The Gembu Health Outreach was initiated by Dechi Health Trust Fund (DHTF) in collaboration with some partner charities and a wide range of sponsors and supporters including the NMFUK and RHEMN. The outreach was conducted in Kakara and Gembu in Sardauna Local Government Area of Taraba State, Nigeria. The areas are among the remotest parts of Nigeria on the border with Cameroon. A trip to the area involves flying to Abuja, catching a domestic flight to the regional capital Jalingo and then an 8 hour road trip to arrive at a highland area (altitude of above 2km above sea level) with a population of about 500,000.
The outreach proper was conducted over two days. The main goal of DHTF is to eliminate access barriers to health services using a cooperative approach. The specific objectives for the outreach were to: provide free consultations, provide high quality free medicines, hepatitis/HIV screening and minor surgical treatments; deliver basic health tips on various health conditions including pregnancy; create awareness for the Dechi Health Centre and the contributory community health scheme; train local midwives and other health workers on birth and current thinking about birth techniques and to support the setup of the Dechi Health Centre.
The travel party from the UK comprised Dr Phoebe Pallotti (Associate Professor of Midwifery Nottingham University), Dr Mukhtar Ahmad (Consultant General and Colorectal Surgeon, Poole NHS Hospital) and myself, Dr Muhammad Saddiq (University Teacher in Health Systems and Management, University of Sheffield). We were joined by others locally in Gembu and across Nigeria. The trip was made possible by the generous donation of approx. £4000 from many supporters, including contributors from across ScHARR staff who organised a cake sale!
During the trip, Phoebe and I visited the office of Nigeria’s Presidential Committee on the North East Initiative (PCNI) to follow up on an earlier request (sent in Nov 2018) for support with equipment for the Dechi Health Centre. The PCNI was set up to help the recovery of the states in the North East of Nigeria which have been devastated by years of Boko Haram Islamist terrorist activity. The visit to the PCNI was massively successful – we came away with enough equipment for the health centre and more. You can read more on this on Phoebe’s series of blogs during the trip.
Other accomplishments during the trip were: Free clinical consultations for over 400 patients between Kakara and Gembu with high-quality free medicines given. Some participants received hepatitis and HIV counselling, screening tests and referred appropriately. Before the start of the consultations, participants were given talks on basic health tips on different health conditions including pregnancy. After the health education sessions, the concepts and processes of the contributory community-based health scheme were explained to the participants. They were also made aware of the Dechi Health Centre. Moreover, Dr Phoebe Pallotti conducted training for local midwives and other health workers recruited for the Dechi Health Centre on birth and current thinking about birth techniques; including care of the new-born; shoulder dystocia; breech birth and some emergency, life-saving obstetric manoeuvres.
There was also 1 minor surgical operation, the story behind it was captured by Dr Mukhtar Ahmad in his post “As we were about to leave, one of the villagers drew our attention to a woman sitting quietly in a corner, gritting her teeth in pain, flies swarming around her right foot. She had stepped on a nail while weeding the family farm weeks ago. Too poor to afford help, she carried on – her foot now had a serious infection affecting the muscles and bones. Without urgent treatment she was likely to get blood poisoning and die leaving the child she was breastfeeding. We were so glad there was a nearby missionary hospital that allowed us to use their facilities for a fee – we managed to clean the wound of organic material including cow dung (a local remedy for all superficial infections) and remove the necrotic tissues. I hope she recovers well”.
The next priority is to get the health centre registered and operational which will require addressing the following, at an estimated cost of approx. £2000:
- Completing the assembly of health centre furniture
- Running water
- Electricity supply
- Installing burglar-proof steel bars at the entrance of the health centre
- Staff uniforms
- Printing of medical stationery
After the outreach, I gave a keynote lecture at the first Nigeria Health Leadership Conference and facilitated 3 pre-conference workshops at Emerald Royal Hill Hotel Gombe, with some significant national media coverage.