Thursday, February 28, 2013

A hunger for access to free medical services #IRP13

This week, I was tested in a different way. Actually, I went nosing around for news relating to the ongoing Eko Free Health Mission Programme in Ayobo area of Lagos. The crowd, massive crowd, I saw in this community sure exceeded what I expected to see. From interacting with a few of the community people and interviewing others, I saw first hand how much people really yearn for medical services. Well, I hope corporate organizations and investors will see this as an opportunity to broaden their CSR outreach. Don't leave everything to the government.

I know, I started this post with being tested. I'll tell you how.

So I was collecting a few pictures to use as a photo essay for a report I was going to submit for GPI. When I got to the nutrition stand, I saw a little boy, the image like ones we see in western media. Those types that will leave you mouth agape... that usually get some of us asking where do all these journalists get these terrifying images from. To learn first-hand that there are real images of malnourished children right here in a land of plenty left me with a depressing feeling. I sighed and took the picture.

But a man walked up to me and said not to use the picture for any news report. That is not the kind of story you should be telling, he said. I sighed. The mother of the child smiled. Actually, the man told the woman to lay a curse on me if I ever use the video footage or images. :-) Scaring things you hear when covering news. But anyway, my conscience took the better of me. I asked the mother if she mind me telling her story. She said no. But said I should not use her video or pictures of her child, even though it was just a back-view of the child. Yes, yes, ethic of the profession expect us not to use such anyway.

So here are some of the images I took, to tell you the story of a community that benefitted from a recent outreach aimed at bringing medical services to the grassroots. The people asked for more of such programmes. The organizers say the purpose is to point the grassroots to the existence of Primary Healthcare centres in their communities. It cannot be an everyday affair. Or can it not?

Enough of my stories. Let the pictures speak!

At the entrance to the stadium called "Ipaja Mini Stadium" but the community people say they know it as "Stadium Fela"

Some residents of Ayobo-Ipaja community waiting for their turn to enter the stadium

Medical team at the drug collection stand

Pregnant women waiting at the antenatal care department

Drug collection center

The nutrition stand

Blindness prevention programme

Dental clinic was also very active at the programme

Mothers being trained on nutrition and healthy living

Residents take turns to see the doctors, depending on what medical service they seek

Mrs Adebayo at the medication unit to collect her drugs after the doctor prescribed them

Mr Moses brought his daughter for check-up
Waiting for their turn
Dr Amire attending to some patients at the Outpatient unit
For more information on day 2 coverage, click here


Note: This report was gathered on the second day of the exercise. It does not represent the full details of the programme.

Eko Free Health Mission Programme to Promote Primary Health Care System in Lagos State #IRP13

A neighbour told Mrs Omotayo Lola, who is in her fifties, that there was a free medical test and treatment being offered to people in Ayobo, a community in Lagos, where she resides. The following morning, she woke up early in order to seek treatment for her eye-sight.

“I have been here since about seven,” she says in Yoruba, the second official language in the State.

She says she was given a priority attention due to her elderly status. However, upon arriving at the medical unit, instead of just checking her eyes, her blood pressure was measured. The doctors discovered that she had high blood pressure.

“I came for eye check-up but they said my Blood Pressure is high,” she says in Yoruba. “The doctors gave me drugs. They attended to me very well. I am very happy.” 

Mrs Omotayo advocates for more frequent free medical services. ”If they can do this every three months, it would be good,” she says. Adding, “There are many people who die as a result of not having money to access medical treatment.”  She says she would not have known she had a high blood pressure if she had not come to take advantage of the blindness prevention programme offered in the community.

With a growing population of over seven million and an unemployment rate of about 28 per cent as at 2010, according to National Bureau of statistics, Lagos state, Nigeria’s commercial capital, remains a melting pot for many people seeking greener pasture in the country.

“Over the years, the challenge for government has been to continuously find ways of improving the health status of the ever increasing population based on the popular maxim that the wealth of a nation lies in the health and well being of the people,” says Honorable Yusus Sakiru Adisa, the chairman of Ayobo-Ipaja local council development area, during a press briefing at the Ipaja Mini stadium where the free health mission took place.

“The programme is symbolic as it represents the essence of government in meeting the needs of the governed thus celebrating the notions of accessibility, equity, quality and affordability in health care services,” says Honorable Adisa.

The Eko free health mission kicked of February 25 to March 1, 2013 at Ayobo-Ipaja local council development area, Lagos.

“We give immunization to children between 0 and 5 years old. We do dental procedures- polishing, extractions. We give medications too,” says Olajumoke Adeoye, a team member of Lagos state ministry of health.

