December 11

Life Goes On

In Nigeria it’s the change of season from Rain to Harmattan (Cooler dry season and the dry Hot season) My PULSE assignment will soon be coming to a close here and I’m glad I got to witness both seasons. It’s a bitter-sweet feeling after having lived here for over 4 months…. I’ll soon be presenting my final project.

While things have been changing here there’s been changes back home too. When I left to go on my project our sales team was starting its 2nd semester with a new twist. Each of my team mates was part a pilot to promote our entire Respiratory portfolio. I left wondering what would happen to my product portfolio within my territory without my presence in the field, without my consistent calls on my customers. I realized soon that it was the least of my worries cause my team mates held up the fort in my absence. They divided and conquered. They stayed true to their promise. Thanks to my team and manager’s efforts we were holding ground and moving up while I navigated the pilot projects that my assignment in Nigeria brought my way.

It’s always an adrenalin rush when one is doing new things. New ideas, new places, new people. It’s food for one’s brain and gives one a natural high. I planned and presented multiple iterations of my project. I was on cloud nine. People couldn’t hear enough from me about the project I was working on. My background had given me that ‘Nothing is impossible’ attitude and being in control was the best thing to happen to me.

Being always on the frontline has created grit in me to handle the toughest challenges. One big one from back home was the restructuring of our sales force in the US. Again, the team kept their cool, ploughed away as D-Day got closer and kept their promise to hold the fort for me in my absence. Thanks to everyone on my team for helping me keep my cool here and continue with my assignment even when things got rough back home. I owe you all big time, especially my manager, who was stoic in his delivery of the good news that I was retained, even when he got bad news himself.

Back to my assignment. I think I’m on to a solution to the Self Sustaining Private Sector Healthcare Provider Initiative at Jhpiego in Nigeria. Work here introduced me to many key contributors to better health outcomes for patients. One important partner in this solution is the NHIS (National Health Insurance Scheme). Serendipity lead me to a NHIS officer who knowing the ins and outs of the National Health Insurance is working to improve coverage for the uninsured members of communities through community developed, and managed financial instruments. This helps members pay for their insurance that enables them to get the treatment they need.

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In some remote communities trained healthcare workers take on responsibilities of a medical professionals. These healthcare workers also known as CHEWs (Community Health Extension Workers) are trained as certified health practitioners in healthcare facilities. If you’re wondering why a CHEW instead of a medical doctor, It’s because of a lack of medical professionals in the country, especially in remote areas. As is the case in much of Africa, there is a brain drain of physicians and other medical practitioners leaving the country enticed by higher salaries and better working conditions elsewhere. A study conducted by the International Organization for Migration found that nearly half of Nigerians trained in the medical and academic fields are working abroad. Those remaining are doing so for patriotic or family reasons and often having to put up with situations where they, sometimes, have to buy their own supplies like gloves to do their work or pitch in to buy a generator for the health center they work in. This is especially true in the poorer communities in remote areas.

Where a CHEW comes into the picture with the NGO I work with, is where Jhpiego delivers training to these workers so that they can perform their job as a certified healthcare worker within standards and guidelines established by the WHO (World Health Organization). Jhpiego being a global healthcare organization, works with the WHO to establish these standards and guidelines for healthcare providers.

A CHEW in one of the community healthcare centers I work with sees around 20 patients every day. Most of them come in with symptoms of Malaria. The lab technician confirms the diagnosis in a lab test and the pharmacist dispenses the treatment. Once a month there might be baby born at this facility. A midwife or chew is trained to deliver the baby too. They’re hardly paid much for their services, they might live in the community and do their job as a service to the community.

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Photos by Julien Laoundoul and Karen Kasmauskiv/ Jhpiego News Letter Oct 18, 2018

When my work here is completed I will be leaving my NGO with the tools and strategies to continue the work I started. Just like when I left my territory in the hands of my team-mates 6 months ago and worried if my baby will survive, I will once again go back with a twinge of worry, even though I trust my team here to nurture and grow this baby too.

Interested in continuing this work here in Nigeria? Sign up for a PULSE assignment in 2019.