59
hospitals and health centres equipped
2,500
healthcare workers and technicians trained
48,000
blood bags supplied
Each year in Benin, 1,500 women die during childbirth and over 12,000 new-born children die within 28 days following their birth. A maternal and child health support programme is now combating this silent tragedy affecting families and hindering the country’s demographic dynamics.

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.
 

All these actions have remedied critical deficits representing weaknesses in our technical platforms and significantly boosted the quality of our health training courses.” 

Benjamin Hounkpatin, Benin Health Minister

 

Benin, Child Healthcare, Brabant
Benin, Paulette
Paulette: No More Guilt
Paulette Vigan, 29, is a nursing assistant in the paediatric ward of the zone hospital in Abomey-Calavi, 18 km north of Cotonou. With a hint of sadness in her voice, she recalls the time when they had to buy oxygen bottles from suppliers outside the hospital to provide lung ventilation for children in emergency situations.

“With that system, each patient had an entire oxygen bottle, yet we did not have enough bottles for everyone,” she explains. “We sometimes had to deprive certain patients in need of oxygen in order to give oxygen to others whose situation seemed more critical. I admit that this was all done a bit haphazardly and I personally suffered from bouts of guilt.”

The support from PASMI put an end to these improvised methods by installing an autonomous system that automatically generates three oxygen outputs: “For us, this is a revolution. It is good to see the children doing better and receiving better care. It is an incredible relief.”
Benin, minister of health
A Health Minister At The Heart Of The Programme
Professor Benjamin Hounkpatin was appointed Health Minister on 5 May 2018 and has played a significant role in overseeing the entire capacity-building scheme for health workers as part of the programme supported by AFD. In 2016, as a gynaecologist, he himself benefited from training in Angers, France. He then actively worked to establish the virtual learning and simulation centre for gynaecology and obstetrics at CHUMEL.

When the centre was inaugurated on 13 December 2018, Véronique Brumeaux, French Ambassador to Benin, paid tribute to Benjamin Hounkpatin for having “personally supported the initiative” and contributed to “improving the quality of training for healthcare professionals.” The Minister applauded the infrastructure’s “modern” foundations, “a first” for the country.
Benin, Geneviève
Geneviève: Living Twins
Four years ago, Geneviève Dako gave birth to twins who died a few days later, “due to a lack of equipment that could have saved them from hypothermia.” Now 36 years old, pregnant for the second time, she had the joy of again giving birth to twins, in a neighbourhood health centre. Yet her joy was short-lived—she was soon informed that one of her premature babies was in a critical state of hypothermia.

“I was in great distress when we were transferred here, to the Calavi Zone Hospital,” she recalls. The young woman continues: “As soon as we arrived, the twin suffering from hypothermia was placed in intensive care. Later, I was told that my baby had been saved thanks to the new equipment acquired as part of the PASMI programme. I then understood that nature wanted to dry my tears from 2014, by giving me back my twins. They arrived right when all the necessary equipment was available to keep them alive.”

Benin, Colonel
“It Needed To Be Invented”

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.” 
 

Better Trained Professionals

benin, healthcare, nurseThe 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.
 

A Key Concern: The Safety of Blood Transfusions and C-Sections

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.” 


Further reading:

Between French Guiana and Suriname Healthcare Has no Borders

Working for Health Surveillance in the Pacific