She says there is also a surgery department, where a team of professionals perform simple surgical procedure such as appendices and removal of lumps.

In addition, the free health mission team provide blindness prevention programme where they give glasses to those with eye ailment.

“For those that need special order, we ask them to come back the next day,” she says.

Adeoye says many people in the community are benefitting from the free medical mission programme which kicks of 8am daily and ends about 5pm. “We make sure everyone that comes there we attend to them. We usually attend to 3,000 and above,” she says.

It is expected that over 20,000 people from the local council development area would have benefitted from the different medical services provided at the end of the programme.

“Even if we give out 3,000 cards we still have some mothers with 2 children, three children who come in. It is one card that admit mother and children.” Adeoye says.

“Our procedure is that when they come they take their numbers,” she says describing how the medical team manages the crowd.

“It makes it easier for us to sort them out,” she says.

Everyone who comes is given a number, irrespective of what medical condition they are there for.

“When we bring them in a queue, we sort them to their various department. We don’t allow pregnant women to queue. They are always the first we attend to,” she says.

Adeoye says one of the reasons for the free medical mission is to create awareness about the primary Healthcare Centres in Lagos state.

“A lot of people don’t like using the primary healthcare centre,” she says. “But when we visit a locality we create awareness about the primary healthcare centres. And we let the people know they can access Medicare in their primary healthcare centre.”

“For example, in the antenatal department we have here, it is discovered that a lot of women have not been to the primary healthcare. They don’t register when they are pregnant. They prefer to go to traditional birth attendants. But when they come here we counsel them,”

Adeoye says the pregnant women are counselled to utilize their primary healthcare centres for safe delivery.

“I heard about this programme through a friend,” says Mrs Oluwatoyin Adelusi, a resident of the community who also benefitted from the programme.

She says the community people are praying for the State governor, Babatunde Raji Fashola, to keep ameliorating the health condition in their community.

“We really enjoy it and we are praying for Fashola, that he should keep it up,” Adelusi says.

“My advice to the organizers is that they should try and be bring this sort of thing probably once in a year or twice in a year,” she says.

Like Adelusi, Moses Adegbola says the programme impresses him.

“I’m pretty surprise getting here and seeing everything put in place. Virtually all the aspects of health are being taken care of,” says Adegbola, who brought his daughter for nutrition check-up.

“I give kudos to the government for doing this. I believe they should do more of this. This is a very good step in the right direction. I believe the government should do more of this in all the other areas,“ Adegbola says.

Mrs Oluwatoyin Adams, chief nutrition officer Lagos state ministry of health, says the purpose of the exercise is to take medical services to the grassroots.

“It is a grassroots exercise. We take medical services to the grassroots,” she says.

“The turnout and the acceptance by the people is very good.”

The nutrition stand was one of the highly visited stands within the mini stadium where Lagosians in the community trooped out in thousands to access the free medical services.

Mrs Adams says they provide nutrition counselling to mothers who come with their infants as well as adults. “We counsel them on breastfeeding,” she says.

The mothers with infants are counselled on adequate complimentary feeding. “That is, graduating from exclusive breastfeeding to family food,” says Adams.

According to her, during the Malnutrition assessment, the medical team discovered many children that are malnourished. “We have ready to use therapeutic food that we use in managing these children,” she says. Adding, ”After that we refer them to the nearest health centre where they are residing for continuity. They will be managed for about four weeks,”

“We encourage people to seek medical services in the nearest health centres to them,” says, Mrs Adams.

She says the medical services at the primary healthcare are free.

“The people are there to serve them. They should stop self-medication,” she advised, adding that people should try as much as possible to go for regular assessment at least twice a year.

“Seek for medical assessment and also visit your nutritionist regularly,” Adams says.

Mrs Peace Ugorji, a beneficiary of the programme says she has been longing for an opportunity to access medical treatment for her one-year old malnourished son.

“I have been longing for this,” says Mrs Ugorji.

She says her son, Samuel, first became ill at about 3 months of age.

“I have been going for immunization. They will look at him and ask what food are you giving him,” Ugorji says. Then the nurse at the health centre advised her to take Samuel to the General Hospital.

“I took him to general hospital Ikeja, we spent 2 weeks there,” she says.

Although the medical services at the general hospital was free, Ugorji says that she could not afford the drugs the doctors prescribed for her son.

“After two weeks I had to leave there because I was running out of money,” she says.
Moses Adegbola brought his daughter for nutrition check-up. 

Ugorji heard about the free medical mission and decided to bring her son there. He was diagnosed with server malnutrition. “They say the baby needs to be admitted,” she says, while waiting for an Ambulance that would take them to the general hospital. 

