Archive for October, 2010

Nigerian Chronicles VII- Hospitals

Posted in Africa, Documentary | Photography, Nigeria, Non Profit, Uncategorized, womens reproductive healthcare on October 25, 2010 by tuschman

Abortions are illegal in Nigeria; nevertheless, abortions occur and as they happen under non-medical conditions, serious complications are all too frequent. Murtala Mohammed Specialist Hospital (MMSH) is the primary public sector hospital in Kano State and has the largest program for treating women for complications of unsafe abortions. Although the hospital serves mainly woman in Kano, patients from neighboring Nigerian states and countries as far away as Mali and Niger seek treatment here as well. I was informed that due to lack of blood storage facilities, the MMSH is one of only three comprehensive obstetric care facilities in the state able to provide the full range of life saving obstetric services. Trained nurses and midwives treat women suffering from incomplete abortion with manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) in a dedicated procedure room. Care is available 24 hours a day.  Women normally wait only 30 minutes to be treated, and most go home within an hour after treatment, after receiving counseling and choosing a contraceptive method.

MMSH is the only large scale hospital whose work in maternal health care that I documented. There were 3 very large hospitals where I was scheduled to work but was unable to do so for reasons that will become apparent at the end of this post.

Women waiting to be seen at MMSH

Health care worker recording patient information.

Patients and nurses in the ward for post-abortion care.

A patient undergoing Manual Vacuum Aspiration in the procedure room.

We also had the opportunity to visit the FOMWAN (Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations of Nigeria) Maternity Hospital in Kaduna. FOMWAN originally established the clinic in an area very close to an urban slum with the intent of treating women and children from this community. For religious reasons FOMWAN did not provide any family planning services. Pathfinder worked with community leaders to change this policy.  Pathfinder’s programs are focused on reproductive health and family planning–specifically healthy timing and spacing of children for improved maternal and child health outcomes. As mentioned in previous posts, the fertility rate and the maternal mortality rate is extremely high in Northern Nigeria. Increased birth spacing plays a critical role in reducing maternal mortality.

The hospital is a maternal and child health facility and at least half the patients in these small wards were very young children. With the help of Pathfinder, the hospital was able to increase their capacity and treat a larger number of clients.

Maternal Health Care Coordinators in front of hospital.

Organizing patient records

The pharmacist.

Women and childrens wards.

As I mentioned, we visited three very large regional hospitals only to discover that there were no patients, only senior administrators. The wards were completely empty, no nurses, health care workers, just empty beds. The reason for this was shocking; the government refused to pay the employees, including all the doctors and nurses, a reasonable wage for their services. Consequently, all hospital employees were out on strike and the hospitals had shut down. This was quite unbelievable and it doesn’t take much imagination to picture the serious consequences. I have to say I find this situation quite incomprehensible. Here are two photos from a hospital showing the empty wards.

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Nigerian Chronicles VI: Bixby Girls Education

Posted in Africa, Documentary | Photography, education, Nigeria, Non Profit, Recent Projects on October 17, 2010 by tuschman

An hour outside of Kaduna, we arrived in a small village to document the Bixby Girls’ Education project. It was raining, and as we waited outside a small mud structure, a few women came to sweep out the water that had accumulated on the floor and then proceeded to lay down a dry carpet. About 15 girls appeared, and they all sat down in a big circle in the room and took turns reading from a single, soft covered book.

The girls are taught once a week in the afternoon from 3 PM to 5 PM. Every group of fifteen girls has one mentor. The books consist of some folklore stories that teach them cultural values; other books teach the girls the basics of child-raising and simple ways of combating deadly diseases through vaccines, including practical details of when to get them and where they are available. Other books discuss health-related issues: oral rehydration therapy, HIV/AIDS, and gender equality.

During the Children’s Day Celebration, the girls are normally taken out for excursions to various places with Program Officers and their mentors. The girls started this program completely illiterate, but now they can read and write without much difficulty.

Some girls were removed from the program by their parents, who had arranged marriages for their daughters.  Nevertheless, some of these girls later came back to continue with their studies.

I was very moved by the intensity of these girls as a single, very worn book was passed around so each girl could take a turn reading a single passage. Their attention was complete and unwavering as they were soaking up each and every word that was read aloud.

When everyone had had a turn reading, the mentor brought out a laptop computer and all the girls surrounded her, jostling with each other to be able to get a view of the computer screen. There was an image on the screen of a building in Europe (or the U.S.), and their hunger to get a glimpse of the outside world was palpable.

I have to admit from my Western eyes, I felt very sad that these girls were unlikely to ever have a chance to achieve their potential, to become doctors, nurses, lawyers, scientists, artists; their choice was limited to getting married and to having frequent pregnancies. I think it is wonderful that they learned how to read and write, but I could sense from photographing them that there was so much more they could achieve.

