Forging a new partnership in Nigeria
06 February, 2013
Last week I was in the state of Taraba, in the east of Nigeria, for the launch of a new project which is being funded by the TY Danjuma Foundation. Six community health extension workers (or CHEWS) in the Lau and Zing Local Government Areas (LGA) are being mobilised so they can make regular visits to rural communities, and their motorcycles are being managed and maintained by Riders for Health so they don’t break down.
In his speech at the inauguration of the new programme the chairman of Lau LGA, Anthony Danburam, was quick to point out that this project could not have been more focused on addressing the needs of his people. The population in Mr Danburam’s LGA are predominantly farmers who must struggle with enormous distances and difficult terrain to reach the nearest health centre. Ensuring health care reaches them in their communities is a big step in improving the equity of health care in Lau.
The attendance list at this event was further indication of the importance the state government and the LGAs ascribe to this project.
Apart from the state ministry of health officials, the LGA chairmen for both Zing and Lau were present and it is an indication that this is one project they feel will impact on the health outcomes of their areas.
The TY Danjuma Foundation focal person in the state, Fumni Ajala, was first to point this out in her speech at the event. It was heart-warming to me to see how the LGAs readily took ownership of the project and promised to ensure its success by monitoring the CHEWs and supporting the programme.
The press where not to be out done and they were quick to ensure that the event was broadcast on the local radio and TV stations the same day. The interview they conducted with Riders for Health’s chief operating officer, Vinay Nagaraju, was published in the regional daily paper. In fact, the Taraba TV anchor, Isa, was so impressed that he dedicated a special Indian song to Vinay on his programme.
The emphasis of our programme now is to ensure this pilot project delivers on its agreed outcomes. The importance of the CHEWS in delivering on the primary healthcare goals of the LGAs cannot be over stated. The TY Danjuma Foundation funds also provide for the fuelling and preventative maintenance of the motorcycles so these six CHEWs can increase their coverage both in size and frequency across the communities in their respective wards, in the knowledge that their motorcycles will never let them down.
This pilot project may be a small start when you consider that there are over 230 CHEWs in both LGAs, but all present at the inauguration agreed that if Taraba is to make a meaningful impact in its primary health care goals, the CHEWs will play a vital role, and a mobile and motivated team will be better equipped to deliver the health care people need.