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Minister of health in Chad Toupta Boguena

Fulfilling a promise to her father
Chadian spearheads humanitarian efforts in homeland
By Julie Dockstader Heaps

Toupta Boguena keeps her promises. In January 1987, she went to say goodbye to her ailing father in Ndjamena, Chad. From there, the 20-year-old Chadian was heading for America on a scholarship. She wanted to be an agronomist like her father.
Photo courtesy Toupta Boguena
Villagers look over items recently shipped to Chad through "The Chad Project," which is helping Toupta Boguena's organization.
Photo by Luann Kendrick
Toupta Boguena, second from right, founded Community Supported Sustainable Agriculture in Chad (OCSSAC) upon her return from America in 2003. With the help of friends -- both in Chad and in the United States -- she is helping eight villages.
Photo by Keith Johnson/Deseret Morning News
Toupta Boguena, with her son, Amir, joined the Church while attending the University of Arizona. She remains active in Chad through scripture study and prayer.
Photo by Keith Johnson/Deseret Morning News
Toupta Boguena was on her way to America to earn an education when her father made her promise that she'd return home to Chad. She got her education, joined the Church and kept her promise. Through a humanitarian organization she founded upon her return to her homeland, she is helping eight villages get clean water and form dommunity gardens.

One evening, the man who had seen his family through political conflict and war said, "Make sure you come home and be the woman that is important enough to postpone a meeting if you're not present."

Today, eight villages near the capital city of Ndjamena see her as important enough to name a school after her.

Sister Boguena, possibly the only native Latter-day Saint in Chad, not only kept her promise to her father to return home after receiving her education, she also founded the Organization for Community Supported Sustainable Agriculture in Chad (OCSSAC). With the help of friends both in Chad and in the United States the soft-spoken 40-year-old with deep brown eyes is helping villages install pumps for fresh, clean water; build a medical clinic and a school; and start a community garden.

"Poverty is a common problem throughout the country," Sister Boguena told the Church News during a visit in Utah to raise funds for her organization. "(The villages are) closer to me, and I decided to start there and then spread my wings."

Spreading her wings is something she has done since her childhood in a big family that included 23 children, most of whom her parents adopted. She was born in Bongor to Noida and Yvonne Boguena. Her mother was an elementary school teacher, her father an agronomist trained in France and would later serve on the Chad president's cabinet. "We had a nice life comparably before the political problems happened," Sister Boguena recalled.

She was 7 years old living in Ndjamena with her family when the problems started. Her father sent the family to nearby Sarh, a safer area. Her mother cared for the children teaching school on a salary of what would be 40 American dollars per month.

Then in 1979, after a short peace, war struck the country, a French- and Arabic-speaking nation of Muslims and Christians in north central Africa. The family fled to a refugee camp in Doba. "That's when my dad started going to church and praying and bringing the Bible to us and telling about faith in Jesus Christ. During that time when bullets were flying, we prayed and sometimes we sang some hymns."

The war changed the little girl who loved to tell stories and talk a lot. The horror she witnessed made her "withdrawn and miserable. I stopped talking."

So, along with other brothers and sisters, she fled to Congo when she was about 15. Four years later, she returned to her homeland to look for her family. She found a job at an electrical company working in the office and saved money. Finally, using vacation time, she went in search of her parents. She found many of her extended family who remained in Chad had died, and her father was very ill. The first time she saw him in Ndjamena, she "held him so tight. It took me so many minutes to let go."

Her joy doubled when she found her mother and other family members in Sahr. Using her income, she got her father medical attention and helped provide for her mother.

Then one day at work, "somebody had his radio loud and there was a scholarship for the United Nations," she recalled. She applied and was turned down because she had no college background.

She did not take no for an answer. She persisted and was finally granted an interview. Then she was told there were no women in agronomy. "Can't we start with one at least?" she replied.

"Six months later, they sent a list of five people, and I was on the list. I was numb. I didn't believe this. It was like a dream. I never woke up from this dream."

She took that opportunity and never looked back. That's when she went to Ndjamena to say goodbye to her father who was near death. He wrote her a letter, telling her he was proud of her and that "God is your witness." She carries that letter today in her scriptures.

Days later, she attended his funeral while a truck waited to carry her to the airport. "Once they lowered the coffin, they started the engine. I jumped in the back of the truck and watched people bury him."

Sister Boguena's scholarship took her to the University of Arizona, where she earned a bachelor's degree in general agriculture and a master's degree in agronomy and plant genetics.

It was while in Arizona that a friend invited her to a meeting of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Except it was a Spanish ward. She speaks French and English. It didn't matter. "I felt something that I never felt before," she related. She invited the missionaries to teach her and was baptized on Aug. 11, 1987. In 2004, Sister Boguena went to the Mount Timpanogos Utah Temple.

"(The gospel) has made a different person out of me," Sister Boguena said, at times becoming emotional. "The way I look at the world is different. I was angry at so many things. (The gospel) helps me really understand the world better, why things are happening. We live in this world and the devil is part of this world. It is up to us to try to live in the midst of that and have a happy life here and for the life to come."

