Community champion reaches Hausa community in Lagos
UNICEF works with community champions who are key to spreading messages on how to access health interventions in under-served communities in Lagos State
“Our people feel comfortable with and rely on messages coming from the Emir – or Sarki,” said Abdullahi Salihu, as he prepared for another interesting day of interacting with community members in his area.
Abdullahi is the Sallaman (or Personal Secretary) to the Sarki - the traditional head of the Hausa community in Agege LGA of Lagos.
Abdullahi has been a champion for UNICEF-supported interventions within his community since September 2017. As such, he works to ensure that the Hausa community he belongs to receives vital information about key health initiatives and benefits equally from health and nutrition programmes, like maternal and newborn care, antenatal care, immunisation, and training on exclusive breastfeeding.
He said he has always wanted to contribute to his community’s well-being.
“To build a safer and better tomorrow.”
A typical day in Abdullahi’s life involves supporting the training of town announcers, carrying out advocacy visits to Hausa traditional leaders, including the paramount ruler (Sarki) and the council of chiefs, as well as mobilizing the Hausa community to access important health programmes. He translates important information on immunization, hygiene, breastfeeding and COVID-19 prevention from English to the Hausa language, allowing his community to access knowledge that empowers them to stay safe and healthy.
Hausa-speakers predominate in Abdullahi’s community of over 200,000, which has lived in Agege since 1863. Transmitting information in the Hausa language is therefore critical to ensuring better health and education outcomes for the community – especially children.
“Being in a position to directly affect the lives of children positively is a privilege, because I’m helping to build a safer and better tomorrow in my community. The feeling soothes my heart,” said Abdullahi.
Abdullahi’s efforts have indeed positively impacted health seeking behaviours in the Hausa community in Agege. There has been an increase in the level of acceptance, compliance and uptake of routine immunization and breastfeeding, and of COVID-19 preventive measures. Abdullahi’s efforts in supporting the Hausa community were rewarded with a letter of appreciation from the Local Government Authority.
Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, Abdullahi has been working tirelessly to reach the Hausa community with ways to prevent COVID-19 infection and control the spread of virus.
One of the ways he does this is by speaking on Hausa language media programmes and making appearances on traditional media channels to increase the reach to members of the Hausa-speaking community, often left out of information-sharing due to the language gap.
Abdullahi’s tireless efforts recently earned him a nomination to represent the large number of Hausa speaking community in the Risk Communication and Community Engagement pillar for the COVID-19 response in Lagos State – a crucial role in Nigeria’s national response to the pandemic.
He shares the strategy he adopted to successfully get the attention of his community: “They believe in the Sarki’s words, so any message that comes from him is final. From the time we were involved in the health programmes in Agege LGA, compliance with health instructions and guidelines by our people has increased dramatically. Our people now make use of public health centres closer to them regularly.”
UNICEF will continue to work with community champions like Abdullahi, who are key to spreading messages on how to access and enhance the reach of the health interventions in under-served communities in Lagos State. These champions help build connections and disseminate vital health information to their communities in local dialects and languages. As a result, more and more community members are visiting health centres and asking for their children to be immunised or to learn about exclusive breastfeeding – demanding those services that will keep their families safe and healthy.