The Eko Free health mission programme is the first in Ayobo community. The last medical mission, which took place in October 2012, was done collaboration with Eko club international, a US based organisation of Lagosians living in diaspora.

Adeoye says Lagosians who live outside the shores of Lagos came together to raise funds, and approached the Lagos state government for partnership to carryout the grassroots outreach in different communities in Lagos. Unlike the outreach in Ayobo, which was solely funded by the government, theirs was spread across different communities within the State in one week.

“People have been responding. And they’ve been coming out to get healthcare for themselves and their children,” says Doctor Amire Adetutu, one of the medical professionals at the programme.

She says people in the state often do not seek medical services as a result of the high rate of poverty in Nigeria.

“People are poor in the country,” she says.

“They don’t see healthcare as a necessity. But programmes like this are awareness programmes that help them by bring healthcare to their doorstep. It is not a luxury, it is something everyone should have access to.” She says.

Doctor Amire says health awareness programmes are very important because it helps people understand the importance of healthcare.

“The structure of the healthcare system is such that there is a tertiary healthcare system, then it comes to secondary and it comes to primary healthcare system,” she says.

Tertiary healthcare system refers to the teaching hospitals, while the secondary healthcare refers to the general hospitals. However, the primary healthcare system is the ones at different grassroots communities in the country.

Doctor Amire advises those who are unable to attend the free medical mission to visit their primary healthcare centres for medical services. “There are good health professionals there that can take care of them and the populace at large,” she says.

Note: This report was gathered on the second day of the exercise. It does not represent the full details of the programme.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Writing Opportunity: OutSpoken on

Hey! Are you interested in sharing your views on different issues other young and older women can relate to or learn from? If yes, then you might want to checkout out --->>> Click the link to find out more: Women Voicing Their Opinions, Raising Issues, Leading Debates and Offering Advice! Femme Lounge Presents OUTSPOKEN!

And yes, you can read my first post on there: "20 Things Every Woman In Her 20s Must Know."

You have a voice, use it!

Interview with Ato Ulzen-Appiah, CEO of Museke Inc; Tony Obey, ICT Consultant and Others #SMWLagos #IRP13

People from all walks of life gathered in Lagos for one week to participate in the Social Media week event that held between February 18 to 22nd, 2013. While some, like Mr. Tony Obey an ICT consultant from Abuja, traveled across different states in the country, others like Mr. Ato Ulzen-Appiah, an IT enthusiast from Ghana, crossed international borders, to be in Nigeria’s commercial capital for the event.

What did they think of the event? Enjoy this feature and video interview focused on feeling the pulse of those who attended:

Interview with Ato Ulzen-Appiah, CEO of Museke, Inc and part of the GhanaThink Foundation
Tell us a bit more about yourselfI'm Ato Ulzen-Appiah. I work in the IT space in Africa. I am the CEO of Museke, Inc and part of the GhanaThink Foundation team that's mobilizing and organizing talent and resources for the service of the world beginning with our cultural neighbourhood, Ghana. That's what I am most passionate about. We've been doing this via Barcamp Ghana events, where we are building a movement of networked changemakers, doers and entrepreneurs.

Were you the only one from Ghana who attended this year’s SMW Lagos?
I wasn't the only one from Ghana. A friend from Adsbrook (a Meltwater startup) attended, as well as the folks from Nkanee Media (a new digital marketing company). I also happened to be in the same hotel as a couple of others who live in Ghana.

What were your initial expectations before the event? Were they met?
I expected Social Media Week to be a series of events (mostly with panels) on how to use Social Media to work for you. I am happy with the number of workshops that had hands-on teaching and learning. It was especially great to see Google+ Hangouts used a lot more too. 

I expected SMW Lagos to be very social and that happened quite well. People always want to see who the people behind various Twitter handles are so this served a great opportunity.

What is your opinion about the event in Lagos, considering it is Africa's first host of the global event?
I expected SMW Lagos to be more focused on Nigeria. And that's not a bad thing. It didn't have to be about Africa in totality because it was the first African event. There are a lot of learnings from social media as it pertains to a big market like Nigeria, with the success that some local blogs and celebrities have had. There have also been great movements like #occupynigeria and #lightupnigeria.

From my experience and that of others who were at #SMWLagos, the Nigeria focus came into play and the invited panelists from elsewhere also lent their other experiences to bear on the attendees. There were a few issues around costs of travel and logistics in getting to Lagos which prevented an even richer global experience. But this is social media we are talking about, they could always contribute via Twitter, etc. :-)

Do you see Ghana emulating Nigeria next year to hold an edition in Accra?
Definitely. I know BloggingGhana (the Association of Ghanaian Bloggers) has been thinking about it. After last year's successful Blogcamp and this year's edition happening on March 23, Social Media Week Accra is a good next step. BlogCamp 2013 features the Ghana Social Media Awards which has created a lot of excitement in Ghana's Social Media scene. There are also a lot of organizations that would lend support to SMWAccra, including the GhanaThink Foundation, Google Ghana, amongst others.

