Giving birth in Burkina Faso

On Friday I visited a school, clinic and vocational training centre in Burkina Faso in a village in Bazega province, about an hour south of Ougadougou.

La Fondation pour le Développement Communautaire de Burkina Faso supports government schools and clinics, and it operates an agricultural training college. The programme in schools aims to increase school standards and performance, in part by providing health care for the children while at school.

The school was pretty good; though there were 85 children in a class, with just one teacher (and no assistant) and a total of 20 textbooks. The children were sharing desks and benches, and learning by rote; but at least they were in school and the teachers seemed genuinely interested in them.

The work of FCD in the schools – which is funded by the EC taxpayers – is impressive. By administering de-worming tablets in school, they have reduced the incidence of intestinal worms, increased school attendance and improved graduation rates. (There is robust evidence from elsewhere in Africa that deworming is one of the most cost-effective ways to reduce school absenteeism. If you are a taxpayer in a country that contributes to the European Development Fund you should be proud.)

Birth table in Burkina FasoThe health clinic nearby was more disturbing. The photo to the left is where mothers give birth (about 1-2 a day). As you can see, the facilities are rudimentary. This is a clinic only an hour from the capital of Burkina Faso, so you would expect that it would be a bit better resourced.

A number of people we spoke to offered the same explanation for the parlous state of the clinics. Much of the money and some of the best staff are diverted to disease-specific programmes – such as for AIDS and malaria – and this is starving the basic health system of funds. (Laurie Garrett writes about this problem in the current edition of Foreign Affairs magazine.)

Sadly I had to return to London for work, so I couldn’t stay for the Le Festival Panafricain du Cinéma et de la Télévision de Ouagadougou (FESPACO).

Ougadougou is a very relaxed, easy city to visit, and has a great nightlife, as well as an agreeable climate.

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