The World Health Organization (WHO) and Borno state Ministry of Health are scaling-up Hard-to-Reach programme (HTR) with training of 36 health workers as part of teams to serve people in prioritized difficult to access areas in six local government areas (LGAs) in Borno State.
According to Dr Abubakar Hassan, Permanent Secretary, Borno State Ministry of Health (SMoH), the 36 trained health workers will constitute six HTR teams and be deployed to Dikwa, Mafa, Kukawa, Gwoza, Mongunu and Ngala LGAs to provide primary care outreach services to 748,991 population in need (PiN) and 289,612 children under five years of age.
“In a state faced with internal conflict and where access to internally displaced persons’(IDPs) and host communities is limited, ensuring that people have life-saving health services can be challenging,” Dr Hassan posited.
He noted that the programme “will boost basic health service delivery for the communities in the face of shortage of health workers, most of whom fled for safety during the heat of crisis while others were either abducted or killed”, Dr Hassan added.
The teams will be deployed to provide primary health care minimum service package that includes: routine immunization, deworming, vitamin A supplementation, nutrition screening and management of malnourished children, antenatal services and counselling for pregnant and nursing mothers on breastfeeding, care of sick children and key hygiene household practices, as well as treatment for minor illnesses and providing assistance for home-based delivery. The services will boost existing services currently provided by the HTR teams.
WHO country office in Nigeria is supporting the Federal Ministry Health to address issues of health inequities in underserved, recently liberated communities of Borno where polio immunity is low and health needs high”, Dr Rex Mpazanje, the acting WHO Country Representative observed.
He explained further that “though access for HTR teams is difficult and risky, the continued cooperation between the state ministry of health with the Civilian Joint Taskforce, the military, local communities, non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies has made it possible to deliver essential health services to populations that are not reachable through fixed health services delivery points,”
Furthermore, Dr Mpazanje added, “the biggest challenge that WHO and other partners face in supporting the SMoH to deliver life-saving health services throughout the state is that of insecurity but the organization and partners remain keen on ensuring that all people in north-eastern Nigeria are reached with basic integrated health services including vaccination.”
HTR teams comprise six health workers trained to deliver outreach basic primary health care services to populations living in difficult to access areas or among the underserved populations. WHO has until now been supporting 18 HTR teams to provide outreach health services to internally displaced or host populations’ hard-to-reach locations five times per week. With this training, the number of HTR teams supported by WHO will now increase to 24.
The HTR programme owes its success to strong commitment by the government of Borno state, and the strong partnership in existence with other health partners. The expansion of the project is in sync with objectives of WHO’s polio and humanitarian programmes of increasing vaccination coverage and saving lives in an acute humanitarian health emergency.