New Canadian-funded maternity building in West Africa promises to save lives

KINGSTON, ONT.–(CANADIAN CHRISTIAN NEWS SERVICE)–While government leaders and health experts were meeting at an international conference in Toronto last week to talk about maternal health, a small village in Mali was putting theory into practice with the official opening of a brand new maternity clinic.

The May 24 ceremony in Koura, southern Mali, drew hundreds from surrounding villages, as well as regional government representatives and the medical chief of health, who praised the work of Koura Centre Santé Confessional.

The maternity clinic was the second phase of a project involving cooperation between Malians and Canadians, through Friends of Koura in Canada and its director, John Telgmann of Kingston, Ont. The first phase, the main clinic, was in operation by August 2012.

Taking five months to build and costing about $15,000, the maternity building is a much needed component of health care for Koura and the surrounding villages. Now mothers will have a birthing centre to go to with special facilities and professional nursing care.

“I’m thrilled with the expanded capacity and the time frame in which the clinic was built,” says Telgmann who supervised most of the construction last December.

Until the main clinic was built, mothers had to either give birth at home or negotiate a rough and sometimes flooded 19-kilometre track by bicycle or motorbike to get to the nearest clinic. Some mothers and babies died enroute. (According to the World Health Organization, 4,000 women in Mali died of causes related to pregnancy and childbirth in 2013.) The presence of a clinic dedicated to maternal health means more women will be able to deliver safely.

During opening ceremony speeches, the regional chief of medicine confessed he had been opposed to the idea of a non-government run health centre. But seeing how well the clinic is run, he now believes it meets government requirements to take care of the elderly and mothers and babies even more than government clinics. He also praised village leaders for building the clinic entirely out of concrete, which lasts longer than other materials. Even the maternity ward’s roof is made of concrete, which will make it much cooler than buildings covered in corrugated iron.

The prefet (area mayor) pointed out that where there is a school and a health centre, development is on the way. He said he appreciated the peaceful relationship among members of the Muslim, Christian and traditional religions in Koura. (The clinic is operated by Koura Baptist Church under the leadership of church elder Mr. Mama Djilla.)

The prefet’s wife also spoke, urging women to take full advantage of the opportunity to improve their health and that of their babies. 

Still needed are a solar-powered fridge in which to store vaccinations, additional medical instruments and equipment, and a wall around the clinic to keep animals out.

“We’re a very small group of Canadians,” says Telgmann, “but working in partnership with the Baptist church in Koura, the village elders and community, as well as the medical officials in the region, we’re excited to enable the development of an accessible, dedicated maternity facility for Koura and the surrounding villages.”


Click here for photo 1, showing: The entire village of Koura turned out for the opening of the maternity clinic.

Click here for photo 2, showing: Church choir celebrates at official opening of maternity clinic.


For information or interviews,

Contact: John Telgmann

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