What do you think about the trend of social media in West Africa?
Social Media has become part and parcel of the youth's lifestyle in West Africa. Facebook is arguably the most popular site in the sub-region. A huge number of folks only use their (yahoo) email addresses for logging in to Facebook and other social media accounts.

We'd see an increase in smart phone usage for social media purposes. This trend has allowed Whatsapp to thrive, Eskimi to be very relevant and excitement for home-grown technology like Saya.

Organizations are looking to social media more and more as an effective tool for communication. Social Media has already become a staple in radio and television stations. West Africa has not adapted to new social media technology as quickly though. It's still following tried and tested models. We are not being risky with trying new things. We'd get there soon with more success stories.

How do you think Africans can better maximize the tools? What should the government leaders, organizations, developers and consumers be doing differently?
Technology is one great leveller. West Africa could easily lead in innovation and technology if we invested in it. It doesn't cost as much. That's where government comes in, they have to be smart. For organizations, social media is more bang for buck. It's that simple. Developers are leveraging social media very well. When we organize Barcamps, we mostly use social media marketing. The developers show up in their numbers. Consumers should desist from just consuming social media and become content creators. We too can create something. We have things to say and stories to tell.


This story first appeared on Ventures Africa.

I'm currently reporting on health and development in Nigeria with a grant from theInternational Reporting Project in Washington, D.C. Follow on Twitter @IRPChirps

Social Media Week: Interview with Obi Asika, Founder Storm 360 & Chairman #SMWLagos

Mr. Obi Asika Chairman, OutSource Media; Founder Storm 360 and Chairman Social Media Week Lagos; and Mrs Omobolaji Johnson, Minister of Communication Technology, Nigeria.

Africa’s first ever social media week took place in Lagos this February 2013. How did Nigeria get the right to host the event? What exactly happened during the social media week? What plan are the organizers putting in place to improve next year’s edition? How can those who were not able to attend access all that has been shared? How can we maximize social media, beyond just talking? Mr. Obi Asika, founder Storm 360 and one of the brains behind the Social Media Week in Lagos provides answers in this short interview.

Watch the Video

This story first appeared on Ventures Africa.

I'm currently reporting on health and development in Nigeria with a grant from the International Reporting Project in Washington, D.C. Follow on Twitter @IRPChirps

Monday, February 25, 2013

Nigeria To Launch $15m Venture Capital Fund For Software Developers In April?

This is exciting news for software developers in Nigeria.

As part of an effort to support the growth of more tech entrepreneurs in the country, the government has announced plans to launch the much awaited $15 million venture capital fund for software developers by April 2013.

This was made known by Mrs Omobolaji Johnson, the minister of communication technology, during her presentation at the just concluded Social Media Week in Lagos.

“We are going through the process of selecting the fund managers,” she says, during a session tagged “Showcase: Technology in Governance,” held at Lagos e-learning centre last week Friday.

According to the honourable minister of communication technology, the $5million venture capital fund is expected to launch this April after the selection of fund managers who will serve on the investment committee.

“There’ll be money available for software developers, not only those that are in government inspired hubs but those that are actually developing software,” she says. “They can actually apply for this fund…and if the investment committee thinks they are worthy then they get the fund.”

It can be recalled that the plan to launch the ICT venture capital fund was first announced August last year.

Watch the Video of the announcement

This report first appeared on Ventures Africa, where I serve as a frequent contributor.

I'm currently reporting on health and development in Nigeria with a grant from the International Reporting Project in Washington, D.C. Follow on Twitter @IRPChirps.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Social Media vs Social Good: Going Digital The Non-Profit Way #smwGoingDigital #smwLagos

Development Diaries Ltd/GTE is pleased to invite you to participate at her 2013 Social Media Week event on the theme: "Social Media vs Social Good: Going Digital The Non-Profit Way" scheduled to take place on Saturday, February 23, 2013 at 12.00 Noon (GMT+1.00).

Social Media Week is a worldwide event exploring the social, cultural and economic impact of social media with a mission is to help people and organizations connect through collaboration, learning and the sharing of ideas and information. Hosted in 13 cities across the world simultaneously, the event features over 30,000 people participating in 1,000 events over 5 days.

