COVID-19 Check in with CCIH Affiliate MUSUHUM in Niger and Benin
May 28, 2020
by Kathy Erb
We checked in with Dr. Stachys Hounkpatin, Program Officer with CCIH affiliate Mouvement Universel pour la Survie de l’Humanité, working in Niger and Benin, for an update on their response to COVID-19.
We understand MUSUHUM (Mouvement Universel pour la Survie de l’Humanité) has two clinics in Niger, what services do they provide?
The two centers in Niamey (the Kirkissoye Dispensary and the ALOMAR medico-social center) are responsible for primary health care, awareness-raising on hygiene and sanitation, family planning, general medicine. They have started to provide some minor surgical procedures.
What services do you provide in Benin?
The clinics in Benin (the Deo Gracias center in Parakou and its annex in Godomey, the Azonigbo clinic in Cotonou) take care of pregnant women, provide family planning and general medicine.
How have you responded to COVID-19?
We established handwashing stations outside of our clinics. We installed water seals fitted with a tap with soap that each patient uses before entering our centers. A porter then provides them with masks.
How do you get the word out to the community about the handwashing stations?
We have a big problem of communication in our area in Africa. The billboards give information intended for the educated public but the information on radio and TV in local languages reaches only a small minority of people who cannot read, since most do not have radio nor of TV. Fortunately, word of mouth information is very effective, and as soon as a passerby feels the need to wash their hands, he nevertheless goes to the houses that have the hand washing system to do it without any problem. Hospitality and a commitment to helping others is very developed in Africa. Many people passing by our centers wash their hands at our stations.
What other health problems does your community face that you want people to know about?
Malnutrition, hydro fecal diseases, and especially malaria.
Has COVID-19 caused other health problems to become worse? How?
Yes, COVID-19 has made a lot of health problems worse. The government curfew has led to a drop in the income of those who live day to day and who are our target population to help. This situation made them more vulnerable due to lack of food we have seen people with malnutrition, as well as people whose malaria and flu weakened their immunity.
What lessons would you like your community and others around the world to learn from COVID-19?
There is a lot of speculation about the Coronavirus; even the most knowledgeable experts in the field contradict each other publicly. We see new information from studies that changes frequently. The more we advance in the understanding of this virus the less we know because everything is called into question. So it is important that we remain prudent, and we must always respect hygiene measures aimed at curbing the spread of this virus until we unravel its mystery.
Above photo of handwashing station in front of a clinic, courtesy of MUSUHUM.