Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative : A call to serve.
The past 1 year has been a massive life changing experience for me. I applied for the Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative program in 2015, got interviewed along with about 70 others, eventually 25 of us were picked to undergo the program.
The CYFI program which is presently in its 5th year brings young people in Lagos together, trains them and empowers them to make direct changes and improvements in commnunities around Lagos.
I, with my background as a medical doctor and public health enthusiast ended up in the health team with 4 other individuals with intimidating antecedents and resume. We decided to work specifically on improving the knowledge of women and caregivers on the health of pregnant women and children. The level of knowledge has been found to be a decisive factor in child survival and safe gestation. We realised a lot still needed to be done in this regard if we were going to meet up with the SDGs especially the 3rd goal. Nigeria failed to achieve the set goal of the MDGs on maternal and child health.
Oworosoki is a town in Lagos mainland that everyone seems to bypasses, it takes some extra jigging to get a sign of recognition from people whom we mentioned the place to, the town has very poor roads, a large percentage of residents live in shanties by the Lagos lagoon, the government health centre doesn’t work for 24 hours (so pregnant women have to head to Gbagada to deliver). This was the town we chose to serve, specifically the Olubori-Mosafejo ward of the town. Our series of meetings with stakeholders, town hall meetings, pre-assessment and interactions showed that the people of the area required more education on their health.
We received significant assistance from 10 community volunteers, especially Pastor Hezekiah and Alhaja Basira who helped us in navigating the maze of community entry and mobilisation.
In December 2016, we conducted a 3-day door-to-door education campaign, collaborated with Safermom to deliver health tips free of charge through sms to pregnant women and caregivers of children under the age of 5.
In January we held a one day free health services outreach for children and pregnant women.
We were also supported by HACEY Health Initiative to donate over 1500 delivery kits to women in the area.
To sustain the project we have designed a toolkit to help community volunteers replicate such efforts in their community, health education needs to reiterated for it to cause the change required.
Working in that community opened my eyes to the depth of inequity that our present healthcare system perpetuates, it gave me a front row seat to the challenges that bedevil our efforts in stemming the tide of maternal and child mortality. Our government needs to increase its funding of healthcare, 4℅ of the total budget won’t get us anywhere, the Abuja Accord recommended 15℅. The government also needs to create the enabling environment for improved health insurance coverage for all Nigerians especially in underserved areas like Oworosoki. We as citizens must also understand that the government can’t do it alone, we must in every way we can lend a hand to making improvements and positive changes in our society.
I want to say a big thank you to the US consulate in Lagos for this great privilege to serve my people and my country.
I’ll end this with my mantra "Our job in life is to help others live better lives".