Entry Date: 2/3/2012
Author: Leah Moriarty and Meera Sarathy, Peace Corps Volunteers
As Peace Corps Volunteers, we have a lot of experience in dusty and bumpy car rides and the occasional bout of vomiting and diarrhea that are unexpected and come with no explanation. This makes us pretty tough cookies, but unfortunately we are not also doctors and cannot provide the education to healthcare workers that our peacecare team can, so we have to teach them the skills of us volunteers and go into the bush. Which for today included skills in tying scarves around our heads and faces to avoid dust, how to sit properly in the back of a pickup truck and how to go to the bathroom when there is no hole to go in (this village only had one latrine, otherwise just private peeing spots).
Today, we took half the team to what I often call ‘the end of the line,’ a village with a population of 200 called Toubacouta. It is over 60 kilometers away from Saraya and 7 kilometers away from the closest health post in Missirah Dantila, which also happens to not have a midwife in the area…or a roof for that matter. Not only are there no boutiques where one could buy a soda or a cookie in the village, but there is no health structure. We were very resourceful and set up a cervical cancer testing room in the hut of the community health worker, Mamadou with 2 desks from the school (made out of bamboo fencing) and a mattress.
Because this village is removed from the general health infrastructure aside from a community health worker that focuses on malaria prevention and treatment, most of the women in the village had never had a prenatal consultation during their upwards of 8 pregnancies, rather had a chance to have a gynecological exam. Because of this, there was much more hesitation for the women to come get VIA than in the other villages that had a health post and a skilled birth attendant or midwife who not only provides things like prenatal consultations, but also education on the importance of women’s health. Many of the women refused to get VIA because they said they were done having children, they had to ask for their husbands’ permission (who lived in other villages), had to leave to go pray or cook.
The women who did agree to the exam did not allow the male nurse who serves the entire area around his health post, in the room. The team was only able to test about seven women. Aside from not testing very many women, the village was still very happy to have guests and made many friends. Emily got a name, Diancounba Dansokho (which she still cannot pronounce) and some of us even received new friendship bracelets. As we returned to Saraya, everyone was very happy to be able to buy soda, squat over a proper hole and take a nice bucket bath.