A birthday in Togo!

Thursday was my birthday and it was a great day spent with my Peace Corps family. I had Fan milk ice cream, something that I have come to love and is sold out of a cooler on the front of a bicycle. After training, some other CHAMP volunteers and I went to the neighboring Village where the environmental volunteers live (EAFS) and enjoyed some beers. I even got a package from my Mom, which had unfortunately been pilfered by the post office so most of it didn’t make it to me, but I was happy to have something from home all the same. One of the things that did make it was a variety of vegetable seeds that I can plant in the garden I want to start in my village!

This week and last week we have been studying maternal and newborn health in Togo. The clinic I will be working at in Goudévé has a maternal center so I will be doing a lot of work with pregnant Moms and it is a great place to start for a lifetime of good health for newborns. There are weekly meetings held every Tuesday at the CMS in Goudévé that are free for pregnant women to try to get all pregnant women to visit the clinic at least 4 times during pregnancy. During these visits women receive vaccines, malaria preventatives, ARV medications for HIV, and education. I mostly will work in educating the importance of good nutrition, not drinking alcohol, sleeping under the mosquito net, family planning and child spacing for the health of the mother and child, exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, and coming back to the clinic to give birth. I will also be working with pregnant women on birth plans to better prepare for the costs of childbirth. Saving in advance is often challenging to do, but if a woman starts a birth plan in the first 3 months of pregnancy it’s possible to only have to save 200 CFA a week for the duration of pregnancy. This is about $0.30 a week or in Togo the cost of an ice cream or a bowl of rice and beans from the street vendor. Birth plans are proven to better prepare pregnant women for childbirth and improve the chances of her coming to the clinic to give birth, which drastically improves her and her newborns chances of survival.

-In 2013 289,000 women die during pregnancy or childbirth and 45% of women in the world don’t have access to antenatal care (ANC).

-Each year 3 million newborns die, majority of which are in the first 28 days of life.

-4/5 of newborn deaths result from complications from preterm labor.

-Low birth weight (LBW) contributes to 60-80% of neonatal deaths.

We had a training session Tuesday at the clinic at our training site where we created birth plans with pregnant women that came in. It was a great experience and good practice to try out what we had learned in class in French, but it was the first time I felt truly helpless as a volunteer. My friend Paige and I met with two Moms, one of whom was 3 months pregnant and we gave her a break down of cost. The cost of childbirth at the clinic, medications, a trained midwife, and transportation to the hospital came out to be about 6,000 CFA, which is a fairly large amount of money for a woman to come out with on the spot, but with planning it is completely possible. The second Mom was 18 and 9 months pregnant with her second child. She was going to need a caesarian because her first child resulted in complications during childbirth and needed a caesarian. There definitely isn’t the support staff or technology for a v-back here. So we had to calculate the cost of a caesarian, medications, and transportation to the regional hospital, which ended up costing over 20,000 CFA. I asked her if she had the money to do this or if her husband did and she said no. I felt so useless telling this woman that she needed to find the money to go to the hospital for a caesarian before she gives birth later this month and that it is very important that she goes. I couldn’t just give her the money because that isn’t sustainable and I couldn’t do that for everyone, but I felt totally useless. I don’t know what ended up happening, but I really hope she safely delivers.

Being the huge nerd that I am, I went home from this and wrote a list of goals for myself during Peace Corps so that I don’t get to the end and feel less helpless.

My amazing friend that also had a birthday on Thursday!

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Epidemiological Surveying is way more bad ass in Togo.

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We had a health presentation to some kids at school the other day, I did my presentation on the cost of being sick and had a game to show how much cheaper prevention is than being sick and having to miss work by using cookies to represent money. It went over really well, the kids couldn’t believe that in their life time if they are sick 4 times a year they could lose millions of CFA in their life time. I’m really happy they understood that prevention is much cheaper in the long term.

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