Fighting maternal mortality: Senegal struggles to build bridges between modern medicine and traditions


Giving life kills. Worldwide, about 830 women die in childbirth, postpartum hemorrhage or infections, 42% of these in West and Central Africa. The project explains the situation and attempts to fight against maternal deaths in Senegal

  • €7,280 Budget in Euros
  • 2020 Final release date
  • 3 Round winner
  • 1 Location

In recent years, Senegal is determined to fight against maternal deaths. While the maternal mortality rate has declined nationally, from 401 to 315 deaths per 100,000 births between 2011 and today, it is still too high according to the Ministry of Health and Social Actions. The lack of access to health centers and the lack of consultation before childbirth make childbirth perilous. But also the customs and dangerous practices that are sometimes well established, especially in the most isolated regions, need to be taken into account. Of fear to attract the "evil eye" (death or illness), some women hide their pregnancy and refuse to consult health professionals. How to fight against the problem when a large proportion of births still take place in the privacy of a home?

The solutions require the establishment of links between modern medicine and traditions. In recent years, itinerant midwives have crisscrossed the roads to reach the most remote regions from the country. Kadidiatou Diao travels several tens of kilometers every day to cover around sixty villages in the Tambacounda region, around her health post based in Daouadi. This is one way to monitor pregnancies, to provide vaccines, to take care of obstetric emergencies. To change mentalities, Anaïs Sedhiou takes her portable ultrasound machine with her, and the women of the islands of Basse Casamance are rushing to “go to the machine".

To follow the path of these traveling midwives, it is also necessary to cross the path of women who act as “health relays”: the Bajenu Gox (godmothers, in Wolof) or the matrons of the various communities. Since 2009, the Senegalese government has recruited and trained 10,000 godmothers. Last December, it even pledged to pay these new agents
community health. Their objective: prevent risky behavior, monitor pregnant women and promote good practices. Fatou Cissé, Bajenu Gox from Nyassa (in Casamance), tackles this awareness-raising work during community information sessions.

Bajenu Gox and midwives break the taboo: they detect patients and refer them towards free surgical operations. Together, they fight against maternal mortality by forging a bond of trust between the medical profession and the populations.


Follow us and join the conversation