Health problems

Mame works at a Senegalese restaurant in Madrid. She has been in Spain since the age of 16, and she is married to a Senegalese man from her hometown, and has an 8 year old son divided between two lands: that of his parents and that of himself. Like other women from Senegal, Mame has trouble reconciling her work and the demands of motherhood.


This is the dilemma: if she looks after her son Pape, she risks losing her job and residence permit; if she works, she must pay someone to look after Pape (which would cost her more than her monthly salary) or send him to Senegal during part of the year to have women of her family-in-law take care of him.

In Senegalese households, women often take care together of the children of the family, so to Mame (as many other Senegalese mothers living in Spain) it is not problematic to send her child to Senegal for a while. The separation is painful for both, but apparently there are not many options. In addition, says Mame, “Pape would learn to speak Wolof and French, will receive a religious education and know the land of his parents.”

From Senegal, Aminata, the sister of her husband, believes that it is a good decision. “I do not mind at all, indeed, I consider it my duty to make sure that Pape gets a good education here in Senegal, and thus life is easier for Mame and her husband.”

One of the biggest problems for these parents is to make sure that their families in Senegal receive adequate medical care. Access to health services is a serious problem in Senegal, where they are expensive, scarce and whose quality, being generous, is variable. Less than one third of the population has access to health infrastructure, a figure that is increasing in urban areas (54%).

Problems such as high infant mortality, reproductive health, malaria, and STDs (including AIDS) are not treated or treated with homemade recipes that can aggravate the problem. The health of women is a particularly serious problem, as shown in the high maternal mortality rate: 980 per 100,000 women die during childbirth (in Spain, the rate is 4 per 100,000). Many of these births occur in clandestine clinics.

Among the factors that explain the state of the health system are the lack of human and material resources. It does not help that, only between 1995 and 2005, 51% of medical staff and 27% of nurses have migrated to countries like France or Canada, leaving Senegal without the necessary human capital to improve the health situation in the country.

So Senegalese women living in Spain often spend much of their savings to cover medical expenses for their families at home, following the process from a distance and in absolute uncertainty. Mame’s son suffered a high fever last year, but the cause was never known. Marianne’s youngest daughter, who has been living in Almeria for three years now, has had an eye infection for months now, but she has still not been able to get an appointment with an ophthalmologist. Thioro’s daughter has been suffering the consequences of a birth which took place without any medical assistance. And the list goes on …

Javier Acebal

About the author: Javier Acebal

I'm a photographer based in Dakar (West Africa). I love to document cultures and people! (but also working for tourism industry).

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