For many communities in the remote areas of Bauchi state their access to health care services now largely depends on the 1,200 volunteers engaged by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and funded by European Union (EU).
The programme, tagged: Community Oriented Resource Persons (CORPS), now provides basic health care needs in the hard-to-reach communities of the state.
The 1,200 CORPS volunteers, who came from each ward in the areas, were trained in Integrated Community Case Management (ICCM) of common childhood illnesses including malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia. They were also provided with working kits, tools as well as necessary agents necessary for easy diagnosis and treatment of children aged two to 59 months.
The volunteers were also trained to identify and refer serious cases to the nearest Primary Health Centres. Health workers from the main PHC in each ward where the CORPs operate were also trained to supervise the volunteers.
In addition, 45 health workers, including Nurses/midwives, Community Health Extension Workers and Record Officers were engaged to visit and render other services such as ante-natal care, post-natal care, management of labour and nutritional screening.
Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Nigeria, Bauchi Field Office, Bhanu Pathak, said the scheme had treated 68,000 out of the 93,000 children who were brought in with malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia since the start of the programme in 2017.
Similarly more than 8,000 pregnant women were attended to during the period.
Given further successes recorded under the programme the Coordinator Maternal and Neonatal Child Health Dass LGA, Saratu Muhammed, told North East Trust that the intervention had raised the number of pregnant women who attended antenatal care and delivered at health facility from about 200 monthly to about 500.
A CORPS volunteers, Yusuf Hashimu of Ren village in Dass LGA, said he was given a register, drugs including and chart booklet to aid his work.
“I treated over 400 children suffering from malaria, diarrhoea, pneumonia and throughout this period only one child resisted to the drugs I administered on him. I referred him to the PHC at Polchi.
“My greatest joy is that I contributed my quota in alleviating the suffering in our community. This project, I believe, has great impact on all of us.”
Another volunteer, Mato Idi, who operates at Gundin village, said he has learnt a lot since he joined the scheme.
Idi said he has learnt that during the rainy season there is a surge in cases of malaria and cough due to the weather which caused a large turnout of people at the health centre.
“We are helping to reduce the load on the health facilities by attending to some of the children at home. Our major focus is those who are under five years.’’
A female volunteer, Saadiya Samaila of Dalan village, said: “We were trained on how to take a blood sample check it out on a Rapid Diagnose Test kit. If it’s positive we give drugs that have been provided. We also refer cases that are beyond our capacity to healthcare facilities.
“I have been attending to children in our settlement whose parents, in the past, were unwilling to take them to the hospital for treatment because of their traditional beliefs, economic hardship and bad roads to a healthcare facility. I am extremely happy to be part of the project because I feel very proud to contribute to the health of people in my community especially children and women.”
A beneficiary and mother of six in Ren village, Salma Rabo, said she was happy with the free medical services they are receiving.
“We are happy with the free medical services for our children as it has relieved our sufferings. It takes us three hours to access healthcare in Dass because sometimes we have to cross rivers and hills. The worst experience is during the rainy period when many of our children and women are affected by diseases like malaria, pneumonia and cough. We are grateful for the medical outreach team that has been sent to us to treat some of our illnesses. We pray that it continues.”
Another beneficiary in Dalan village, who took her son to one of the volunteers for malaria treatment, Zuwaira Muhammed said the outreach has changed their way of thinking.
“Before the EU-UNICEF programme many children died as a result of absence of health services in this community and because we were not taking them to hospitals. We relied on herbs and traditional healers.
“This intervention has created a lot of benefits to the people including the awareness on the importance to healthcare services.’’
Dauda Ibrahim Gurama, Community leader in Polchi, thanked EU-UNICEF for improving access to healthcare services especially for women and children.
“This intervention has made our community to embrace primary healthcare services and abandon traditional healers. We are appealing to Bauchi state government to sustain it.”
Similarly, Shu’aibu Chede, the Village Head of Dalan in Dass LGA, said that the intervention had reduced the difficulties they face in accessing healthcare services. “We are seeing progress because majority of children are being treated for free.”
“Before we used traditional healers but now the coming of the outreach to our village has change the people.