Transforming Communities through Health Education

Thursday, 15 September 2022 Transforming Communities through Health Education Sowing Seeds of Change in the Sahel (SSCS), a SIMaid project in West Africa, seeks to facilitate the transformation of physical, social and spiritual life through agriculture and community health. 

The SSCS agricultural team implement sustainable farming techniques on a 23-hectare demonstration farm and then share their findings in the surrounding villages. The team invite interested farmers to the site to demonstrate sustainable farming techniques and teach them how to apply them. The communities where SSCS works consists mainly of subsistence farmers and herders who struggle to harvest enough to meet the basic annual food needs of their families, rarely having excess food and often having a deficit. 
As well as equipping farmers with sustainable practices, the project takes a very holistic approach to community development by also prioritising a health training program with an emphasis on nutrition, prevention of diseases and traditional birth attendant training. The team shared that in one community where the health lessons have been taught and revised several times, malaria and diarrhea incidences have decreased by about 50%. Another small group has finished working through one of the programs and the women are now teaching what they have learnt to another group of women.  

The country where SSCS works, has one of the highest birth rates in the world. As well as training birth attendants to reduce the risk of disease and complications during pregnancy and delivery, they also seek to help families embrace medical care.  

SIM worker Naomi* previously shared, “We want women to take responsibility for their own health, cooperate with the birth attendants and attend the clinics. It's a slow process but we have made incredible progress considering that a few years ago hardly any women were willing to allow the birth attendants to examine them. Now the challenge is to get the women to see that it's the birth attendant's role to examine them, not ours (the trainers) and for both birth attendants and women to not wait for us to visit to get their ante-natal checks. We're not there yet but it's finally starting to happen!" 

Changing perceptions on medical care  

One woman, Abeni* thanked God for the health education the SSCS team provided to her. Before her encounter with the team, her husband would not allow her to go to the clinic for prenatal visits or even to get her children looked at if they were sick.  

One day, Abeni invited two SSCS health trainers to visit her family and talk with her husband. The team was overjoyed that the husband welcomed them with respect because one trainer’s husband was respected in the village. After the greetings, the team started telling him stories and showing him from the material some of the risks for women if they don’t go to the clinic for prenatal visits. They also shared the risks for children if they do not receive help from medical staff when they are sick.  

The husband shared his views but assured the team that he would do the best he could for his family. Praise God that because of the conversation he had with the team, he is now allowing his wife to go to the clinic for prenatal visits. He shared with his wife that he was willing to accept the advice of the SSCS team.  

*Name changed to protect identity & representative image used
GIVE: Do you want to help equip communities in West Africa with health education? You can give to Sowing Seeds of Change in the Sahel here
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