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Issue: Health

Release Date: May 1, 2009

Video Testimony: K. Barber

Photos: A. Seegers

Africare Senegal
Photos by Alexandra Seegers

Grandmother Knows Best!

I believe I can contribute… others must do the same thing so that an even larger number of people will have this

May Feature StoryGrandmothers have a special touch. They can turn a young child’s frown into a bright smile; they can command a listening ear without raising their voices. In Africa, the role of a grandmother is an important one. And in the Southern region of Senegal, Africare is pairing with these women to use their unique touch to save lives.

Sixty-eight year old Innocence Dgate, a grandmother of eight, is from Casamance Region, Senegal. The matriarch of her family, she knows what it takes to raise children, but she never imagined that her knowledge and role in her family could be used to help so many others.

Innocence is part of a “Grandmother’s Strategy” through Africare’s Community Health Program in Casamance Region that provides health training for well-respected women of the community who are viewed as the ‘keepers of knowledge’ for their families. The program pairs these grandmothers with expecting mothers in discussion groups to convey good practices and tips for mothers to have healthy pregnancies and to protect their children from illness.

"This strategy is important because it allows us to have discussions,” noted Innocence. “There has been a lot of improvement. The cases of children with diarrhea, malaria, measles and yellow fever have started to decrease.  And also, the strategy allows women to take better responsibility for maternity and childcare.”

Casamance Region has suffered from decades of low-level conflict, leaving local health systems in a deteriorated state. Africare's Senegal Community Health Program is bringing health care to rural areas by supporting dozens of health huts through expanded health services and projects like the grandmothers' strategy.  Since the program began in 2006, over 96 percent of all pneumonia cases and 97 percent of children suffering from diarrhea have been identified and treated. Over 25,000 children have registered healthy weight indicators, confirming that they are receiving the right foods for proper nutrition and diet.

Innocence concludes, “I believe I can contribute. Each time that I leave, I try to share with others in my community the information that I've learned.  I believe that others must do the same thing so that an even larger number of people will have this knowledge."

Innocence is passing on her knowledge to change lives of in her community.  Where will her story go next? 

Pass It On! for Africare.


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