Friday, June 1, 2012

Baby Party

At the end of every month there is a Growth Monitoring (AKA Baby-Weighing) and Vaccination Day at the Salémata Health Center, and it is pretty much my favorite thing in village. It wasn't that way at first, though. The first few times I helped out the whole thing was so hectic (between 30 and 60 women usually show up with their children) and confusing that it really wasn't very enjoyable. I didn't understand the register system or how to fill out the Health Booklets, the babies' names all sounded like gibberish, the mix of Pulaar and French was disorienting, and there didn't seem to be an established order for who got to go first.  Over time I learned how the registers work, got to know people's names, and became comfortable enough to make start making little changes to help things run more smoothly, like carring over tables so that we weren't filling out the registers and booklets on our knees.

Overall, though, it was really heartening to see how much people in Salémata care about vaccinating their babies and making sure that their kids aren't underweight. The chaotic as they can be, Baby-Weighing Days are very well established and the Health Center staff are committed making sure they happen every month. When moderately malnourished (Yellow Zone) children do turn up (which they inevitably do) a midwife or relais consults with them, and helps provided largely by WorldVision, UNICEF, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the local Health Committee. If a child is severely malnourished (Red Zone) then they're admitted into the Health Center for therapeutic feeding. 

Here are the relais community health workers in charge of baby-weighing, as well as my host sister Mariama having her daughter weighed. (She was totally in the Green Zone.) 

Basically my role is to enter everything into the Health Center's registers, fill out new Health Booklets,  try to make sure things are moving along, and to smile and greet everyone. The staff has (somewhat) jokingly referred to me as the secretary on more than one occasion, which is fine by me. The Health Center already has local health workers who give shots and put toddlers on the scale and so I'm most useful when I make myself busy making things more organized and less hectic.

Here a visiting German gap-year student who stayed at the Catholic Mission for a couple months came to help out, and my friend (and same-name tokora) Adama took a photo of me holding a stack of Health Booklets.

Vaccinations Winding Down for the Day

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