Docteur Diallo, obstetrician-gynaecologist and Zenaba- Chad
«Zenaba, the story of a miracle»
As we go through the rooms and corridors of the Mongo maternity unit (Guéra region), we can see how the facilities have improved since 2012, the year Dr. Diallo arrived. During the visit, the doctor tells us that when he got to the Mongo Regional Hospital, “the maternity unit did not even have running water.” “The unit has gradually acquired infrastructures and staff who have been trained to better help the patients”, adds Mamadou Bobo Diallo, a United Nations volunteer who has been responsible for the maternity unit since 2012.
As he prepares for another delivery – gloves, mask, and gown, the doctor tells us why he decided to become a gynaecologist. Born in Guinea-Conakry, he studied medicine to fulfil his father’s dream and later chose his specialty because of a family story that his mother had told him. His maternal grandmother has had six daughters and died giving birth to a son, the only boy of the family.
“I decided to study gynaecology to save mothers”, says Dr. Diallo, who now practices medicine in a country (Chad) where “maternal mortality is the highest in the world” (nearly 1 in 100 women in 2014).
We continue talking in a waiting room full of women and children where the doctor draws attention to the fact that it has not always been like this – “In 2012, we did not even get 30 births per month. Today, we have an average of 100 to 120 births per month. This means that there has been a visible improvement in the receiving of the patients, as well as in the frequency and quality of the care given”.
Dr. Diallo goes on to explain that despite the significant improvements in recent years, “the challenge is huge and the road is long” considering that about 80% of women in this region currently still give birth at home. “The goal is to reverse the number and get at least eight out of ten pregnant women to have medical supervision and give birth in a properly equipped health care facility”.
A task that is anything but easy in this rural region of the country, mainly because of “socio-cultural factors that especially affect women: early marriages, abortions, traditions such as the acceptance of pain and home births, which are often fatal”, the doctor explains during our long journey to Idbo.
Not that it is far away (90 km), but the dirt roads make us go along at a slow pace. It is during this trip that the gynaecologist tells us about Zenaba “the story that most affected me happened in 2012”. Dr. Diallo speaks slowly, as if trying to re-save the star of this story – who was admitted to the hospital after a long and tortuous “fighter’s journey” – from a certain death.
Finally, we arrive at Idbo. It is a village in the south of the Sahel, where the houses are built in clay and have thatched roofs, all abundant materials in the region. We go to Zenaba’s house and find her waiting for us sitting on a beautiful hand-made rug, which is stretched out at the entrance to the house.
Zenaba was married at 14 and a mother for the first time the following year. She had eight children in total, but only six are still alive.
During the last pregnancy, she felt ill and went to the Idbo health centre. From here she was sent to Aboudeïa hospital in the neighbouring region of Salamat, but they were not able to detect that the baby had stopped developing either. Zenaba continued having strong abdominal pain, but was advised to go home.
In Idbo, Zenaba was regularly going to the village’s health centre to change the dressing on her navel which kept on getting pus. She suspected that something was wrong with the baby, “I did not feel my baby moving”.
After several weeks, Zenaba was seen by the head of the Idbo health centre – trained by Dr. Diallo’s team in Mongo – who referred her to the Regional Hospital to be seen by Dr. Diallo.
Again, Zenaba and her husband left on his motorcycle, this time going to Mongo, along the dirt roads and mountain roads of the Guéra region.
At the hospital in Mongo, Zenaba was finally operated on by Dr. Diallo, and was admitted to the hospital to recover fully. “They told me that my baby was dead and that the foetus was rotten. I stayed in hospital for 40 days”, explains Zenaba.
She was informed at the maternity unit that she could not get pregnant again, but today – three years after the operation – Zenaba says she feels “very, very good”.
Smiling, and with her eyes never leaving Dr. Diallo’s face, Zenaba adds: “A thousand thank yous to the doctor from Mongo who helped me”.