Improving Neonatal 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. This country only has around a dozen anesthetists for a population of more than 6 million inhabitants. Yet anesthesia and intensive care are essential in deliveries – for cesarean sections, obstetric analgesia*, the resuscitation of newborn infants and maternal pathologies.

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 Lome 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 Sylvanus Olympio University Hospital. Two new cardiotocographs enable the medical team to monitor patients throughout pregnancy and labor. “The equipment is simple and sturdy, it’s 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 Federation organized a comprehensive, week-long training course. Two 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 all over the country. “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. We even had some volunteer patients to practice on when we demonstrated cardiac monitoring during labor.”

Making Childbirth Safer in Africa

Follow-up requires regular contact with the local medical staff. The first feedback is very positive and we plan to repeat this initiative,” asserts professor Philippe Scherpereel. Professor Keita-Meyer also sees this experience as a long-term program: “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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* Reducing sensitivity to pain during childbirth

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Testimonials

When I visited Sylvanus Olympio University Hospital in Lome 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