Providing Options & Opportunity

Piyalo Tchalim

When Piyalo became pregnant with her first child nearly a decade ago, she felt overwhelmed with anxiety.

In the village of Kpindi along the border of Benin, where the young couple lived in a small compound of tiny huts, options for a healthy delivery were scarce. Piyalo had known many neighbors and friends who had lost children, so her fear was very real. She didn’t want to turn to traditional healers, which, while more cost-effective, could be unreliable.  The nearby hospital seemed the best option for success, but the high fees were out of reach.

Piyalo had dropped out of middle school to take a job in Lagos, Nigeria. She moved around West Africa looking for work, but eventually found her way back home to Kpindi. She met her husband a short time later shopping in the market.

“He saw me and was struck by my beauty. He couldn’t take his eyes off me, and soon enough, we were married!” she says playfully.

Their first child was conceived a short while after the wedding. Accompanying the good news came the challenges and concerns over finding quality care. Piyalo found a wealthy family willing to loan her the cost of the high hospital fees in exchange for an opportunity to work off the expenses. While she had not experienced it personally, she feared this system of informal loans could easily lead to exploitation. Despite these concerns, she accepted the risk and the loan. Luckily, Piyalo’s fears didn’t materialize. She was able to use the loan to cover expenses and give birth to a healthy baby boy.

In the years since Piyalo’s first child, much has changed in Kpindi.  Integrate Health launched the primary care program and renovated the local clinic. Family planning, prenatal consultations, and delivery are free, as costs are covered for expecting mothers at the point of care.

“There isn’t anyone in the village critical of the program,” Piyalo says. “All the mothers benefit from the services, and the children are living healthier, happier lives as a result.”

Piyalo’s family has grown. She has had two more children. The complicated arrangements of favors and loans are a thing of the past. She and her husband are overjoyed. They have been able to save money for the family instead of having to scrape by to make ends meet. The whole village shares in her joy.