By Emmanuel Oloniruha
Abuja – The Christian Aid Nigeria, an NGO, says it has managed and cared for more than 300,000 cases of childhood illnesses among under-5 children in Benue within three years.
The organisation seeks an end to poverty in Nigeria, works to improve the health of poor and marginalised people via three core strategic programme areas; health; governance and development; and humanitarian work.
The Programme Officer, Mr Olusegun Oladejo, in a statement issued on Sunday said that the children were attended to through its Improved Child Health Project (PICH Project) in the state.
He said that the three years UKAID funded PICH Project, which would wind down on Aug. 21, was carried out in four local government areas of the state – Konshisha, Kwande, Obi and Okpokwu.
Oladejo said that the project implemented by the NGO in partnership with the government of Benue, the Federal Ministry of Health and two local partners; Ohonyettarget Givers and Jireh Doo Foundation.
He explained that the project employed integrated Community Case Management (ICCM) approach, providing free life-saving treatment to under-5 children in hard to reach communities using volunteers known as Community Oriented Resource Persons (CoRPs).
He said that through the project, 997 CoRPs in target communities were trained and equipped with commodities and kits to test, treat and refer children with danger signs to health facilities.
“No fewer than 124 Lower Level Health Facility Workers were also trained to provide supportive supervision and life-saving intervention to the CoRPs.
“According to records, Christian Aid has through this important intervention empowered communities to take ownership of their own health.
“This was done by improving knowledge and health seeking behaviour, giving hope in despair and saving under five children who face imminent death due to barriers of access to and uptake of quality health services.
“The project has succeeded in building community resilience and capacity for disease mitigation and prevention.
“Also through the implementation of PICH Project in Benue, the organisation has demonstrated that poverty and distance to health facilities should not be a death sentence.”
Oladejo added that governance structure was put in place at the community level in order to ensure commodity accountability, support provision of services and undertake self-help initiatives to address barriers to health access.
“Consequently, more than 130 Community Development Committees (CDCs) groups were established or resuscitated and trained to be more effective in advocating to duty bearer to bring a positive change to their community human development indices.
“More than 340 faith and community leaders were empowered to use their platforms and influences to address social and cultural barriers to health services.
“This was done through town hall and religious meetings where basic information for prevention of childhood diseases was shared and caregivers linked to the CoRPs to provide live saving intervention to the children.”
Oladejo added that to ensure quality of service, health workers provided on-site supportive supervision and mentoring to the CoRPs, in addition to the bi-annual visits jointly provided by the federal and state Ministries of Health and Local Government Department of health personnel.
He said that volunteers who gave their time and effort to the project were rewarded as the vision of Christian Aid was to empower individuals by making deep and lasting change in their lives.
He said that Christian Aid also conducted business training and invested in income generation activities of the CoRPs, rather than giving out stipends which was not sustainable.
Oladejo said that the project also worked with the volunteers to rejuvenate or support the establishment of business ventures for the volunteers.
This, according to him, created a multiplier effect by providing stable income generation for volunteers and stimulate economic activities of beneficiaries and local communities.
“The project team had also worked with Benue Government and other stakeholders in the health sector to sustain the gains of the project with a view to maintaining the traction gained by the intervention.
“Every year, hundreds of thousands of children under the age of five years in Nigeria do not live up to their fifth birthday due to preventable childhood illnesses such as malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea and severe acute malnutrition.
“Most under-five death occurs in remote, hard to reach communities where caregivers are faced with physical, social and financial barriers to access health services, spurring Christian Aid Nigeria to intervene.
“The organisation acted in line with its vision for a just, equitable and peaceful Nigerian society where poverty is eradicated and everyone is empowered to live life in its fullness.”
Oladejo said that the people of the state had at different occasions appreciated Christian Aid Nigeria for providing free life-saving treatment to under-five children in their communities and for addressing their concerns.
He hinted that the ministry of health, local government officials and other stakeholders in the health sector were expected at a ceremony on Wednesday in Benue to end the PICH Project.