February 2013 will mark the first time Social Media Week takes place on the continent of Africa. Social Media Week Lagos brings together thought leaders, creative entrepreneurs and everyday citizens from Nigeria - and throughout the continent and the Diaspora - to explore how people and organizations are connecting to share new ideas and information.

This 120-minute event will feature a training session aimed at helping non-profit professionals review the role of social media in advocacy and causes for social good. Amongst other issues, how social media platforms and technologies affect our increasing interconnectedness across the globe for developmental outcomes will be critically reviewed.





Welcome and Introductions Keynote Address: Mr. 'Tunji Lardner, Executive Director, WANGONeT Q & A session Training Session: Mr. Ugo Nwosu, Manager, Citizenship & PIL Project, Microsoft Nigeria Vote of Thanks Wrap Up

OFFICIAL HASHTAG: #smwGoingDigital


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Social Media Week 2013: Health and Tech #SMWLagos #Smwedenmedical #IRP13

A fusion of health and technology event took place today, as part fo the activities scheduled to mark the social media week in Lagos.  The event, which was facilitated by Eden Lifestyle, was tagged Bridging The Gap Between Doctor And Patient Using Technology.

The selected speakers were: Dr Pamela Jackson-Ajayi, Managing DirectorPathcare; Dr Nkiruka OrajiakaProduct Advisor Hugh Alies; Sherese Ijewere Nutrition Consultant Caribbean Health And Nutrition; Dr Pascale Anglade Consultant Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist Diagnostic and Therapeutic Endoscopy Center.

The onus is on the rest of us to stay informed on health issues and share information in a way that will keep readers interested and engaged. Enough of the gloom and doom health reports and coverage.

In case you missed it, here is a text update:

Nigerians have been advised to use social media to gather information on how to prevent diseases and live with certain medical conditions.


Healthcare takes centre stage at SMWLagos2013


Friday, February 15, 2013

Re: Youth inspiring and empowering youth

If we don’t take care of our future, if we don’t make sure that young people are really given opportunities to realise their potential then we cannot hope to develop our continent.” – Mo Ibrahim

"Once social change begins, it cannot be reversed. You cannot uneducate the person who has learned to read. You cannot humiliate the person who feels pride. And you cannot oppress the people who are not afraid anymore. We are the future and the future is ours" -Cesar E. Chavez

Have you seen the video "A New Vision for Africa: Grace Ihejiamaizu at TEDxYouth@Bukoto" on youtube? Check it out:

It is always inspiring to see young leaders in Africa share their vision for the continent and go about working hard to achieve it!

Read more about Grace in this interview:
Youth inspiring and empowering youth: Grace Ihejiamaizu

Hope you are inspired too!! Keep taking action!!

Live well. Lead well. Be well.

Don't judge others too harshly.
Don't judge others, says the Holy Bible.
Lesson learned.
Rest in peace Goldie, Susan Harvey.
I totally enjoyed interviewing you in 2009.
I thought you were very beautiful.
I told others so.
Thank you for the music.
What can we do now?
Live well.
Lead well.
Be well.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Increased Focus on Sex Promotes Education, Contraceptive Sales on Valentine's Day #IRP13

LAGOS, NIGERIA – Jide Odi, 27, a graduate from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, says Valentine’s Day usually leads to an increase in sexual activity.

“People say Valentine’s Day is a time for couples in a relationship to actually have unlimited sex,” he says. “It is the accepted day for one-time marathon sex. So naturally, it is expected that day the sales of condom and contraceptive will be high.”

But for Odi, Valentine’s Day is not about sex. He says he has no plans for the day.

“I don’t think I should pack all the sex of several days into one day,” he says.

As the world celebrates Valentine’s Day, young Nigerians debate whether people are more sexually active today. Retailers say they see an increase in contraceptive sales for the holiday. Meanwhile, nongovernmental organizations are using Valentine’s Day as a platform for sexual and reproductive health education for young people. Although access to condoms has increased, correct and consistent use of condoms remains a challenge.

Between 2005 and 2010, 49 percent of males and 36 percent of females ages 15 to 24 in Nigeria used a condom the last time they had sex with a nonmarital, noncohabiting partner, according to UNICEF.

In 2010, the Federal Ministry of Health and the Society for Family Health, a nongovernmental organization based in Lagos, distributed more than 2 billion male condoms and nearly 900,000 female condoms, according to the Nigeria 2012 Global AIDS Response Country Progress Report.

Precious Iheanacho, 18, says her peers are more inclined to have sex on Valentine’s Day. But she advocates for abstinence.

“I don’t do sex,” she says. “It is wrong to have sex before marriage.”

Iheanacho encourages her peers to at least use protection if they do have sex.

