Access to pre- and post-natal care in America is easy. Shopping for baby’s necessities such as bottles, diapers, formula, and clothes are taken for granted. But access to decent resources can be a luxury for families of Farafenni, a town in the Gambia in West Africa.
Born to Native Gambians, Fatomouta Jaiteh (pronounced Faa-tah-maa-tah Jay-tay) is an African American Muslim majoring in the biology of human health, in her junior year at the University of St. Thomas.
Jaiteh recounted how she visited her family’s hometown Farafenni in the Gambia last year. While there, she toured the local hospital with her uncle. “I have always had a fascination with hospitals and healthcare,” she said.
She noted the condition of the hospital’s maternal aftercare unit. “There was about seven women in the room and they did not have enough resources for their children due to being in a rural Gambian city.” The families needed formula, baby food, and baby bottles.
Hospitals were in such shortage of supplies that mothers needing a C-section would have to provide their own needle and thread for surgery. “It was kind of crazy,” Jaiteh recalled.
In North America, we have programs such as the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needed Families), WIC (Women, Infants and Children), and Medicaid. There are also churches and organizations to help with maternal resources.
Catholic Charities in Grand Rapids and Muskegon, West Michigan have a baby pantry where each month, mothers can get new and gently-used items for infants and babies. The Salvation Army has a prenatal clinic where mothers and children can get medical care, OB-GYN services, traditional and alternative prenatal care, annual physicals, family planning, and well-child exams.
Farafenni, Gambia is missing these services.
Because Jaiteh and her mother were visiting during Ramadan, which is a time of charity in the Muslim faith, they did a lot of charitable giving, “But I left that hospital thinking these conditions are not what they should be for mothers in the Gambia.
“When I finally came back home [to America], I was thinking…[about] the resources that my mother had here to raise me and take care of me.” She remarked how the Twin Cities had a good pre- and post-natal healthcare system.
Jaiteh created the non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, From Mother to You, after her experiences in the Gambian hospital. Often, mothers will not go to the hospital during pregnancy or for aftercare; they will go, however, once their child is sick. Jaiteh’s goal is to develop a maternal health care program where mothers can take their babies for pre- and post-natal care.
Jaiteh said the mothers wake early, put their children on their backs, and go to the market or work in the garden. “When they are done with the work day they go home to do household work, cook for their family, and…raise their children. It just seemed like they do not really get a break or enough time to take care of themselves,” or even enough time to go get a check-up to make sure that everything is okay once they have given birth.
For the first of two initiatives, Jaiteh wants to collect funds and resources, such as gently used clothing and shoes, bottles and formula, socks, diaper bags, and gowns for the mothers. She wants to supply anything she can to the new mothers to make them feel supported when they leave the hospital.
She returns to the Gambia in May of 2018 and hopes to bring donated care packages to hand out to every mother during her visit.
For her second initiative, she wants to establish a program for mothers to get a checkup at the hospital while they are pregnant and after they give birth. The mothers would be provided with helpful resources, products, and information.
As part of her Muslim faith, Jaiteh wants to continue giving far into the future. For more information about From Mother to You, contact the website www.frommothertoyou.org.
Brandi Phillips welcomes readers’ responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brandi Phillips is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.