We are now a long way from the time when new-born babies in Benin could easily die of hypothermia due to a lack of infant warmer tables. The Lagune Mother and Child University Health Centre (CHUMEL) in Cotonou, Benin, is now equipped with this essential material as well as other equipment, including oxygen units with several outlets. “Before, only one baby could be connected to the unit at a time. The others had to wait. It was difficult,” a nursing assistant at the centre recalls. “Today, we can manage the demand better.”
“It has rejuvenated our centre,” enthuses Nicole Enianloko Tchiakpè, a paediatrician at CHUMEL, as she proudly shows the new equipment in the operating room acquired through the program. Boxes of surgical instruments, neonatal resuscitation equipment and obstetric care equipment... The centre received a total of over €5.8 million (3.8 billion CFA Francs) in equipment.
Like CHUMEL, many other paediatric and maternity units in the country have benefited from technical medical equipment thanks to the Maternal and Infant Health Support Project (PASMI). The Agence Française de Développement (AFD) supported this project through a contribution of €10 million, equal to 6.6 billion CFA francs.
According to the Ministry of Health, since 2012 this programme has reinforced the technical services of 42 hospitals approved to practise Caesarean Sections, 5 departmental hospital centres, 34 zone hospitals and 17 other health centres in Cotonou.
Benjamin Hounkpatin, Benin Health Minister
Colonel Moufalilou Aboubakar is an obstetrician/gynaecologist at CHUMEL in Cotonou. He testifies to the changes resulting from the maternal and child health support programme.
“In developing countries, the absence of suitable technical facilities is a problem we face on a daily basis. If the PASMI did not exist, we would have had to invent it at all costs... Because this programme covers the areas where we were experiencing deficiencies.
In terms of human resources, we now have enhanced capacities. This was truly a blessing because often the State was unable to respond to requests for training. This training has allowed us to strengthen our skills in very specific areas and in the practice of daily activities. At CHUMEL, for example, we had three operating rooms, but only one was operable due to a lack of training among the personnel. Today, thanks to this programme, all three operating rooms are in use.
Another improvement, which is also very important, is that we now have a virtual learning centre that allows us to train students who can watch live operations performed by experts.
Thanks to this program, we now have medical mannequins the students can practice on after the theoretical training, before working with real patients. This is a true revolution for us.”
The improvement in training is not limited to students. According to the figures published by the Ministry of Health, approximately 2.500 midwives, nurses, anaesthesiologists, gynaecologists, paediatricians and laboratory technicians have been trained in the area of obstetric care and emergency neonatal care and on various blood transfusion modules as part of the PASMI.
"The training that I received has been very helpful to me: it has allowed me to improve my professional practice and I now use safer methods in caring for those who entrust us with their lives,” says Alain, one of the 55 biotechnologists who received training.
Since women and children consume approximately 70% of labile blood products (for transfusion), the National Blood Transfusion Agency (ANTS) received support from the PASMI. The support started in 2014, with the opening of ten university blood donation centres and capacity-building efforts. 242 hospital nurses, midwives and anaesthesiologists received training on good practices for blood transfusion. 368 health workers were also trained on common haematological diseases between 2017 and 2018.
"This was a successful partnership in all respects. 11 community and local radio stations partnered with us to promote blood donation efforts,” an agency manager explains. “We also received assistance in collecting 3.205 blood units and procuring 48.000 blood bags and transfusion units.” As a result, blood is available for recipients and the quality of blood production activities have improved.
Caesarean sections: safer and more frequent
Ever since the government authorities decreed that caesarean sections were to be performed free of charge, the practice has greatly increased: in 2017 the number reached 31.397, whereas in 2009 there were only 12.250. To handle this sensitive procedure and growing demand better, the PASMI harmonized and introduced two C-section kit models. 52 accredited hospitals benefited from four training workshops.
"Thanks to the PASMI, we have distributed over five hundred posters to spread good practices. We also received an all-terrain vehicle,” adds a manager of the National Agency for the Management of Free Caesarean Sections (ANGC). “All these forms of support have improved the quality of care for patients receiving free C-sections.”
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