Community Support Revives Primary Health Center in Nigeria A push toward quality healthcare

The primary health center in Arowojobe, Osun State, has been neglected. The roof is leaking, there are limited beds, there is no water supply, and the facility is not connected to the electricity grid.

Staff morale is also low due to the poor working conditions, where striving to provide quality healthcare to the community is a daily challenge.

Meet Mary Omole, a nurse at the primary health center (PHC) in Arowojobe, where she and the staff struggle to provide 24-hour services to the community. Improvising as much as they can with minimal equipment available, the effort sometimes leads to moments of despair and deep fatigue.

"It is the only healthcare facility in the community. We believe we are responsible for providing the best care, even though the conditions barely permits that, but we manage. We enjoy our work since we are making an impact and the community always appreciates that. "

Mary wishes that there were available resources to improve the health center, making it more functional and capable of providing the most basic care services for patients.

In 2018, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Health Policy Plus (HP+) project began working in Osun State to improve the quality of basic healthcare services and provide access to the poor and vulnerable, especially those living in rural communities, by supporting the state government to implement the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF).

A pregnant patient, Ibileye Ifeoluwa, being attended to by the Officer-in-Charge, Mary Omole.

HP+ began collaborating with government entities to train facility staff and members of Ward Development Committees (WDCs), who have oversight functions over PHC centers in their wards, to understand their roles and responsibilities in implementing the BHCPF.

In June 2019, HP+ invited officers-in-charge of PHCs and WDC chairpersons from eight PHCs in Osun State, including Mary and the staff from Arowojobe, for a capacity building workshop aimed at building advocacy and managerial skills of participants.

During the workshop, Yekini Sarafa, the WDC chairperson for the Arowjobe health center, realized he could do something to change the condition of the Arowojobe PHC.

After the workshop, Yekini led members of the WDC, alongside Mary, to pay an advocacy visit to the community leaders of Arowojobe. During the visit, the group discussed the PHC's lack of bed and mattresses, electricity, water supply, and the problem with the leaking roof.

"Through HP+, I realized there is so much I should have been doing for my community. Now I look forward to being a part of making the health facility a better place for qualitative health care in my community."

The meeting led to action by the community leaders to embark on a fund-raising drive for the facility, where community leaders contacted well-to-do persons from the community to provide support.

Two weeks after the advocacy visit, the community raised funds that were used to buy three beds and mattresses for the facility, constructed a water reservoir, purchased new aluminum sheets to fix the leaking roof and bought surgical trays and forceps.

Bello Aliyu Adekunle, WDC Member and Yekini Sarafa, WDC Chairperson fixes the newly bought beds and mattresses for PHC.

Mary says the community's support is highly motivating for her and her staff, indicating the community's appreciation for the services they provide.

Recently, the community was celebrating the first baby to be born on the newly donated beds.

"Occasions like this make you happy as an individual. I have noticed the increased enthusiasm to work among my staff. I thank HP+ for providing us with the environment to learn how we can do our part to ensure people have access to high-quality healthcare."

With a mandate to strengthen governance, stewardship, and ownership of critical health financing reforms in Nigeria, HP+ is working with WDCs to improve their PHCs and ensure high-quality healthcare is delivered to their communities.

Awoyemi Iyabo and her newly born daughter, Awoyemi Rachael enjoying the benefit of quality care.

Community leaders and WDC members paying a visit to the health facility for investigation after the meeting with WDC and OIC.

Previously used beds and mattresses in Arowojobe PHC before the community intervention.

Previously used baby crib in Arowojobe PHC before the community intervention

Photo credit: Tosin Akingbemisilu