One great thing about going for conferences is the fascinating people you meet. One such person I met at the last International Conference on AIDS in Vienna was Dr Babatunde Fakunle, the Regional Community Health Manager of The Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) of Nigeria. Tunde took me through the work he is doing for Shell in the communities they work in, mostly in the Niger Delta. I have not been privy to these projects, but the passion with which Tunde spoke about his work and the involvement of the host communities in driving this was infectious. I ended up spending several hours with him, exploring how Shell and corporate Nigeria can partner with government and non-governmental organisations to engage with the health sector in Nigeria. We lamented together about the poor leadership in the public health sector and the lost opportunities after 50 years of nationhood.
In the midst of all the negative stories coming out of our health sector, I stumbled upon this story, on the website of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) titled – NACA and SPDC Sign NiDAR INiger Delta AIDS Response Project) Plus MoU. I thought this must be Tunde!
The SPDC of Nigeria Ltd and Family Health International (FHI) had signed an agreement to extend their NiDAR to 10 more hospitals bringing it to a total of 15 supported hospitals in Bayelsa, Delta, Edo, Rivers and Abia states. At the signing ceremony were the Managing Director of SPDC and Country Chair, Shell Nigeria Mutiu Sunmonu, as well as the acting Country Director of FHI Dr. Robert Chiegli, and the Director General of NACA, Prof. John Idoko.
They all talked about the success of the model. So I wrote to Tunde, asking what his model was ?
Tunde wrote back saying…
“The NiDAR Plus project approach places communities in the driver’s seat, which will encourage government institutions, NGOs, and other services providers to build capacities in primary health care including the formation of partnerships and supportive networks.” The extended programme, known as NiDAR Plus will include Malaria control and Child Survival services. It will also strengthen the health care system and infrastructure in the Niger Delta, and help to improve collaboration among public and private sector stakeholders on health issues. Through the new programme, SPDC and FHI also hope to increase awareness about HIV/AIDS, maternal, neonatal and child health services, especially among people living with HIV, families and community members. SPDC is contributing funds and logistics, security and transportation support and medical staff supervision while FHI provides expertise. The two establishments are working closely with NACA and the various State Agency for Control of AIDS to deliver the programme. NiDAR Plus will run for two years.
Ah How I would love to spend a few days around the creeks in the Delta. I remembered the days I would drive from Owerri to Port Harcout for the slightest of reasons. The days spent hanging out at the House Officers quarters of UPTH (University of Port Harcourt). Those good old days. Now the thought of either Owerri or Port Harcourt fills one with trepidation. How have we allowed this to happen to our country?
Reflecting on our discussions, my lesson is that we must get beyond the divide between the public, NGO and private sectors and find innovative mechanisms to bring them altogether to work in the best interest of our people. We need the oversight of the public sector, the compassion and drive of NGO folk and the innovation and management capacity in the private sector. I submit that it is our inability to bring these areas of expertise together that has led to the stagnation in the health sector.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead