During this three-year educational program, they learned about the symptoms of diseases like malaria and pneumonia, some preventative measures they can take, and the importance of hygiene to prevent children from getting diarrhea, which can lead to malnutrition.
It was once they completed the CEP in 2010, that the community health dispensary—which had largely gone unused for the last eight or nine years—became fully functioning. For the first time, men, women, and children were actually coming!
The health dispensary is now run by local leaders in the community. Ouly Ndao acts as the coordinator of the Community Management Committee (CMC) and the president of the community health dispensary. The religious leader of the community, and other community members, are on the Community Health Dispensary Management Committee.
While the dispensary may be small, it provides essential services for the community. This includes treatment for malaria, diarrhea, acute respiratory infections, and vaccinations, as well as information and guidance on family planning and nutrition. The staff also work to prevent and treat tuberculosis, and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, the dispensary is equipped to take care of women through labor and delivery, along with their newborns, to ensure mother and child are healthy.
The positive impacts on the health of the community are many. Prior to participation in the CEP, very few children in the community received vaccinations. Now, the staff of the dispensary is proud to say that 100% of the children in Keur Alpha receive their vaccinations. Though the dispensary does not have the necessary staff and equipment to conduct the prenatal visits, the women are referred to a nearby hospital. Adama Ndao, the head staff member of the community health dispensary, assures us: “Pregnant women now all make sure to go for their pre and postnatal visits.”
Other successes include the women in the community seeking advice on methods of family planning, resulting in an increase in the use of family planning methods. Before the CEP, women did not feel comfortable discussing this topic with their husbands. Now, the CMC organizes awareness-raising activities with the women in the community. Both Adama and Ouly explain that most of the women in the community are now using family planning, and their husbands accept that it has positive effects on the women’s health. They even go to the dispensary for more information on the process!
When Fatou Ndao, aged 41, realized that she was weak and in poor health as a result of being pregnant every year for five years, she went to the dispensary to seek help. The health agent advised her to begin using a family planning method. When she discussed it with her husband, he agreed that it was the right thing to do. Fatou then began taking birth control. “Since beginning these family planning methods, I have gotten my health back and my children are growing up happy and healthy,” says Fatou. She is grateful for the easier life she has had as a result of family planning.
Despite the successes of the community health dispensary, Adama explains that they still face challenges: “The medication provided by the government is not enough for the three communities. Also, if we had more qualified staff and medical equipment, we could better serve the community.”
The community members running the dispensary still have high hopes though. They want to expand the dispensary by moving it to the center of the community, making it more accessible to pregnant women, and where trained healthcare professionals have a greater capacity to care for those in the community. Despite the many challenges, with their passion and motivation, the community health dispensary staff is sure to continue their important work and address the needs of the community members as effectively as possible.