After graduating from the University of Arizona, Sister Boguena was accepted to BYU in Provo, Utah, where she earned a doctorate in botany in August 2003. She had already begun forming OCSSAC while at BYU. By Sept. 15, she was on her way back to Chad. "I was eager. I had what I needed to go there and help. I was lucky."

Upon returning home, she contacted priesthood leadership in West Africa. She was directed to an American working there, Wayne Kendrick, a member from Utah. He lived in Doba, about 300 miles from Ndjamena, where Sister Boguena lives. But because of the distance, Sister Boguena is mainly on her own. She said she remains active in the Church from "the teachings (of the Church) and from reading the scriptures and praying a lot. That's the only way I can keep close to Heavenly Father."

She also stays close to her Heavenly Father by serving others, especially through her organization, which is now helped by "The Chad Project," consisting of a group of people, many of whom are Church members, from Utah. Brother Kendrick and his wife, LuAnn, and RoseAnn Gunther, who has headed the efforts in Utah, are part of this project which aids Sister Boguena's humanitarian work.

"The Chad Project" recently included a shipment of farming equipment, seeds, water pumps, computers, school kits, birthing kits, wheelchairs, medical equipment and other items that Sister Boguena is distributing to her villagers. Donated funds are helping with the building of a medical clinic and a school, which the villages will name after her. With the help of OCSSAC, the villagers are also creating a community garden.

And Sister Boguena, who also teaches at the University of Ndjamena, still doesn't take no for an answer. Gunmen recently tried to take her little car with 200,000 miles on it. She held onto the door and would not let go of her only means of transportation for her humanitarian work. She won. "Those men walked away. One turned back and smiled because nobody stood up to them before."

Until he met Toupta Boguena.

E-mail to:

Toupta Boguena minister of health in Chad

Toupta Boguena minister of health in Chad

Secretaire d'Etat a la Sante Publique Mahamat Mamadou Addy

Secretaire d'Etat a la Sante Publique Mahamat Mamadou Addy


In 1987 Chad had 4 hospitals, 44 smaller health centers, 1 UNICEF clinic, and 239 other clinicshalf under religious auspices. Many regional hospitals were damaged or destroyed in fighting,and health services barely existed in 1987. Public health care expenditures were estimated at 2.9% of GDP. As of 2004, it was estimated that there were fewer than 3 physicians, 15 nurses, and 2 midwives per 100,000 people.

Endemic diseases

All medicine, antibiotic, and vaccine imports must be authorized by the Ministry of Health. The most common diseases are schistosomiasis, leprosy, malaria, spinal meningitis, tuberculosis, and yaws, as well as malnutrition. Immunization rates in 1999 were very low for children up to one year of age: diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 21 percent, and measles, 30 percent. In 2000, 27 percent of the population had access to safe drinking water and 29 percent had adequate sanitation.
[edit] Mortality rates

Chad had a birth rate of 43 per 1,000 people in 1999. The infant mortality rate in 2005 was 93.13 per 1,000 live births. Maternal mortality has increased to one of the highest rates in Africa. Over 300 women died in childbirth or pregnancy per 100,000 live births. As of 2000, only 4 percent of married women (ages 15 to 49) used any form of contraception. In Chad, 60 percent of the women underwent female genital mutilation. The average life expectancy in 2005 was estimated at 47.18 years.
[edit] HIV/AIDS

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 4.80 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 200,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 18,000 deaths from AIDS in 2003. - governmebt website of Chad with profiles of all ministers.

map of Chad regions

Chad is divided since February 2008 in 22 regions. The subdivision of Chad in regions came about in 2003 as part of the decentralisation process, when the government abolished the previous 14 prefectures. Each region is headed by a presidentially appointed governor. Prefects administer the 61 departments within the regions. The departments are divided into 200 sub-prefectures, which are in turn composed of 446 cantons.

The cantons are scheduled to be replaced by communautes rurales, but the legal and regulatory framework has not yet been completed.[48] The constitution provides for decentralised government to compel local populations to play an active role in their own development. To this end, the constitution declares that each administrative subdivisions be governed by elected local assemblies, but no local elections have taken place, and communal elections scheduled for 2005 have been repeatedly postponed.

The regions of Chad:

  1. Barh El Gazel
  2. Batha
  3. Borkou
  4. Chari-Baguirmi
  5. Ennedi
  6. Guera
  7. Hadjer-Lamis
  8. Kanem
  9. Lac
  10. Logone Occidental
  11. Logone Oriental
  12. Mandoul
  13. Mayo-Kebbi Est
  14. Mayo-Kebbi Ouest
  15. Moyen-Chari
  16. Ouaddai
  17. Salamat
  18. Sila
  19. Tandjile
  20. Tibesti
  21. Wadi Fira
  22. N'Djamena

Last update: 13 July 2010
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