A seed has grown in Zaffé.

Sister Elizabeth Ogar is on mission in Zaffé, in the Republic of Benin. There are few health services in the area and our MMMs run a busy clinic. While treatment of basic conditions is important, community-based health care involves working with local people to find the causes of common problems, raising awareness about preventive measures, and encouraging people to take responsibility for their own health. Its aim is to provide more effective use of resources in the long term. Elizabeth described how this was done in the past year.

‘In Zaffé, we work with a population of about 14,500. In reviewing our statistics, I discovered a high prevalence of anaemia and hypertension in the community. For example, there were174 cases of anaemia in the clinic in 2015 and 110 cases of hypertension. We were also concerned that when we made local home visits we found 5 people who had had strokes. Anaemia and hypertension, which can be prevented or controlled, are among the causes of strokes. They have other impacts on the general health of the community. Villagers think that the only way to deal with anaemia is a blood transfusion in the clinic.

‘We discussed these issues with the staff and decided to bring them to the attention of the village head. To prepare, we looked at the use and nutrient value of local and common food items such as crincrin, moringa, aroma, soma and ima, as well as maize, groundnuts, yam and beans. Families could be shown how to combine these to make up a balanced diet.

‘The village head welcomed the idea of taking a proactive approach and instructed the town crier to ask the community to gather in the Zaffé village arrondissement (village square).We suggested that we begin by giving a health talk. And so adults, youths, and children met with the clinic staff and Sisters one afternoon in July 2016.

‘We talked about the causes and consequences of hypertension and anaemia and how to prevent them. We discussed the importance of diet and encouraged families to sleep under the treated mosquito nets that had been distributed. Many community members asked questions, offered suggestions, and shared personal experiences. They said they would give the information to others who were not able to come.

‘We offered a free blood pressure check for adults. We did checks on 114 persons and found 18 people with high blood pressure. We encouraged them to come to the clinic for follow up and 17 of these attended subsequently.

‘We are also following up this meeting with home visits to discuss how villagers are putting the information into practice. We are concerned to reduce the prevalence of anaemia, especially in children.

‘Our healing charism encourages us to respond especially to the needs of mothers and children. Over the years we have learned that this means working with the community to identify and deal with basic health issues. It is work that requires patience and listening. In the end, prevention is better than cure and this requires a commitment from the people themselves.’