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A mother is better able to care for herself and her family when she is literate in her mother tongue and has access to health information in a language she understands well. Language development facilitates the introduction of new concepts and the accurate translation of new terminology.
Life expectancy at birth is low in many rural ethnolinguistic communities in Cameroon. Besides the lack of healthcare infrastructure and personnel, the illiteracy of rural women can be considered a major cause of these numerous deaths.
Alimata, a rural woman in the Muyang community from the Far North Province, has decided to help women of her area. She attended the two-year literacy program in the Muyang language and learned to read and write in her mother tongue.
Because of her literacy skills, Alimata was then able to receive training from a local health service. Now she assists nurses and also plays the role of mid-wife in her village. Alimata is proud to have a part in helping to save the lives of both the child and the mother during childbirth.
The Soumraye people of Chad conduct a three-year literacy program in 37 villages. During the first two years, students learn the Soumraye alphabet and gain basic literacy skills. In the third year, they concentrate on various reading materials that include booklets about clean water, planting trees, HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, treating and preventing intestinal and respiratory illnesses and medicinal use of local plants.
One mother who finished the three-year literacy cycle said, "I am learning a lot through the health booklets in Soumraye, and I have successfully used local plants to treat some symptoms such as coughing and diarrhea."
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