Improving neo-natal and maternal care in Togo

Childbirth represents a major public health issue in Togo, where nearly one in five births is still impacted by infant and maternal mortality, and only around a dozen anesthetists serve a population of 6.2 million. Yet anesthesia and intensive care are essential in deliveries – for cesarean sections, obstetric analgesia*, neonatal resuscitation and obstetric emergencies such as hemorrhage, eclampsia or septicemia.

Medicalizing childbirth in Togo

The WFSA (World Federation of Societies of Anesthesiologists) was created in the 1970s and has over 130,000 members from 140 countries. The Air Liquide Foundation supports the project set up in Lomé in February 2015 to improve prenatal and neonatal monitoring and care. Under the scheme, the WFSA acquired new equipment to fit out the maternity ward of the capital’s Sylvanus Olympio University Hospital. Two new cardiotocographs enable the medical team to monitor patients throughout pregnancy and labor so any signs of fetal distress, including heart problems, are caught early. “We chose equipment for the long term. It’s simple and sturdy, and designed to last with the minimal technical maintenance available on site,” says Professor Philippe Scherpereel, Chairman of the WFSA’s Scientific Committee.

Training Medical Staff to act fast in emergencies

Once the machines were delivered, the WFSA ran a comprehensive week-long training course to maximize the long-term value of the donation. French anesthesia and intensive care specialists Doctor Anne-Sophie Ducloy-Bouthors and Professor Hawa Keita-Meyer were brought in to deliver the course, which was attended by over 100 healthcare professionals, including anesthetists, obstetricians, midwives, nursing auxiliaries and nurses from hospitals and health centers in Lomé and further afield. “After evaluating the knowledge and training needs of the healthcare teams, we delivered a program that combined theory with practical workshops. These gave everyone an opportunity to see how the equipment works, and medical staff were able to familiarize themselves with emergency operating procedures using dummies. We even had some volunteer patients to practice on when we demonstrated cardiac monitoring during labor.”

Making childbirth safer in Africa

The Foundation’s support enabled us to set the project up very quickly. As part of the follow-up, we’ll be keeping in regular touch with local healthcare teams. We intend to repeat this positive initiative, not only in Togo but in other countries, too,” says Professor Scherpereel. Professor Keita-Meyer sees this project as just the beginning: “Healthcare personnel are very keen to learn and there’s a huge need. Ideally, there would be an on-site follow-up every two years.” The WFSA team met with Ministry of Health officials to request support for the anesthetists’ training as a first step toward shifting the project to local control.

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To find out more

WFSA’s website: www.wfsahq.org

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* Pain relief during labor

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Testimonials

When I visited Sylvanus Olympio University Hospital in Lomé I saw a terrible lack of equipment in the maternity ward, which made it difficult for staff to ensure safe, good quality care during childbirth. Medical personnel are very hopeful that the realization of this project will reduce infant and maternal mortality rates in this maternity ward.

Alban Houngbedji
Air Liquide Togo