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A little training goes a long way

UNICEF Nigeria/2018
© UNICEF Nigeria/2018
Hafsat Musa is one of the community health extension workers trained by UNICEF.

by Geoffrey Njoku

11 May 2018 - At the primary healthcare centre in Gar, Bauchi state in northeast Nigeria, Hafsat Musa, one of the community health extension workers, sits brooding. She is not her usual bubbly self this morning. A pregnant woman, whose expected delivery date was more than one month overdue, was rushed into the clinic earlier in the morning. Hafsat battled to save the baby’s life. Unfortunately, it was too late.

“The problem here is that many women believe strong women deliver at home. They say the weak, and those who cannot endure pain, are the ones rushed to health centres for delivery”, she says. “It is dangerous both for the mother and the child.” But things are changing. The unfortunate incident this morning is becoming rare and a reminder of the time when most women delivered their babies at home with the help of traditional birth attendants.

The health centre, where Hafsat works, handles nowadays more than 55 deliveries a month. The community-based health extension workers, like Hafsat, have been trained to provide quality antenatal care, support women going into labour and delivering their babies. Before Hafsat took part in the 21-day training, her obstetrics skills were limited to outpatient care and treatment of common illnesses during pregnancy. Other manageable cases had to be referred to more distant clinics because of lack of skills. The time that it took to transport pregnant women to these clinics put both their own and their unborn babies’ lives at risk. Today, Hafsat is able do more for her patients. She is proud of her new skills and prays that all the 59 participants are making a difference at the clinics where they work. 

Dr. Halima Abdu, UNICEF’s Health Specialist in Bauchi Field Office notes: “The community health extension workers now recognize alarming signs during pregnancies and understand when to refer patients to next level of expert care.” The training also encouraged community members to utilize provided services.

The training is part of the support the Gar Primary Healthcare Centre is receiving and part of a bigger project supported by UNICEF and funded by the European Union. The project aims to annually strengthen primary healthcare systems and improve the health and nutritional status of more than 2.5 million pregnant mothers, new-borns and under 5-year old children in three states in northern Nigeria.



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