“The Baby Factory”: How Diaspora Can Save Lives and Improve Chad’s Health Sector

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Children from Besseye Village in Southern Chad. IOM/Amanda Nero

By Claudia Natali

N’Djamena — Every year, between 9,000 and 11,000 babies are born at the ‘Hôpital de la mère et de l’enfant’ in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad. On average, this represents 30 babies delivered each day with the help of eight doctors.

The hospital is colloquially referred to as ‘L’Usine à bébés’ (the Baby Factory) by Dr. Hissein Hadanao, Head of the hospital’s Gynecology and Obstetrics Department. With the help of seven other doctors, Dr. Hadanao helps bring Chad’s future generation to life.

In the hospital, care is delivered with full dedication and for free in 95 per cent of the cases — even though there are currently no anesthetists, cardiologists and other key specialists to assist the tens of thousands of women, babies and children who visit the hospital each year.

Unfortunately, the good will, knowledge and experience of these health professionals are not enough to ensure that the quality of the services provided is sustained.

Looking beyond the capital, what can Chad — a landlocked country ranked 185 out of 188 in the UNDP Human Development Index and strained by a long-lasting humanitarian crisis — do to safeguard its future and provide health care to its almost 15 million inhabitants?

One key to solving this problem lies in Chad’s large diaspora population. In France, according to UNDESA statistics (2017), the Chadian diaspora numbers nearly 2,554 people; this is a conservative estimate.

Recently, several diaspora members came together and formed the “Groupe d’entraide a l’Enseignement Supérieur et a la Santé au Tchad” (GESST) (Self-help Group for Higher Education and Health in Chad). The association, made up of nearly 200 Chadian medical doctors, researchers and engineers, developed a project to map Chadian healthcare, education experts willing use their knowledge and skills for the country’s development, in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

“I know the diaspora. I was myself part of it when doing my medical specialization in Paris and when working for [a main] hospital there,” said Dr. Hissein Hadanao. “I then decided to return to work in my own country because I have my vision, but I know diaspora members are willing and can truly contribute to our country; they can make a huge difference here even if they return for short periods,” he added.

Officials stated that some Chadian diaspora members do what they can to support Chad’s public health and education structures, through remittances and dedication of personal time, but there is no institutional mechanism to facilitate and capitalize on their mobility. There is also a problem of funding.

“We are aware of the good will of authorities in Chad but what we are asking is that the country contributes financially to show both to the international community and its diaspora its commitment to promoting the engagement of diaspora for development,” says Pascal Noudjingar, GESST Secretary General.

IOM Chad, in line with the Global Compact on Migration (GCM), is supporting Chad’s Ministry of Planning and Ministry of Foreign Affairs to implement a programme that will leverage and capitalize on its diaspora for the development of priority sectors such as public health and education. A roadmap for the engagement of diaspora members in the health and education sectors has been developed. Now the challenge lies in finding the necessary funds to ensure that the transfer of skills and competencies programme can be further operationalized.

This piece was edited by the IOM Regional Office for West and Central Africa, in Dakar.

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Official account of IOM, the UN Migration Agency.

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