“Sex is something that should wait until you get married so then you can appreciate it,” she says. “But if you cannot control yourself, I think you should be protected.”

But Iheanacho says that young girls have limited knowledge about how they should protect themselves.

“There should be programs geared towards them,” she says. “They don’t know how to protect themselves so they end up committing abortion.”

Samson Opeyemi Oguntona, 28, says he plans to spend this Valentine’s Day with his girlfriend.

“My plan is to go out with my babe,” he says.

But Oguntona says that he is not caught in the web of limiting Valentine’s Day to sexual gratification. Rather, they may go to a fast-food restaurant or a recreational place to discuss issues.

Adeshola Enitan Okesanya, 21, says that she and her boyfriend may celebrate the holiday by attending events in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial city.

“We’ll do normal stuff: talk, kiss or have sex,” she says. “It just comes. It is not that I’m going to plan it.”

Okesanya says the day is not all about sex, attributing people’s misperception of this to a limited awareness of the significance of Valentine’s Day.

“This Valentine’s Day should be about love, care for one another,” she says. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be your boyfriend.”

She says people could instead spend the day distributing gifts to orphanages.

“The day should be about spreading love to others,” she says.

She also doesn’t think that Valentine’s Day contributes to an increase in condom or contraceptive sales, a phenomenon cited by local retailers.

Kelechi Uwozo, a sales representative at a mini-mart located in Ikeja, the capital of Lagos state, says that condom sales rise every year on Valentine’s Day.

“Condom sales sometimes move,” Uwozo says. “It is not something you sell regularly. If I sell 10 normally, that day I may sell 40.”

Bose Adedeji, a sales representative at a pharmaceutical store in Ogba, a small community in Lagos, agrees with Uwozo on the increase in condom sales on Valentine’s Day. But she says that customers buy more female contraceptives than condoms on Feb. 14 and the day after.

Adedeji points at a stack of female contraceptives on a shelf in the store.

“Daily pill or morning-after pill for women is what normally move,” she says. “But for condom, it moves all the time.”

Funke Otaru, a program assistant at the Abuja office of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, an international nongovernmental organization, says that the increase in condom sales on Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean that young people are actually using them.

“If you say condom use increases,” she says, “you actually do not follow them to their houses to know if they use those condoms. They could be picking those condoms from wherever they are and not using them.”

Precious-Promise Ilalokhoin, a youth counselor specializing in teenage-parent relationships, says there’s a misperception that many young people lose their virginity on Valentine’s Day. But she says that an increase in condom sales during the holiday doesn’t mean more people have sex for the first time that day.

To educate young people about their sexual and reproductive health, nongovernmental organizations hold sensitization programs for young people on Valentine’s Day.

Otaru says that the AIDS Healthcare Foundation organizes an annual event to mark the holiday. But this year, it centered the event around International Condom Day.

“Our event is geared towards the International Condoms Day, which is the 13 th, a day before the Valentine’s Day,” Otaru says. “But nevertheless, we have activities that will span through that week.”

Activities include voluntary HIV counseling and testing at mobile units stationed in the suburbs of Abuja, the national capital. Dancing will also provide entertainment while volunteers distribute educational materials and free condoms to participants.

“We are going to be training them how to use condom and all of that,” Otaru says.

Meanwhile, Ilalokhoin convenes more than 200 students at an annual seminar called “Sweeter than Sex” every Feb. 13.

“The Sweeter than Sex is a pre-Valentine event where we want to educate teenagers about sexual health, emotion, their body – everything that affect young people,” she says.

The program encourages young people to abstain from premarital sex while exploring friendship, building self-esteem and aiming for self-actualization – which are all sweeter than sex, she says.

“We have been running it for more than five years now,” Ilalokhoin says.

Partners have included organizations such as Human Development Initiatives and Nigerian Red Cross as well as the Lagos State Ministry of Health.

Emmanuel Olaito, a senior program officer for the HIV prevention program at Society for Family Health, says that it’s collaborating with smaller nongovernmental organizations to carry out mobile HIV testing as well as distribute free condoms on Valentine’s Day.

“Basically, the focus of all our program is the social marketing of condoms,” he says.

Olaito says that condom distribution underlies all of the organization’s programs in order to promote positive sexual behavior.

Culturally, young people didn’t used to openly talk about sex or access condoms, Otaru says. But this is changing.

“Access to condom has increased,” she says. “It is no longer a cultural thing.”

Otaru attributes this to outreach and interventions carried out by nongovernmental organizations.

“I think that a lot of people are assertive and a lot of people are having good access to condoms,” she says. “We actually have condom dispenser installed in some of the clubs, hotels where people can access them freely.”

