Saving lives is retired teacher’s new role
12 September 2017 - As a retired teacher, Benjamin Daniel is used to working with children, but his new role is different – and is having a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of children in his community.
The 64 year-old, who is known as ‘Baba Benjamin’, has been trained as a community health worker with skills to diagnose, treat and refer sick children in his remote, rural village – which is often cut off from services during the rainy season.
Using his new skills and equipment provided by the European Union and UNICEF to test and treat sick children, Baba Benjamin sees about a dozen children a month in Juleire Community in Yola South, in Nigeria’s Adamawa state. Previously, families with sick children might have relied on traditional herbal remedies, such as herbs, or taken their children on long and expensive journeys to the nearest clinic in Yola town to seek help.
The stark reality in Nigeria is that the delivery of health services is often weakest in areas where the needs are greatest. Low coverage of the most common interventions often leaves children vulnerable to death from preventable or treatable illnesses.
When he is not attending to sick children, ‘Baba Benjamin’ keeps busy and earns a living by thatching people’s homes.
Thanks to the training of ‘Baba Benjamin’, and others as community-orientated resource persons, or CORPs, young children and their families living in remote areas can now access help more quickly and easily. Despite his new medical skills, however, he knows he won’t always be able to help every sick person in his community.
‘I sometimes see three or five children a week, sometimes none. Although I helped and treated 35 children under five in the last three months, there was one I had to refer to the primary healthcare centre because he had a cough that lasted for more than 14 days and other complications,’ he explained.
The CORPs project is part of the integrated Community Case Management strategy to extend management of childhood illness beyond health facilities to give more children access to life-saving treatments.
‘Baba Benjamin’, like other CORPs, is supervised and mentored by community health extension workers based at local primary healthcare centres, who support CORPs case management skills, as well as data collection and reporting.