in rural health centers. The health center of Founougo had neither electricity nor lab technicians to perform routine analyses needed by patients. When she was pregnant, she was forced to go to Banikoara, a commune 25 kilometers away from her house, to receive an ultrasound, blood work, and urinalysis. This is a dangerous trip for both mothers and their babies due to the state of the road.

Enabling all their constituents to benefit from quality health services closer to their communities is a concern for all elected officials in the country. However, government funds cannot cover the budget required to finance these services. As a result, local authorities need to find additional financial resources for health.

Ms. Djibril lives in an area of Benin where many people work in the cotton industry. For these communities, Cotton Producing Committees (Comités Villageois de Producteurs de Coton [CVPC]) are well placed to advocate for improvement and additional resources for the local health system. Being completely integrated into the population, their members are well aware of health system needs and, because of the hard work needed to harvest cotton, the requirement to have a healthy community. As a result, it was essential for local authorities to meet with them. However, most of them lacked the lobbying and advocacy skills to win their support in improving the community’s health services.
This involvement led to important results: the health center now has electricity, a building was constructed for the médecin chef for him to be available at all times, and the center has a fence, which makes it more secure and clean. Thanks to the electrification of the center, health professionals can perform ultrasounds and lab work.

The attendance of the center also increased from 19% in 2020 to 24% in 2021, and improvements in health results were also observed: the number of women who performed their fourth antenatal care visit increased from 199 in 2020 to 283 in 2021 while postnatal visits increased from 331 to 630 for the same period. Increasing the attendance of antenatal and postnatal care visits is critical as it enables health practitioners to prevent health issues, such as complications due to malaria, and treat them.
The Activity plans on accompanying all the communes benefitting from this support to assess the impact of advocating for financial support to strengthen community health. Additionally, the number of donors will be increased to include grain producers and farmers to strengthen the impact of this initiative. The experience of Founougo has also encouraged other communes of the department to start a similar approach.

Barikissou thanked the Activity and all the other stakeholders for the work done for pregnant women: “The health center of Founougo is now better equipped. I am able to receive ultrasounds and required routine analyses in my district. The proximity of the health center is very beneficial for us.”