During the summer of 2009, I spent 10 weeks in Senegal as a participant on an International Field Program (IFP) with my graduate program at the New School University. In total, seven students participated, and two of us were assigned work in the northeast city of Matam, which is situated just across the border of Mauritania. Senegal is divided into regions, similar to a state in the American system of government division. Each region is split into départements; the Region of Matam has three. The city of Matam is the capital of both the département and region of Matam.
Six of the seven students with the New School (including myself) were paired with a West African from the Université Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) of Dakar. In collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), my counterpart, Ngoné and I were to carry out a study to find the determinants of utilization of reproductive health services by Transhumants of the region of Matam, Senegal.
Transhumants are a semi-nomadic people who travel according to the rainy and dry seasons. Though their villages d’attaches (“permanent” village) are in the region of Matam, at the time of our study, they were mostly in the south of Senegal. Due to circumstances beyond our control, we were unable to move to the southern part of Senegal to conduct interviews with transhumants in migration. We thus agreed to focus on NGO leaders who largely work with transhumants, and talk to transhumants who were unable to migrate that season.
Our findings included interviews with the following people:
– 14 individual interviews with development actors in Matam
– 3 individual interviews with development actors in the département of Ranérou.
– 2 individual interviews with hamlet chiefs in Matam
– 2 individual interviews with community leaders in Ranérou
– 1 individual interview with the coordinator of RH in Ranérou
– 1 individual interview with a midwife of a health center in Ranérou
– 3 individual interviews with leaders of Health Posts in Youndouféré, Loumbol Samba Adoul, and Oudalaye.
Changes to infrastructure and augmentation of medical personnel will not take effect in the foreseeable future. Matam should therefore focus on adjusting existing services to be more flexible to transhumants lifestyles.
– Health infrastructure does exist in Matam and Ranérou, however, in Ranérou, a lack of medical personnel and steady electricity inhibit proper usage.
– As livestock provide a large portion of income to transhumants, in order for transhumants to use health services, centers must not pose problems for transhumants livestock. For instance, a transhumant person is not likely to use a health center that does not have available drinking water and pasture land nearby.
– Transhumants migrate for half of the year. Many carry portable radios. Thus information dissemination of free health care services and health care center locations via community radio is an effective way to draw those in need of care.
– As most transhumants use livestock as currency, payment for reproductive health services is often a challenge. An alternate system of payment should thus be introduced to allow transhumants to use services in cases of emergency or when cash equivalents for livestock cannot be immediately obtained.
Photos: Statue along the Corniche in Dakar, midwife of Ranérou, transhumants riding oxcart in Matam, girls on my pickup soccer team and the Minister of Sports of Matam