Field Trip to Potou Millennium Village – Visite de Terrain à Potou, Sénégal

Last week I joined Habi and Gnagna on their trip to Potou, the Millennium Village (MV) for Senegal.  Recall, Millennium Village Project (MVP) has MV’s in multiple countries throughout Africa and two regional offices to oversee activities, one in Dakar for West/Central Africa and one in Nairobi for East Africa.

Gnagna is based in Dakar. She is the MVP regional coordinator for Nutrition and WASH (WAter, Sanitation, and Hygiene). She joined MVP two months ago and is visiting each country/site where there is a Millennium Village. Her goals for visitng the Potou site were to introduce herself, meet with the local teams to get to know them, assess the situation, and identify gaps to refine/adjust the action plan and interventions. Since she was planning to visit various stakeholders during her 4 day visit, I thought it would be interesting for me to tag along. I played the role of the photographer. Rather than words I’m sharing my experience with a few photos below.

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La semaine dernière, je me suis jointe à Habi et à Gnagna dans leur voyage à Potou, le Village du Millénaire (VM) pour le Sénégal. Rappelez vous, le Projet des Villages du Millénaire (PVM) a un VM dans plusieurs pays d’Afrique et deux centres régionaux pour coordonner les activités, un à Dakar pour les pays de l’ouest et du centre et un à Nairobi pour les pays de l’est.

Gnagna est basée à Dakar. Elle est la coordinatrice PVM régionale pour la nutrition et le WASH (eau, assainissement et hygiène). Elle a rejoint le PVM il ya deux mois et elle visite chaque pays / site dans dans sa zone de responsibilités. Ses objectifs pour la visite de Potou étaient de rencontrer les équipes locales pour se présenter et faire connaissance avec le personnel local, évaluer la situation et d’identifier les lacunes pour pouvoir affiner / ajuster le plan d’action et les programmes d’intervention. Puisqu’elle avait l’intention de visiter différentes parties prenantes lors de sa visite, j’ai pensé qu’il serait intéressant pour moi de la suivre. J’ai joué le rôle du photographe. J’ai mis quelques photos ci-dessous pour partager mon expérience, ça en dit plus long que des mots.

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Habi (right), Gnagna (middle) and me (left). Habi is the MVP Regional Health Coordinator for reproductive health and family planning. She is a physician and is also based in Dakar. She was visiting the Potou MV site with the goals to help the local team recruit a new mid-wife and to meet with the local supervisors. It was great and fun to be with these two ladies; I learned a lot about what they do and we got to know each other at a more personal level.

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 Below, visiting a local flour producer. One of the flours produced is fortified with a mix bought elsewhere; it is used to supplement the diet of pregnant women a few months before and after childbirth. As seen by the size of the equipment, the production scale is small but it is sufficient for the area.

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Below, visiting 4 out of the 6 health posts to check facilities and processes; discussions with the nurses and mid-wives to review patient populations and characteristics. Except in Leona (which actually is closed to but not included in the Potou Millennium Village), there were many mothers with their infants waiting to be seen, in most cases due to diarrhea or fever. The further away from the main road the health post is situated, the harder it is to change the mentalities and this is where one can see more malnutrition and poorer hygiene habits. This is the areas that Millennium Village Project has targeted all these years as this where help and interventions are most needed. Gnagna also checked the registers in each health post and made suggestions. The status of the supplies to treat malnutrition cases and diarrhea were also reviewed and discussed.

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Below, visiting schools and specifically the sanitary conditions: latrines, hand washing equipment outside the latrines, drinking water, etc; discussions with the staff to understand the issues they face. In some schools, children are given the responsibility to clean each day the latrines and to wash the buckets serving as containers for drinking water. Depending on the school some of the facilities are adequate but Gnagna observed some gaps.

  • Slide5Staff in Leona primary school; they have 4 classes there; a big school for the area but because Leona is more populated.
  • Example of a set up for drinking water in a classroom that is not optimal.
  • Example of a latrine that is well maintained.
  •  left over from the “PHASE” project that GSK supported and which ended in 2011; this project introduced WASH principles in schools; very positive feedback from MVP staff on this project.
  • Thought of the week: “Work always looks easy when it is a pleasure”.

 

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Below, Gnagna reinforcing the correct ways to measure arm circumference using MUAC tape. This is the easiest test to do in the field to diagnose moderate or severe malnutrition. It looks a priori very easy but is prone to errors if not done correctly. 

  • On an infant – MUAC measurement can be a bit tricky with babies/infants as they get scared. The Health Care Worker needs to be gentler and use the mother as much as possible.
  • On a pregnant woman – she is 19 years old and is expecting her second child, the first one being 2 years old.

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Below, visiting a community group that helps reinforce basic hygiene principles – that group serves as an intermediary between the MVP site staff in Louga and the communities in the village.

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A woman from the hygiene committee is making a demo for the use of a water pump. Each household was given a pump to make water drinkable but the challenge is to get each household to use it regularly. The principle is easy. The recipient at the top contains a mesh that filters out big particles. As the water gets pumped from the bottom, it goes though another filter impregnated with bleach and gets a small dose of bleach. There is a final filtration step before the water comes out. Note the striking change of color between the before and after filtration samples.

Below, visiting another women community group in Leona. The women participate in the development and broadcasting through the local radio of messages related to education, hygiene, health matters, etc. The same building houses a small soap production unit; it looks more like a hobby/crafts set-up, but they now sell their production locally – same price but better quality than soap brought in from other suppliers  – and they make a bit of money out of it that they can reinvest. It was so energizing to meet these women; you could tell that they had more responsibilities and were proud of it. Their role is no longer to have children and take care of the households but they are now active players and take ownership of activities that touch their communities. You could tell that these women had taken charge of their own destiny.

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Finally, below Gnagna and Assane (Potou site health coordinator) doing courtesy visits to the Medical Coordinators responsible for implementing and monitoring the public healthcare programs at the regional and district levels. It’s great as an NGO to show what can be done but the ultimate goal is for the public institutions to take the relay. It is therefore critical to align NGO programs with the governmental representatives and to maintain the dialogue on a regular basis.

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  • Dr Mame Demba Sy for the region (top pic, middle).
  • Dr Paulette Suzanne Ndiaye for the district: (bottom pic, left).