Still, Otaru says that young people need to learn how to negotiate condom use with their partners.

“It is very necessary that you negotiate with your partner in using a condom because it is going to actually save you a lot,” she says. “You should use a condom to protect yourself. If you are not married and you want to engage in sexual activity, then please protect yourself. Protection goes a long way.”

Olaito says that young people need to become aware of their sexual needs, which vary depending on their sexual orientation, their background and their environment.

“Our sexual needs are different,” he says.

Young people’s awareness of their sexual needs enables them to learn about the different options available to them to protect themselves.

“We should be aware of the options available to us as regards preventing HIV and living a sexually responsible life,” Olaito says. “Stick to the option that fits into your lifestyle.”

Ilalokhoin agrees on the need for young people to educate themselves about topics such as sexually transmitted diseases.

“There is a lot of stories about how good condoms are in preventing STDs,” she says. “But I’m yet to see a report that says condom is 100-percent perfect,” Ilalokhoin says.

She also says that young people lack the time to learn how to properly use a condom.

“Before you can get 98-percent safety in condom,” she says, “they say you have to use it correctly and consistently. It means you have to wear it correctly. You have to make sure it does not burst during sexual intercourse, and a recent report says you have to change it after each ejaculation. How many teenagers have the time to do that?”

One of Society for Family Health and the Federal Ministry of Health’s strategies to prevent new HIV infections in Nigeria is to ensure that at least 80 percent of sexually active men and women use condoms consistently and correctly with nonregular partners by 2015, according to the Nigeria 2012 Global AIDS Response Country Progress Report.

Meanwhile, Ilalokhoin advises young people to focus more on activities that will help them to achieve self-realization, such as building strong friendships, rather than having sex.

“There are certain things that if you don’t discover in life, you’ll not be happy,” she says. “And sex cannot do that for you.”

Reporting on health and development in Nigeria with a grant from the International Reporting Project in Washington, D.C.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

No woman should lose her life, giving life… #IRP13

Mrs. Bello has been bleeding since. End of story.

Let's go back to the beginning.

A true-life story is told about a pregnant woman (whom I'll refer to as Mrs. Bello) who did not realize her pregnancy has gone past nine months. It was not until her neighbour offered to introduce her to a local nurse that she realized she was long overdue for labour.

Mrs. Bello is an impoverished petty trader with no adequate finances to access basic medical services.

Nurse T offered to induce labour, using a common method to force the baby out. A few injections. Nothing happened.

Now, everyone was worried: Mrs Bello and her husband, the woman who recommended the nurse, Nurse T.

A scan result shows the foetus (fetus) has changed position. In a lame man's language, he is now sitting down instead of being in the usual upside-down position, perhaps wondering why he is still in his mother's womb.

After a few days, Nurse T offered to take Mrs. Bello to a cheap hospital.

Mr. Bello had to raise funds quickly. But he was unable to raise the amount the hospital requested.

The doctor admitted Mrs. Bello after a series of negotiations. He slashed the hospital bill in half so that they can be attended to--a favor the organization and all concerned would later regret.

No one remembered to ask how qualified this doctor was.

Armed with his instruments, the doctor started operating on Mrs. Bello. But something went wrong. The fetus did not make it out alive. The mother bled. The bleeding did not stop even after the doctor and nurses cleaned her up.

Mrs. Bello's husband goes berserk. He reports the case to the nearest police station. Everyone trades blame. The report of the doctor ranks superior to others. He says the complications were caused by the induction Nurse T used on Mrs. Bello. In a bizarre move, the policemen assigned to the case arrest the neighbour who first recommended the first nurse to Mrs. Bello.

After being released on bail, the woman is asked to pay for all the medical expenses incurred by Mrs. Bello, who just lost her child at birth.

Thankfully, the mother of four is still alive, although in a critical condition.

This is what poverty and lack of information expose pregnant women to every day in this part of the world.

Experts say Nigeria's maternal and child health statistics are some of the worst in the world. As of the end of 2012, the maternal mortality ratio was placed at 1,120 per 100,000 live births.

No woman should lose her life in giving life. No child should lose his or her life at birth!

I agree with Dr. Jimmy Arigbabuwo, who  has said:

"If a pregnant woman undergoes good ante-natal programme, doctors would have identified if her baby will develop complications at birth and they can refer her to the appropriate quarters. We must ensure that no pregnancy is wasted."

Dr. Jimmy Arigbabuwo is the Chairman (Lagos state) of the Association of General and Private Medical Practitioners of Nigeria. He is very optimistic that the alarming rate of incessant maternal and child mortality rate can be curbed with the right medical equipments.

