WHO expands health services support for vulnerable populations in the northeast
Maiduguri – 9 March, 2023 - The humanitarian support provided by the World Health Organization (WHO) in northeast Nigeria has continued to aid the displaced and vulnerable populations with access to emergency life-saving health services.
Falmata Bukar, a 60-year-old woman residing in Dikwa Local Government Area (LGA), in Borno state, is glad to be alive after contracting cholera in December 2022.
“I was alone at home when I started stooling and vomiting. After some hours, I felt weak and lost consciousness. My family and neighbours were unaware of my predicament. I was discovered by the community mobile health team that was going from door-to-door, conducting, and raising awareness about epidemic-prone diseases”, she says.
The mobile team quickly set up an intravenous fluid (IVF) to rehydrate Mrs Bukar and later referred her to a health facility in the community for further treatment.
“I am grateful for the help received from the mobile team which saved me. I might have died,” she notes.
The community mobile health team is known as the WHO-supported mobile health team. They are a group of medical professionals trained by the WHO to provide urgently needed essential health services to vulnerable and displaced populations as well as the host communities.
For Aisha Usman, residing in Song LGA of Adamawa state, the timely intervention of the mobile health team ensured she had a specialized delivery.
The 25-year-old’s home settlement is classified as hard-to-reach which means it is located at least seven kilometers away from the Primary Healthcare Center (PHC). Fortunately for Aisha, the WHO-supported mobile health team was in her community, providing health services to pregnant women and immunization services to eligible children when she went into labour.
“The health workers assisted with the delivery of my son. After his birth, they gave him the necessary vaccines (Oral Poliovirus Vaccines (OPV-0), Bacille Calmette-Gueri (BCG), and Human Papillomavirus Vaccines (HPV-0).
I’m excited to have my baby and grateful to the team for their assistance and will follow their advice on how to keep my family safe and make sure my children complete their vaccination schedules,” she says.
Mobile health intervention programme
The mobile health intervention programme implemented in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe States (BAY) is one of the humanitarian responses conducted by WHO to reach the underserved communities in the region with quality and emergency life-saving services.
In the last six years, WHO has been collaborating with the BAY state governments to provide humanitarian health services to resolve health challenges, stemming from the humanitarian crisis in the region.
WHO declared the humanitarian situation in the northeast at grade 3, owing to its gravity and impact on public health that put intense pressure on healthcare services in the affected communities?
Appreciating the support of WHO to government, the Director of Public Health, Borno State Ministry of Health, Dr Goni Abba, notes that WHO’s involvement has strengthened the health systems.
He explains that through capacity building for healthcare workers and the deployment of mobile health teams, the under-served populations in hard-to-reach areas are being provided with the needed emergency health services, irrespective of their locations.
“The commitment of the WHO technical team to disease outbreak response, and piloting ways to reach the affected populations with basic life-saving interventions is laudable,” says Dr Abba.
Similarly, the Adamawa state Executive Chairman of the Agency, Dr Suleiman Bashir, commends the WHO for its support.
“The interventions are numerous - from outbreak prevention, disease control, mental health services, Gender Base Violence, and basic life-saving interventions through the mobile health hard-to-reach team,” he stresses.
Giving the overview of the 2022 WHO aid activities in the BAY, the WHO northeast Emergency Manager, Dr Beatrice Muraguri, says the interventions were made possible with funds from donors – including, the United States Agency for International Development, European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, governments of Germany, the Netherlands, the Nigerian Humanitarian Funds, and the Contingency Fund for Emergencies and others.
“WHO is committed to championing better and quality health for all in every emergency setting. The generous funds from our partners make it possible to continue assisting the vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations with essential health services, including Non-Communicable Diseases,” Dr Muraguri explains.
As part of the WHO’s commitment to improving lives, the WHO in the BAY states has built the capacities of almost 2,300 healthcare workers, including partners, to respond to outbreaks of epidemic-prone diseases and other health hazards.
From January to December 2022, WHO reached an estimated 1,762,874 million people with strategic health care interventions; 778,081 people with access to health care (consultations and treatment for minor illnesses); 672,780 children were vaccinated against childhood illnesses; 238,351 provided with vitamin A supplements; 73,662 pregnant women supported with antenatal care services to reduce maternal morbidity and mortality.
Addressing malnutrition, 400,000 children 6-59 months were screened for Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) and 10,000 cases were referred to a nearby treatment centre.
Furthermore, 86,585 women and girls were sensitized about gender-based violence and its consequences on health; 1,842 GBV survivors were provided with GBV first-line support while 146 survivors were referred to PHCs for further management.
A total of 32,215 patients also accessed treatment for mental health conditions, including epilepsy/seizure disorder, psychotic disorders, and mental retardation. WHO donated medical supplies for cholera outbreak intervention and mental health drugs while an estimated 1,738,400 persons were reached with integrated health risk messages.
Dr Muraguri, Beatrice; Email: bmuraguri [at] who.int