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Bauchi: MSF’s sure steps caring for the needy

By Anthony Maliki

Though it’s about eight hours, 21 minutes by road from Abuja-Nigeria’s capital city to Ganjuwa Local Government Area in Bauchi State- the operation base of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) – the hearts and minds of its personnel are deeply embedded at improving the health of locals from its facilities at Kafin Madaki, Kafin Liman and Miya.

From the baritone voice of Adam Ousmane N’gari, MSF’s Head of Mission, Operation Center, Geneva, there is the feeling of care and passion for the job to be done and successfully too.

Adam Ousmane N’gari, Head of Mission, MSF, Geneva

From the well-laid out offices in Abuja, one can feel the inner heat in the pulse of N’gari on whose shoulders the successes of the operations rests.

He told Apex News Exclusive that following the closure of their facility in Borno State, MSF started intervention in Bauchi in July 2022 with the design of the project in collaboration with the Bauchi State Ministry of Health.

He said this led to the opening of its regular projects of Intensive Therapeutic Feeding Centre and Pediatric Units in Kafin Madaki, the local government headquarters, Kafin Liman and Miya. “We have good collaboration because the project was designed to have staff of Ministry of Health and staff of MSF to live together and conduct the project. So, the aim is after MSF exit, at least staff of the Ministry of Health will have the capacity to conduct malnutrition activities and so on. This is the first aim and one of the components of the project,” N’gari explained.

He said MSF is having health workers doing health promotion activities at the community level to teach the communities, to educate them on tackling cases of malnutrition.

Dr. Thierry Boyom, MSF Medical Coordinator

Zuwaira, 25, lays beside her son, Abubakar, 2, who is having a blood transfusion at MSF’s facility in Ganjuwa

N’gari, however, pointed out that, “It is not that Nigeria is lacking food, but we want to teach them how to mix the food and so on and we have what we call ‘Food demonstration’ at the community level bringing some little items together and to guide them on how to do it. It is part of the education.”

The Head of Mission noted that MSF can’t handle awareness at the community level alone but needed the contribution of the population as well as those of other partners to solve the issues.

On relationships with traditional medicine healers, he said they are part of MSF’s networking system in Bauchi. “I remember in 2023, when we have our first intervention on Lassa Fever, it was really difficult, we know that now if you are sick in Africa the first place to go is the traditional healers and after, modern medicine, so we had a workshop, kind of, with them and call like two local governments, they came to Bauchi with the Ministry of Health shared our experience and to reinforce our collaboration,” he said.

MSF health promoters educating the people of Kadale village on how to keep children well-nourished

According the him, in Bauchi, the organization has good relationship between the traditional rulers, traditional leaders, Ministry of Health and MSF.

He stressed that what is going on in Bauchi is like a tripartite collaboration and are not really neglecting any section of the society. “Ministry of Health recognizes international medicine as part of the health system so that’s why we want to have good collaboration and we are having this in Bauchi and we are doing everything together,” the Head of Mission noted.

N’gari however expressed concern that since MSF’s intervention in Bauchi in 2022, humanitarian response has been very low.

He said despite being part of the north east, when it comes to humanitarian response, Bauchi State is kind of neglected because only considering Borno, Adamawa and Yobe states are mainly considered for assistance.

The Head of Mission appealed to governments and other humanitarian organisations to always consider Bauchi in their activities.

“With the activities that we are doing in hospitals, we have serious issues in Ganjuwa because there are increasing cases of malnutrition year after year and we don’t have any support. What MSF is doing is alone and is responding to all these situations and it is really difficult and we are calling on the humanitarian actors to reconsider this narrative and to consider Bauchi in their portfolio. The situation is really worrisome and Bauchi needs more in terms of humanitarian response,” N’gari pleaded.

MSF Medical Coordinator, Dr. Thiery Boyom, also added that as much as possible the organization tried to maintain good contacts with the traditional healers so that during outbreaks interventions can be easy.

He told Apex News Exclusive that whether it is diphtheria or Lassa Fever outbreaks, MSF have trained community people to identify early symptoms.

He explained that “we observe during the period of the outbreak that they were doing a kind of referrals to the Hospital for the management of those patients. Also, during the vaccinations especially measles vaccinations, they were involved in the raising awareness in the communities.”

According to him, in Bauchi, there is a bit resistance from the communities during vaccinations but things are lot better now with collaborations with traditional healers and some key mothers in the communities like who can stand and talk to women to bring their children to be vaccinated.

Sara Bechstein, MSF Humanitarian Affairs Officer

On areas of intervention in Bauchi State, Boyom stated that MSF’s main centre, a secondary health facility, is based in Kafin Madaki where there is a General Hospital run by the Bauchi State Ministry of Health.

“We are in charge of the pediatrics unit in collaboration with the Ministry of Health where we focus on the management of children from 15 years below. We do the hospitalization of pediatrics and also the management of children on malnutrition and severe medical complications,” the Medical Coordinator explained.

He pointed out that in 2023, at Kafin Madaki, MSF admitted around 8,000 malnourished children with severe medical complications and about the same figure for other pediatric cases like malaria and preliminary infections.

“In Kafin Madaki, we have Ambulatory Treatment Centre for malnutrition as well as in Miya and Kafin Liman. It is only those with severe cases that we need to hospitalize because of internal heavy treatment with milk,” he noted.

Boyom said other less severe malnourished cases and more stable are given plumbing paste with milk and peanuts.The Medical Coordinator said there was an assessment in 2023 in Toro Local Government where MSF found a high number of malnourished children and quickly intervened in collaboration with the Ministry of Health by setting up two ambulatory treatment centres for where about 700 patients were admitted.

He lamented that lack of vaccination came with diseases preventable by vaccination, like diphtheria.

Boyom said: “We have diphtheria intervention in Bauchi last year and we managed around 500 cases of diphtheria in Ganjuwa Local Government and then we had Lassa Fever which is becoming more and more endemic. We did Lassa Fever intervention in collaboration with Ministry of Health in Abubakar Tafawa Balewa Teaching Hospital (ATBTH), Bauchi where the treatment centre is and we managed like 300 suspected cases and 99 confirmed cases in the treatment centre.”

Besides, the Medical Coordinator noted that MSF supports also the Ministry of Health when they do vaccination campaigns and are preparing for the sessional malaria period with the onset of the rainy season, when prevalence of malaria is high.

With MSF intervention and dire need of the communities, no doubt, huge assistance is required in the area of humanitarian engagements by all concerned. Sara Bechstein, MSF Humanitarian Officer said even though she hasn’t been long since she reported in Nigeria, the situation in Bauchi needs holistic intervention.

(Photos courtesy of MSF)

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