However, what's the use of having a world-class medical facility without well-trained medical practitioners? The best hands, found in government-funded hospitals, are checking out of the country for greener pastures, a new report reveals. They are not happy with the working conditions in Nigeria.

In Nigeria, we are faced with the challenges of poor medical services, lack of skills and some people's unwillingness even to access the services that are available.

The executive director of UNFPA, Babatunde Osotimehin recently tweeted that African leaders have agreed to intensify the fight against maternal death. But how much of these efforts and resources will trickle down to the likes of Mrs. Bello at the bottom of the pyramid?

Government and politicians can change things
Perhaps, while we work at keeping the government leaders accountable, we can also tackle this challenge at different levels.

For example, government leaders at the state and local level can emulate Mr. Daniel Asuquo, who recently committed to financing the treatment of patients in his constituency. Mr. Asuquo is a member of the House of Representative. He represents Akamkpa-Biase Federal Constituency of Cross River State.

But his is an annual event. Maybe others can make such contributions more frequently? Imagine what free monthly antenatal care would do for this generation! Women like Mrs Bello deserve access to such free medical services.

Collaboration is key
NGOs and other stakeholders can collaborate to sponsor medical practitioners on trainings that would improve their skills. An example can be seen in what Kwara State government and UNICEF did recently.

The Punch newspaper reports that in an effort to reduce maternal-child mortality, UNICEF spent about N7m for training and mobilisation of health workers across the 16 LGAs, while the state government spent about N8m. The National Primary Health Care Development Agency supplied the consumables during the Pregnant Women and Child Week that was inaugurated in the state.

Integrity at the clinic
Health care providers in Nigeria need to step up. They should stop toying with the lives of their patients. If they are not qualified to take on a medical case, they should be honest enough to say so and transfer the case to more qualified doctors. They should also seek to improve the quality of paediatric and maternal care offered in their clinics and hospitals. Nurses should desist from corrupt practices, such as hoarding a patient's medications for their own selfish reasons. 

Personal responsibility
The rest of us must take personal responsibility. Nothing will change if no one changes anything. Or what do you think?

This story was first published on

About the author: Jennifer Ehidiamen is a Senior Reporter and Media Trainer at Global Press Institute (GPI). She is reporting on health and development in Nigeria with a grant from the International Reporting Project in Washington, D.C

Sunday, February 03, 2013


Amazing experience! Amazing moments! Amazing people make amazing moments. You can find yours anywhere- most times in the least expected places and least expected times. At the bus stop. At the airport. In a coffee shop. The experience leaves a smile on your face. They come in different shades.

Here is an example:

You are on your way home one evening, and by some divine appointment find yourself standing at the bus-stop with a total stranger. You both find a common ground to share thoughts about current trends and all. You talk about specifics or everything. And you realize, during that short period it is like you both knew each other from Adam. Many times you consciously stop yourself from asking- "have we met before?"

The conversation is totally amazing!

Then you both have to part ways at some point in your journey. His/Her bus arrives.

You say, "It was so nice to meet you..." or "it was great chatting with you...thanks for the insightful thoughts..." adding other good wishes you might have for him or her.

You don't even have to make physical contacts- no handshakes, no hugs. But still the connection is strong. There is a God.

After the person departs you realize, oh! I didn't even collect his/her phone number, or facebook ID, or Twitter handle.

There is no need. Such amazing experience is meant for that moment of amazing-ness. Social networks cannot extend the connection that was only meant to last for the moment.

You might never meet again. But now you have learned the art of being kind to everyone you meet.

Be thankful! Keep the smile on your face. Pass it on.

Have a terrific week!

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Mentors and Protégés : Who is inspiring you(th)??

I had a terrific time interviewing a young lady yesterday, as part of a valentine story I'm currently writing for GPI @pressinstitute.

One of the things that strikes me most about her story (not related to what I'm reporting on) is that she recognizes the impact different individuals made (and are still making) in her life.

Most of these people's impacts is from a distance, she says. Some of them she has never met. But listening to their stories, watching their life, reading their books etc. helped her get started and shaped her vision. Today, this young lady is sure making impact in the lives of others! Talk about the power of positive rippling influence!

I took two things away from her:

1. Live your life so positively in a way that can inspire and impact others around you.

2. Sometimes, it is not about someone coming to take you by the hand and leading you. Take note of good examples, those living examples and emulate! This does not mean copying and living in the shadow. It means allowing their stories give you hope and inspire you to get started and stay strong!

Who is inspiring you?

What is that saying again? It takes a village to raise a child!

I agree!

It takes one, two, or more inspiring lives to shape a youth!

To blaze the trail, you must choose not to tail!

Keep pushing.