Individuals, Families, Communities

Project Overview

In the Sahel region in northern Burkina Faso, a remote, arid area on the edge of the Sahara Desert, maternal and newborn mortality levels are substantially higher than in the rest of country. The majority of women, particularly in the Sahel's hundreds of small, semi-nomadic villages, still give birth at home, without the help of a skilled birth attendant. In this windswept region where infrastructure is poor, roads are few and many travel on donkey-pulled carts, women still face financial, cultural and geographic barriers to accessing care, many of which stem from traditional norms and customs.

Local leaders — clergymen, traditional chiefs, elected officials — have the potential to influence women and their families to use available health services and avoid harmful beliefs and practices rooted in religious and cultural traditions. With support from Johnson & Johnson, the Individuals, Families, and Communities (IFC) Project aims to disrupt the trends in maternal and neonatal mortality in Burkina Faso through the active engagement of leaders and communities in maternal and newborn health. Building on Family Care International's years of experience mobilizing communities and leaders in Gorom Gorom and Djibo in the Sahel region of Burkina Faso, the FCI Program of MSH and the Ministry of Health are testing a participatory IFC strategy in Dori, the capital of the Sahel region, with the aim that the Ministry of Health will expand it to the national level. The FCI Program of MSH is among only two non-governmental organizations that work with national IFC partners--including the Ministry of Health, Enfants du Monde-Suisse, UNFPA, and UNICEF--to lead the replication of the IFC strategy across the country.

Using the IFC strategy, the FCI Program of MSH, in collaboration with the national Ministry of Health and the regional health directorate of Dori, organizes community forums to identify and prioritize key barriers to accessing maternal, newborn, and child health services. Following the identification of key barriers, the FCI Program of MSH engages s communities in participatory dialogue to develop a strategic, local action plan to break down these barriers, establish roles and responsibilities, and identify funding to carry out actions. As part of this work, the FCI Program of MSH also trains maternal health care providers in technical and management areas identified by community forums as areas for improvement. The FCI Program also advocates with religious and traditional leaders to end harmful practices, such female genital mutilation and child marriage.