Citizens Tackle Health Disparity in North Nigeria: The Sir Ahmadu Bello Medical Volunteer Scheme

Sir Ahmadu Bello Medical Volunteer Scheme (SABMeVS): Going Back To The Basics

Dr. Kawu Ahidjo Abdulkadiri in Abuja
April 11th, 2012

Sir Ahmadu Bello Medical Volunteer Scheme- The beginning of an innovative health scheme in northern Nigeria to help put smile on the face of the needy. The programme would run in 19 states of the North over the next four years!

In 2000, a group of young medical officers, Kawu Ahidjo Abdulkadiri, Bello Inuwa Anka, Mukthar Ahmed Datti and Mahmud Raji Mahmud all from the northern Nigeria preparing for primaries in surgery at the University College Hospital, Ibadan met in front of the Alexander’s hall to discuss the health problems affecting the people of the north and the underlying social conditions. The discussion was reflective and emotive and at the end we knew the problems, understood the social conditions responsible but we were too young and powerless to do anything to change this situation.

In 1963, the census’ figure put the population of the north at 29,777,986 and the effective budget utilization for health at about 12% of the total budget. Forty three years on, the population was recorded as 73, 619,965, a difference of 43,841,179 that represents a growth of 147.2%. During this period, the effective budget utilization for health became 6% of the total budget representing a 50% drop within the last five decades.

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What this translated to in the north are; maternal mortality= 1,200 deaths/ 100,000 live births (National avg.=545 deaths/100,000 live births), infant mortality= 125 deaths/ 1000 live births (National avg.=75 deaths/ 1000 live births), 5000 new cases of VVF per year from northern Nigeria, life expectancy = 47 years (78% < than average national value), Health facilities utilization: 6% (Average value = 23%), population/ health care practitioner (56% < average value for Nigeria), population/ health facilities (43% < average value for Nigeria).

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Within this ambit of poor planning and stunted infrastructural development, the level of social disconnect in the north assume a frightened dimension; the highest number of young people on drugs, the highest number of children out of school, the highest number of children dropping out of schools, the highest number of child beggars, the highest number of girl-child not progressing to secondary or tertiary education, the highest number of girl-child forced into early marriage, the highest number of women being thrown out of the homes, the highest number of industries going under, the highest number of unemployable youth, the highest number of employable youth out of job and the region with the highest number of inter and intra-community feud!

It is this frightening scenario and the need to improve access to health care delivery system twelve years on amongst these friends that this discussion on the health issues in northern Nigeria was revisited and Sir Ahmadu Bello Medical Volunteer Scheme (SABMeVS) was conceptualized under the auspice of Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation (SAMF).

This scheme would be a forum for health care providers and programmes to serve the indigent population, with a special focus on health delivery programmes using volunteer clinicians, other health care professionals and non-health care professionals. This social responsive based programme would promote and support organized and community-based health care initiatives with one-on-one technical assistance, consulting services, the creation of hands-on tools and provision of free medical service to indigent patients in the northern Nigeria. It would have four components:

  1. Volunteer supported free medical services

  2. Mentoring new generation of health care professional for the northern Nigeria

  3. On-site one-on-one transfer of skills to local health care providers

  4. Serves as emergency response team

Acquiring surgical instrument set for SABMeVS. Medical mission on course distribution to medical centers

This programme would be in phases with the first phase lasting a period of 4 years (2012-2015). This would cover all the 19 states fitted into each year of operation. In each state, a local government is chosen and a programme would last for 7 days. The scheme would enroll volunteers from the northern region in all fields of health care and other fields of human endeavors with provision for volunteers from any willing organizations who share our vision from within and abroad. The health care delivery programme would be based on the health needs of the communities within the programme schedule of the scheme and this would include surgical and conservative care.

Dr. Ahidjo Abdulkadiri Kawu of SABMeVS

The importance of this scheme is to bring free but qualitative health care services to the needy in the remote regions of northern Nigeria, assist to identify areas of critical health need in our communities, help us to identify the relevance of health facilities in the remote areas of northern Nigeria with the hope to develop an advocacy support for change, a vehicle to collaborate with donor agencies to bring qualitative and affordable health care to the grassroots, an avenue to build a database of all the health care issues affecting the northern Nigeria, a basis to establish and nurture a mentorship programme for the health care specialists in the northern Nigeria, help foster healthy bond between brothers and sisters from the northern Nigeria in the health care system, help entrench respect, peace and unity in our region and lastly serve as an emergency response team in case of natural or man-made disasters in the northern Nigeria.

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This project was designed to honour the legacy of Sir Ahmadu Bello Raba and to spur the young people of the north into action with the hope that this action will snow ball into all the region of Nigeria. We are ready to continue and surpass the legacy left behind by this great man whose vision and mission for the north has not been equaled by any person in the last five decades after his death. It is time for action and we are poise for action. We are grateful to the MD/CEO of Sir Ahmadu Bello Memorial Foundation and his team, Dr Shettima Ali PhD, who saw this project and ensure that we got the fund to make it happen.

Today, these friends are now spine surgeon, general surgeons and neurosurgeons whose mission is to make the world a better place for all.


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