Mobilizing the private sector to help rebuild a waiting room in a remote health center

{Photo credit: Barnabé Tchoudji} Women in the newly built waiting room wait for their children to receive vaccinations, November 2020.Photo credit: Barnabé Tchoudji

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The Government of Benin aims to implement a health system that offers quality health services to all citizens in a sustainable manner while giving more responsibility to local leaders. However, Government funds are not sufficient to cover the costs of this initiative, especially when considering health emergencies. For this reason, local authorities must identify alternative sources of funding for the care of their constituents. This was the case for Abadago, a town of 11,788 in the department of Plateau.

A hut once stood in the health center of Abadago that served many purposes, including as a waiting room for mothers bringing their children to be vaccinated and for women coming in for antenatal care (ANC) or postnatal care (PNC) visits. It was also used as a meeting space for community health workers during monthly monitoring activities and for staff of the Comité de Gestion de Centre de Santé (CoGeCS).

Unfortunately, the hut wasn’t built properly and it was destroyed during a heavy downpour in October 2019, jeopardizing the continuation of vaccination campaigns, ANC and PNC visits, and staff meetings.

Luckily, the town was receiving support from the USAID Integrated Health Services Activity to build the capacity of community leaders and members of the CoGeCS on ways to negotiate, advocate for, develop, and strengthen relationships with stakeholders. Local leaders were able to draw on this training and use their newly acquired skills to solicit funds from donors to rebuild the hut, and the President of the health committee of the health zone identified and secured a donor to rebuild the center using quality material. There is a genuine interest from the private sector in Benin on health-related issues, and this donor felt compelled to help the town after hearing about the problems caused by the loss of the hut.

The residents and health staff of Abadago welcomed this generous initiative. Ms. Martine Akande, head of the health center, noted that the reconstructed building allows staff to treat women and children in comfort by giving them, as well as health staff, protection from the sun and heat. The new building is more comfortable and sturdier, with concrete floors. It is designed to help enforce social distancing against COVID-19 with the installation of benches and will not collapse during another storm.

[A hut similar to the one destroyed during the storm.]{Photo credit: Barnabé Tchoudji}A hut similar to the one destroyed during the storm.Photo credit: Barnabé Tchoudji

This investment also helped improve health results. The attendance rate rose by 6 percentage points between July 2019 and December 2020, and overall coverage for services provided by the center, including vaccinations and ANC and PNC visits, has improved. In the same time period, the coverage rate for vaccinations rose from 75% to 97%, and for ANC visits it went from 70% to 126% (this rate above 100% is because many women outside the area of coverage seek care at the health center). The rate for PNC visits increased from 35% to 51%.

Following this positive experience, the inhabitants of Abadago wish to pursue private-sector mobilization activities to identify a new donor to pay for the installation of electricity in the health center. Electricity would help to further increase attendance rates; provide more comfort in case of emergencies, including nighttime deliveries; and ensure continuity of services.

The urgency and necessity of this effort helped demonstrate the skills of community leaders to negotiate and find solutions to the problems that their health facilities are facing without asking for Government support. To continue these activities in a sustainable way, the Activity will work with community leaders to develop Problem Resolution Plans on issues faced during coaching sessions to address challenges and equip them with the necessary skills to continue to mobilize private-sector funds after the Activity ends.