Medical technicians at a JICA-financed advanced training program in Senegal
In Niger there are only two hospital scanners in the entire country. In neighboring Mali there are fewer than 40 hospital technicians.
Those two problems form part of a ‘vicious circle' which costs untold numbers of lives in the Sahel and West African regions of the continent.
Most of those countries have only limited supplies of hospital equipment, most of it antiquated. The shortage of trained technicians to maintain the equipment is even more severe.
So a frequent ‘deadly scenario' plays itself it. Equipment often breaks down. No technician is available to repair the damage. Patients must then be turned away or attempt hazardous journeys of many hours to reach the next medical point.
Recently, medical technicians from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Benin, Togo and Senegal underwent advanced training at a national technical training center in Senegal to try to help remedy the problem.
The project underlined an expanding aspect of JICA's approach to development assistance, so-called third-country training whereby the agency foots the bill for training programs which are staffed and run by third countries whose personnel often have been trained in earlier Japanese programs.
Senegal is an important West African hub for such activities. At the same time the medical technicians were becoming familiarized with modern equipment, a group of electro and mechanical experts from Democratic Congo were attending a separate course at the national vocational and technical training center in Dakar.
Across the city, midwives and nursing staff from Senegal, Niger, Togo, Mali, Congo and Cote D'Ivoire received diplomas after attending a nearly six-month course at a national medical and social college.
Nursing and midwife personnel receive their diplomas after a nearly six-month training course
In each case, financing was provided by JICA.
The director of the medical training facility in the town of Diourbel lamented that the need for maintenance was often totally overlooked – with deadly results for patients.
"Maintenance needs are often not even included in the budgeting process in many countries," he said. "Maintenance is ignored or overlooked but it should in fact be put at the forefront of a country's medical system.
"An effective cadre of maintenance technicians is vitally important and can save many lives," he added.
The latest JICA-financed courses are small steps towards achieving that goal.