It has been several weeks since I wrote the introductory post about building Nongov Community’s Primary Health Centre. Since then, I have been in an unending circle of activities and pursuits – trying to raise more funds and following up on submitted proposals. The good news is that we have finally done the foundation of the building, and the other news is that we still have a long way to go! That distance can only be shortened when adequate funds are available – I have been told the whole structure can be built and equipped in less than three weeks if all funds and resources are ready. While I still plead that you donate and encourage others in your networks to do same, today, I write on the general concerns and frequently asked questions that I have had to tackle since I started sharing the project idea with people as early as February 2012.
The choice of Nongov: My immediate boss at the Ministry of Commerce and Industries, Makurdi, still asked this question earlier in the week. Of course, there are millions of communities in this world so much that scarce resources cannot go round to fix all the problems in all of those communities. I chose Nongov because I saw a need – a serious one, at that. I visited the Nongov community in January for the first time and throughout the two days that we (members of the Nigeria Christian Corpers’ Fellowship, Benue State Chapter) spent there, it was glaring that these people needed some serious intervention, especially in education, health, and social infrastructure (most notably, good road network). Chief Moses Awua, a notable community leader, kept asking us to plead their cause with the government. They felt we had access. Yes, we do. I eventually made up my mind in February after our Evangelism Secretary at the time returned to build a block of three classrooms. It is not of the best architectural designs, neither was it built with the best materials in the world, but it would make a lot of difference in the lives of the kids who had spent months under open huts and on logs of wood which served as seats for them. I was moved when I learnt the women still give birth on banana leaves; even the wives of the chiefs. In this clime, it is not strange to have pregnant women conveyed in wheel barrows, over several kilometres, to the nearest health post. But, we can make a difference. The use of modern health facilities is culturally acceptable in the Nongov community.
I am not a Medic! Someone also asked, “Is the writer a medic?” Oops! I studied Chemical Engineering in the university… But, wait! I am blessed with a rich network of diverse professionals, including medical doctors. I believe in building global partnerships and networking with professionals in other fields of endeavour, aside one’s primary discipline. I am grateful to Dr. Adedayo Osholowu and Mr. Idris Ayodeji Bello, two exceptional Nigerians who have allowed me to tap into their networks whilst educating me further and making me answer some critical questions about the project. It would be interesting to also add that: in 2007, I was an independent consultant for Action Health Incorporated, Lagos, and the job took me to four States in North-Eastern Nigeria where I assessed sixteen partner organisations which had been involved in the David & Lucille Packard Foundation-sponsored Expanded Access to Sexuality Education (EASE) project between 2002 and 2007. The two weeks of moving around Nasarawa, Bauchi, Borno and Kaduna States brought me in close contact with abject poverty and real challenges being faced in development work, especially health care. I had to interview the principal officers and write a story on each partner organisation I visited. That experience, albeit non-technical, has come in handy here.
Sustainability of the Project: Sustainability is more than just a buzz word in healthcare and development circles. It is indeed important that short, medium and long-term projections be considered and drawn up in planning and executing development projects. One of the early respondents to my first proposal draft commended that I had put a good measure of thought into the bigger picture and long-term implications of embarking on the Nongov Primary Health Centre project by considering staffing and similar aspects. Nevertheless, he raised the issue of sustained drug supply, among others. He went further to express concern that the building could be converted into pens and for residential purposes later if not properly managed. Tough question, but with proper planning this can be tackled. Several weeks ago, Dr. Osholowu sent me the link to a success story from Kwara State, Nigeria, where a similar health scheme had been done. The beneficiaries, majorly farmers, contributed to a health insurance scheme facilitated by Hygeia, a health maintenance organisation (HMO), which ensured that drug was consistently supplied and the farmers and their households derived optimum benefit from the scheme. I believe this can work in Nongov (or anywhere else in Benue) – with proper planning.
I have to stop here today as I am off to the Nongov community to continue dialogues with the community people on the Millennium Development Goals, as a way of preparing their minds and getting them to bring back some of their children who have some health care experience, but are currently living in other towns in Benue State. Please, donate and share the message. I will be back soon!