WHO empowers 5,500 health workers through capacity building interventions across the North-east of Nigeria

Maiduguri, 6 June, 2019 - Fatma Bukar is a registered nurse/midwife with the Umaru Shehu Ultra-Modern Hospital in Maiduguri. In 2016, without a specialized training in pediatric nutrition including management of Severe Acute Malnutrition with medical complications, Fatma was deployed as the Officer-in-Charge of the WHO-supported Stabilization Centre at the hospital. 

“As a pediatric nurse at the Umaru Shehu Hospital, I have managed to handle some cases related to pediatric health including malnutrition with medical complications,” explained Fatma Mohammed Bukar. “Yet this is my first formal training on the topic since I started managing a Stabilization Centre. I am thankful to WHO for this opportunity which has brought me up to speed on management of Severe Acute Malnutrition with medical complications.”

“With this six-day training on inpatient management of Severe Acute Malnutrition with medical complications, I have not only learnt some protocols that I practiced wrongly in the past, I can confidently say now that I will save more lives henceforth.” 

Fatma is one of the 5,500 health care workers that have been trained by WHO since 2017 under its capacity building intervention across Borno, Yobe and Adamawa. This initiative aims at addressing the consequences and impact of the current conflict in the region on the health care system.

Attacks on the health facilities in the 10-year old humanitarian emergency in north-eastern Nigeria has resulted not only in two-thirds of health facilities being completely or partially destroyed but the healthcare workforce have also drained drastically leaving functional health facilities and staff overburdened and sometimes compelled to handle tasks beyond their capacities. In 2018 alone, 13 attacks on health facilities led to 17 deaths and 12 injuries involving healthcare workers. According to Public Service International, an estimated 177 health workers (Borno: 168; Yobe: 9) have been killed by insurgents in Borno and Yobe states since the insurgency started in the region in 2009. 

Dr. Salma Anas-Kolo, former Commissioner of Health in Borno state said that attrition rates of health workers have severely affected the quality of healthcare in Borno as the State lost 35% of its doctors to other states. “In 2011, there were 35 medical doctors with the Borno state government which increased to 115 in 2013 and later dropped to 75 before the state beefed up recruitment”. 

This drastic decrease in the quality and capacity of the healthcare system in the region stands in contrast with the increased need for life-saving health services from the population affected by the conflict. It is estimated that 5.3 million people are in need of health interventions and assistance in those 3 states including close to 4 million children.

WHO therefore identified capacity building intervention as an integral part of the strategy to strengthen the health system in the region. “Through capacity building interventions, WHO aims not only to improve the capacity of national health staff but ultimately to save more lives,” Dr. Clement Peter Lasuba, Office in Charge, WHO Nigeria.

The WHO capacity building interventions cover a wide array of health services, including surveillance, risk communication and mental healthcare. This capacity building efforts have contributed in improving the skills of health care workers to provide adequate  quality lifesaving services to the affected population. 

Elizabeth Ameh, a health programme producer/reporter for Kanem FM radio, Maiduguri, attended a recently concluded workshop on health reporting during emergencies.  

“I have practiced journalism for many years, producing health progammes and reporting on health issues in northeastern Nigeria,” said Elizabeth. “I had always thought that my role is to report events from the watchdog perspective. I never thought that through my programmes and reports during emergencies, I can offer lifesaving messages, motivations, and confidence building to affected populations. 
“After this workshop on “Health Reporting in Emergencies”, my nose for health news got even sharper. Now, I see myself as a partner in public health with equal responsibilities to save lives as health professionals. Henceforth, I can now provide real-time health information that enables people to protect themselves from disease outbreaks especially during health emergencies.” 

WHO capacity building interventions in the North-east of Nigeria was made possible thanks to the financial support of the USAID Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance, the European Commission Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, the Federal Government of Germany, the Government of Japan, the Government of Korea, Global Affairs Canada, the Nigeria Humanitarian Fund and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund.


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