Maiduguri — "Being a woman, serving humanity spurs me to greater heights", - female, WHO hard-to-reach team member
"Sometimes, I feel disadvantaged. Sometimes, I feel threatened. But at all times, I am motivated by the fact that being a woman and rendering healthcare services to humanity spur me to greater heights," says Binta, a community health extension worker in Kwaya Kusar, Borno state. "In my five years of working experience with the hard-to-reach team, this has become my daily mantra and greatest source of motivation" she added.
WHO's HTR teams focus on accessing communities in usually inaccessible settlements. Some of the interventions include, a mobile strategy that delivers maternal and child health care services. In addition, the HtR teams consists of professional midwives, junior/senior health extension workers and health record assistants.
The team operates by profiling the selected settlements and communities, scheduling visits to the areas, conducting needs assessments surveys, providing routine immunization services, treating minor ailments including acute respiratory infections, nutritional screening, and general key household best practices.
The theme of 2020 International Women's Day, "I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women's Rights", resonated with Binta who said, "I remember the day we had to travel to Ardo Damji settlement in Kwaya Kusar Local Government Area in Borno State on our regular monthly outreach sessions. Three kilometers later, only a horse, a donkey or camel can convey us and our commodities to the destination. Traditionally, it is an uncommon practice for women to ride on horses or camels. But I recalled that during our last visit to the same settlement, two pregnant women would be due to deliver and hundreds of children will be eligible for various routine immunization antigens including penta3, measles and yellow fever and unnumbered more, may require treatment for malaria among other minor illnesses.
"Gripped in fear, yet impelled by my daily mantra, I nervously climbed the camel for a 1.5km journey to Ardo Damji. It was most unpleasant and spine-chilling yet one of the most fulfilling days in my five years of working on the hard-to-reach project. We arrived Ardo Damji, and I delivered Aissatou of a bouncing baby girl, whom I learnt later, was named Binta, after me".
With 113 hard-to-reach teams in northeast Nigeria, WHO is delivering urgently needed comprehensive reproductive care including ante natal and post-natal care, HIV screening for pregnant women, childhood immunization and treatment of minor illnesses in areas, where health facilities are either inaccessible or unavailable. In 2019 alone, 452 team members made up of more than 65% females, collectively, delivered nearly one million focus ante natal care, iron folate, and intermittent preventive therapy for pregnant women. More than two million children have also benefitted from immunization services offered by the WHO-supported hard to reach teams.