Burkina Faso

Time for women and children in Burkina Faso

June 10, 2005 -- Every day there's a steady stream of children and their mothers entering the doors of the Saint Camille Hospital in Ouagadougou - Burkina Faso's capital - patiently waiting to be seen by a doctor.

The well-maintained one story buildings of the Saint Camille Hospital are known to many. More than five thousand women give birth at the hospital each year, making it the facility with the highest birth rate in the country. Established in the 1960s, it's one of the principal areas for health for mothers and their children in the capital.

The Saint Camille Hospital deals with the main chronic health problems facing Burkina Faso -- malaria, HIV/AIDS and child malnutrition. On average, there are 100 children seen daily at the Catholic medical centre. Most of those children are suffering from malaria -- the number one killer of children in Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso is in the forefront of African countries to develop a national multisectoral strategy to fight HIV/AIDS. While HIV/AIDS is not as widespread in West Africa as Southern Africa, Burkina Faso has among the highest HIV prevalence rates in West Africa. About 2 percent of adults are infected nationally, but rates are higher in urban areas and among high risk groups such as truck drivers and commercial sex workers.

The Saint Camille Hospital is the pilot site for the country's national program to prevent mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS. And with backing from the World Bank, the Global Fund, and other donors, the facility now also offers AIDS treatment.

It's in the facility's pre-natal counseling centre, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, will have a chance to see firsthand hospital staff discussing AIDS with women and encouraging them to be tested. As elsewhere in Africa, children born with HIV develop AIDS quickly, and generally die within one to two years. But with treatment, pregnant women can largely avoid passing HIV to their infants.

And just outdoors in the facility's grounds, in a child feeding centre, The World Bank president will see the staff's efforts to deal with child malnutrition. Child malnutrition is worse than it was a decade ago in Burkina Faso, with more than a third of children malnourished. In the feeding centre, the impact on children of HIV/AIDS is starkly brought home. Children, who don't gain weight after feedings, are tested, and generally found to be HIV positive.

In speaking publicly about his planned trip to Africa, Wolfowitz stressed he wanted to meet representatives of women's groups in Africa. He'll have the chance to do just that at Saint Camille Hospital, as well as meet people living with HIV/AIDS.

The World Bank is supporting efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in Burkina Faso through its HIV/AIDS Disaster Response Project, approved in 2001 for $24 million. It was the second project approved as part of the US$500 million Multi-Country HIV/AIDS Program for the Africa Region and finances nearly a quarter of the cost of the National HIV/AIDS strategy.

And under the multi-country HIV/AIDS Treatment Acceleration Program, known as TAP, Burkina Faso received US$18 million for scaling up AIDS treatment, through partnerships with the country's Ministry of Health and local associations of people living with AIDS.

The Saint Camille Hospital's laboratory will benefit under the TAP program -- with plans already underway to expand the laboratory's facilities.

The World Bank also has plans to embark on a new integrated health and HIV/AIDS support program. A key focus of that will be combating malaria, but it will also seek improve maternal and child health and nutrition, strengthen HIV prevention programs, and expand access to AIDS care and treatment.