Nigeria has the wealth to educate these young girls and it is very unfortunate that the government can’t provide a full education that would give them the choice and the opportunity to attend a university. These girls’ situation is not unique; unfortunately, it is all too common. Their tragic loss of potential belongs not only to these young students who have such a desire to learn, but also to the nation of Nigeria and to the wider world.

The Emir of the village. It is customary to always greet an Emir when entering a village and get his permission to visit and photograph.

The girls reading and attentively listening:

The girls were totally captivated by the computer.

Nigerian Chronicles V: SWODEN in Kano

Posted in Africa, Documentary | Photography, Nigeria, Non Profit, Recent Projects, womens reproductive healthcare on October 11, 2010 by tuschman

SWODEN is a foundation supported by the Packard Foundation that operates in Kano, the second most populous Nigerian city after Lagos, which has an estimated population of 2.1 million inhabitants (from the 2006 Nigerian census).  SWODEN is a multi-faceted NGO, whose work encompasses women’s reproductive health care, girl’s education, vocational-skills training, and microfinance – all with the express purpose of empowering women.

The SWODEN Community School project is designed to break the cycle of hopelessness that children experience from their impoverished environment. The school has operated since 2001 and is designed to give the students a positive, hopeful dimension to their lives.  So far, the school has graduated 127 pupils, with many of them going on to secondary school.  A total of 87 students are currently attending classes.   The school offers scholarships, and provides the basic educational materials needed to attend, including uniforms, bags, sandals, books and writing materials.  Of course, guidance and counseling are always available to each and every student.

We were rather late arriving to the school; our plane was delayed by 3 hours and I only had about 20 minutes to photograph there. Below are some select photos from my very shortened visit.

SWODEN’s program has a skills-acquisition training program, where women are instructed in simple trade and handicraft skills, including sewing, dying and quilting. A total of 203 women have graduated from this program since its inception in 2005. Microfinance loans are available, which give graduates an opportunity to increase their earning potential.

Our last leg of the SWODEN tour led us to a clinic in the village of Sarauniya, about an hour outside of Kano. Well aware of our arrival, a reception had been planned for the Packard Foundation in a show of appreciation for their funding of this community clinic. SWODEN has trained Community Health Extension Workers to educate their clients on reproductive-health measures, HIV management and prenatal care. When we arrived, the small country clinic was overflowing with community dignitaries and clients, waiting to greet us (they too had been waiting an extra 3-4 hours).

Arriving at the clinic:

A gift was presented by the Emir of the community (on the left)  to Fatima Usman, Program Officer for Packard. The gentleman in the middle is one of the Emir’s aides.

The main exam room at the facility; the Community Health Extension Worker is taking the patient’s history.

Four women, in the same exam room, waiting to confer with the health worker.

Inside the larger waiting area, clear visual evidence of the number of people attending the community meeting, which also served as a reception for Packard.

Elders of the community were there in support of the family planning programs.

This elder was continually praying- I hope for the success of the program!

Close-up of an elder

Women and their very young children-

A mother telling her appreciation of the family planning program to the Emir and Fatima Usman from Packard.  In the second photo she is shown with her 3 year old and one can see that she is clearly pregnant now.  The increased spacing between births is a main focus of the family planning program.

I believe the next three photos (especially the second one) will give a sense of the number of children in this small meeting place. Of all the places in the world I have traveled, this was the densest concentration of children in one small meeting room that I have ever experienced. It is commendable that the Emir and elders of the community are behind the family-planning programs, but birth rates are still high.  Without decent education for these children, the cycle of poverty will no doubt continue.

Nigerian Chronicles IV- PPFA in Maiduguri

Posted in Africa, Documentary | Photography, Nigeria, Non Profit, Recent Projects, womens reproductive healthcare on October 3, 2010 by tuschman

In Maiduguri, PPFA ( again supported by Packard Foundation grants) had set up a Reproductive Health Information and Services Center run by youth peer educators. PPFA considers peer to peer interaction very critical for successful youth and adolescent reproductive health programming. The philosophy behind these programs, according to Thank-God Okosun, the PPFA Program Officer here , “like poles attract and unlike poles repel”.  PPFA has invested heavily in training young peer counselors to implement their educational activities, especially  in contraception and safe sexual practices. They are also trained to refer clients for post abortion care and unintended pregnancies for possible counseling and services. Emergency Contraceptives have also been introduced and considering the conservative religious climate, this is seen as a major point of progress in family planning programming.

PPFA’s Youth Friendly Center is very much like a boys and girls club for teenagers. There is a pool table and other recreational activities and every opportunity is used engage teenagers and educate them on sexual reproductive health issues.

A peer counselor educating a young women on various birth control options. Here she explains the “female” condom option.

Condoms are distributed here in the pool playing room.

These two young women are being counseled in birth control options. They are very young and recently had abortions.

Another counseling session where every available birth control method was discussed.

The resource has an abundance of educational materials.

A young women contemplating her situation.

The center has a room where one can be tested for AIDS.