Written by Millicent Afriyie

The Africa Centre of Excellence for Mother and Child Health, hosted by the University of Cheikh Anta Diop (UCAD) in Senegal, is one of the 53 centres of excellence supported with funding from the World Bank to enhance capacities in post-graduate training and applied research. CEA-SAMEF specializes in training and research in Maternal and Child Health, Nutrition and Public Health. Given the increased ratio of maternal and child mortality in the region (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) reports that Sub-Saharan Africans suffer from the highest maternal mortality ratio –200,000 maternal deaths a year), the role of CEA-SAMEF in addressing this challenge cannot be overestimated.

The centre, since its inception has been instrumental in offering quality training in Maternal and Child health as well as publishing impactful research in this area and making impact both nationally and continentally. To date, at least 453 students have been trained by CEA-SAMEF. Of these, 89 are MSc students trained in Public Health, Child Health and Survival, Clinical research, Pediatric Dentistry, Maternal and Child Nutrition while 296 accounts for the total number of PhD students in Public Health and Nutrition and Human Food, among other programmes.

The center has also provided short-term programmes in the areas of Emergency Obstetric and Neonatal Care, Post-Abortion Care, Contraceptive Technology, Resuscitation and Pediatric Emergencies offered to health professionals. Currently, over 68 health professionals have received training from the centre. Notably, a total of162 students have also benefitted from practical internship opportunities.

With the aim of improving maternal and child health care and delivery, CEA-SAMEF has published diverse research which has contributed to knowledge and made impactful breakthroughs in Senegalese communities and across the sub-region. These developmental research include Implementation and evaluation of a method for the diagnosis and early management of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Senegal; Control of hepatitis E in pregnant women: preclinical development of a lentivirus vaccine; Prevention of maternal and child malnutrition during the first 1000 days of life in rural areas in Kaffrine, Senegal; Genetic determinism of uterine fibroids in pregnant women in Senegal, among others. Over 31 works by the centre have been published in peer-reviewed and international journals.

To expand its activities, the centre has forged strategic partnership with organizations and other academic institutions to strengthen its work towards quality maternal and childcare within the region. These partnerships also provide a pathway towards project sustainability and continuity. Some of the centre’s partners include PATH, a Washington state nonprofit corporation, the University of Florence in Italy, the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in Guinea-Bissau, among others. These partnerships have resulted in the training of health workers, conduction of research to explore ways to curb maternal and child mortality within the sub-regions as well as generating external revenue for the sustainability of the centre. For instance, the UNICEF-CEA-SAMEF partnership is engineering the training of health workers in Guinea-Bissau, while the PATH collaboration seeks to accelerate the availability, adoption, and scale-up of tools to identify severe illness and decrease mortality in children under five years of age in Senegal through collaborative research between both partners. Also, over 30 staff members of the centre have benefited from the staff mobility partnership with the University of Florence. Through these partnerships and other innovative strategies adopted, the centre so far has generated over US$ 320,000 in funds to support its activities.

More importantly, in deepening its community engagements, many inhabitants of Dakar and its environs have benefitted from free health screening conducted by the centres. Over 2000 Senegalese received free screenings on urinary tract infections in children, anemia in adolescents and children, breast, and cervical cancer in women, among others. In addition, the centre operates a mobile clinic serving over 300 people through the provision of free medical assessments such as high blood pressure and sugar levels as well as providing medical guidance and counselling to patients.

Visit http://ceasamef.sn/ to learn more about CEA-SAMEF