By Promise Eze
The Nigerian healthcare system is poorly developed. A recent World Health Organisation survey ranks Nigeria’s healthcare system as the 24th worst in the world. Another report shows that out of the N14.77 trillion federal government’s budget for 2022, only N724.9 billion (4.9 percent) was allocated to the health sector.
Nigeria is very limited in all dimensions due to factors within and beyond the health system. And this has dire consequences. A recent report by UNICEF said that “preventable or treatable infectious diseases such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrhea, measles and HIV/AIDS account for more than 70% of the estimated one million under-five deaths in Nigeria.”
And why is Nigeria’s health service in such a horrible state? Government’s performance in the health sector has been abysmal which has resulted in a lack of Investment in infrastructure, and meager remuneration for health workers, thus promoting a massive brain drain to the US and Europe.
There is also a toxic mix of inaccessibility of quality health care, poor hygiene, corruption, malnutrition, lack of access to safe drinking water, fake drugs, insufficient financial investment, and lack of sufficient health personnel.
However, despite these challenges, Social Voices hinging on the key pillars of solutions-journalism, looked at initiatives across Nigeria and Africa keeping the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) alive by leveraging technology and unique strategies to improve access to healthcare for marginalized communities.
In this article, we spotlight five of our top reports on social response in Nigeria’s health sector:
- Health tech: A non-profit is using artificial intelligence to link blood donors
In November 2019, Jela’s Development Initiative (JDI), a non-governmental organization launched J Blood Match, an Artificial Intelligence programme-bot into Telegram and Facebook messenger which “connects non-remunerated voluntary blood donors to matching recipients at the point of need.”
J Blood Match’s Founder, Angela Ochu-Baiye, said that the platform was conceived to bridge the gap of poor blood donation culture in Nigeria after observing the shortage in its blood bank.
Read more about J Blood Match
- In Jos, an initiative is using behavioural change communication to fight malaria
In October, Johnstone Kpilaakaa reported how Block Malaria Africa Initiative employs behavioural change communication (BCC) to combat malaria in rural communities in Jos, Plateau. BCC is the strategic use of communication to promote positive health outcomes, based on proven theories and behaviour change models.
BCC uses a systematic process, beginning with formative research and behaviour analysis, followed by communication planning, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation. Read how Block Malaria Africa impacted communities.
- Some believe hydrocephalus is a spiritual attack, how a Kwara-based initiative is tackling the notion
Experts say hydrocephalus is a long-term neurological condition, normally identified in early childhood, where there is excessive fluid in the ventricular system within the brain which results in enlargement of the head.
Givers Supportive Foundation, GSF, a Kwara-based non-profit, carries out free surgery for children with hydrocephalus and other chronic childhood illnesses. Connecting with a network of neurosurgeons abroad, the non-profit arranges for children to get treated.
The organization has been able to arrange surgery for 10 children since it started offering support to young patients with the neurological disorder. Despite having carried out successful surgeries for very few children, GSF says it faces several challenges when offering support to children with hydrocephalus. For example:
“Parents believe that hydrocephalus is an evil spell or curse that medicine cannot interfere with. In our methodological research, we have found out that this belief has no scientific basis,” he said.
To fight the wrong perception, GSF says it organizes public outreaches to create awareness and sensitization especially in secondary schools. Having carried out a number of outreaches, they have been able to reach more patients in remote communities in Kwara.
Read more about GSF’s intervention
- HelpMum is training traditional birth attendants to mitigate maternal mortality
HelpMum, a Nigerian health service is committed to reducing maternal and infant mortality in the country. Founded in March, 2017, its novel approach involves training community birth attendants on modern safe delivery methods.
So far, it has established a presence in the six southwestern states of Oyo, Ogun, Ondo, Osun, Ekiti and Lagos, with a network of over 2000 community health workers.
The initiative, however, hit a brick in the middle of the pandemic. The team could no longer engage the attendants physically because of the cessation of movements across the country.
“Due to the pandemic, we could no longer do physical training, therefore we had to create an E-learning platform where community birth attendants can access our training,” Adereni recalled.
With support from its partners, the startup provided mobile tablets with pre-recorded videos in Yoruba, a language predominantly spoken in southwest Nigeria, to ensure the completion of the training module.
Read more about HelpMum
- In Cameroon, epilepsy myths fuel stigma but a nonprofit is changing the narrative
In Cameroon, it is believed that demons, curses, and witchcraft are the cause of epilepsy. The disease is non-communicable but the fear of contracting it fuels the social isolation of people living with epilepsy.
However, a nonprofit, the Epilepsy Awareness, Aid and Research Foundation (EAARF) is committed towards fighting to reduce stigma and discrimination against people living with epilepsy in Cameroon.
The objectives of EAARF is hinged on five pillars: advocacy against stigma, economic empowerment for women living with epilepsy, free basic health care services for epilepsy patients, capacity building for health workers, delivering health services to people living with epilepsy and research to understand the best ways to tackle the illness. Read more here.
These are some of the initiatives that are beaming light on hope in the health sector. It is important to note that we produced and published these reports in collaboration with our partner —Nigeria Health Watch through the Solutions Journalism Network.