One of the main aspects of Ananda Marga's service
work is its community development projects in poor and deprived
communities, such as in Ghana, Nigeria and Burkina Faso:
AMURT (Ananda Marga Universal Relief Team) first
started working in the remote desert region of Deou in 1986, in
cooperation with the Burkina Faso Department of Health. The desert
communities had no roads, electricity or telephone communications,
no commercial economy, scarce access to safe water, and 90 percent
illiteracy in the outlying areas. The first project was the construction
of a hospital, and over the years AMURT has expanded its projects
in the area with well construction, literacy drives, vegetable gardens,
cereal banks, road construction, reforestation, cooperatives and
In recent years the focus has been exclusively on extending health
care training throughout the region, especially in the remote villages,
which have always lied beyond the reach of the national health infrastructure.
AMURT is working in partnership with the Department of Health and
the Deou Medical Center to train local men as village health promoters
(ASV, or Agents de Sante Villageoise in French) and women
as village midwives (AV, for Accoucheuse Villageoise).
Safe Motherhood and Midwifery Program
According to the UN, 530,000 women die in childbirth each year,
more than half of these in Sub-Saharan Africa, mostly in the remote
villages. In the Deou project area, two tribes – the Peuhl
(Fulani) and the Bella – have no tradition of assisted childbirth.
Rather, it is said that if a woman is a strong woman, she should
be able to give birth alone. This often has dire consequences for
the mothers as they are unprepared to face any complications that
may arise. Often they are unable to expel the afterbirth completely,
resulting in illness and sometimes death. The necessity of prenatal
counseling and assisted deliveries is slowly gaining acceptance
amongst the tribal women, but there is still a long way to go.
2002, upon the request of the provincial health director, AMURT
launched the Safe Motherhood Program. The area has among the highest
maternal mortality rates on the planet. The program consists of
training village midwives chosen by the women in each of the tribal
villages, and we now have active village midwives in 30 communities.
Each of the women receive the equipment, supplies, and literacy
training they need, and twice a year they go through a refresher
course with additional training. Every month each village midwife
is visited by a representative from the health department and AMURT
for regular support and inspection. In 2006 we started SMI (Sante
Maternelle Infantil), which brings health department personnel
to each village to do check-ups for pregnant and nursing mothers
and infants. At each SMI visit, an educational topic for the village
is covered, such as AIDS, family planning, nutrition etc.
The AVs are fast earning the respect of their communities. They
are assuming a position of leadership that has been unavailable
to women due to the traditional separation of the sexes. The AVs
effectively fulfill the role of health promoter to mothers and babies.
Their training has effectively brought them to the frontline of
awareness-raising in this conservative society – awareness
of concerns crucial to the welfare of women, including family planning,
which is still not widely practiced in the area.
With the help of AMURT, and in coordination with the Deou departmental
AIDS awareness committee, the AVs initiated a multi-media AIDS awareness
campaign, educating women about the threat of HIV/AIDS (brought
to the area by men who travel to find work in the dry season) so
they know how to protect themselves.
The AVs are also now using their position to combat FGM –
female genital mutilation. FGM is officially banned in Burkina Faso,
but up in the remote villages in the north, nearly all of the Moussi
and Peuhl girls currently have their genitals cut around the age
of 12 or 13.
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pioneered the community development work in Burkina Faso in 1986.
He was still working there until his untimely death in May, 2006
when his plane crashed just outside Ouagadougou, the capital of
Dada's contribution to the global AMURT
organization, and to AMURT in West Africa in particular cannot be
overstated. It was largely on his initiative that AMURT expanded
from relief and emergency aid to embracing long-term projects in
community development. It was Dada Rudreshvaranandaji who in 1986
started the work in the remote tribal villages in the desert of
northern Burkina Faso. In that area he was known to everyone, and
perhaps there his loss was felt the deepest. Many mothers told stories
of how Dada had arranged medical care and school fees for their
children. He is impossible to replace, and will be sorely missed.