Since 2006, Tostan has been working in partnership with the humanitarian organization International Medical Relief (IMR). Last week a group of doctors working with IMR visited the neighborhood of Silmang in Thiès, Senegal. Over two days, they provided free medical care to 875 children, many of them talibés (students attending Koranic schools, or daaras), who often live in unhealthy conditions and have to beg to pay for the school’s upkeep. IMR is an NGO that provides dental, medical and surgical care to communities across the developing world.

Medical consultations were held on October 24th and 25th at the Assarters Center, a health clinic with the mission of providing free medical care for talibés, who often do not have access to healthcare. The clinic’s services are also available for the wider community at a reduced price. Other partners that were present for the medical visits were Kajoor Jankeen, the local partner of Child Fund, and the African Organization for Academic and Athletic Development

As many local parents and children lined up for consultations, the doctors decided to see all children, rather than excluding those who are not talibés.  During the consultations, a total of 606 children were immunized. The medical staff reported that the children were generally in good health.

As well as medical consultations, seminars were held on different aspects of health and hygiene throughout the event. The daara managers accompanying most of the talibés, many of whom are themselves former students, agreed that IMR’s visits are important not only for providing medical care, but for the sustainable lessons that the children learn.  These lessons include wearing shoes when outside, using mosquito nets, drinking clean water and basic hygiene. Children learned, for example, about the importance of washing their hands, and then each washed their hands in a bucket of soapy water. 

Almadou Sarr, who works with IMR as a translator and educator, facilitated seminars on hygiene, SODIS (a process of purifying water using the sun’s UV rays), cleanliness, and how to prevent trachoma, an eye infection that can lead to blindness. As well as educating children, his job involves educating marabouts and teachers about child health. 

Each child that was seen by the medical team also received a package containing a toothbrush and toothpaste, soap, vitamins, and crayons.

Since Tostan began working with IMR, a group of medical staff has visited to treat talibés and other children every two years. IMR’s fourth visit was greatly appreciated by both the children and the daara managers.