Voices From The Field: Erika In Maiduguri, Nigeria

As the Project Officer for Doctors of the World USA I recently traveled to Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state, in northeast Nigeria to support our team as they roll out their Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) grant which is focused on providing healthcare services to internally displaced persons (IDPs) and host communities.

Seven years have passed since the beginning of the violent armed conflict between the US-designated terrorist group known as Boko Haram and the Nigerian government. The conflict has resulted in widespread displacement, violations of international humanitarian law, thousands of civilian casualties, and a growing humanitarian crisis. With attacks occurring on a regular basis, the crisis is directly affecting more than 8.5 million people in Borno, Adamawa, and Yobe states.

Maiduguri and the surrounding area has received more than 1 million IDPs, overwhelming the local infrastructure and basic services.

 

MdM is working hard to provide these IDPs with access to medical care and health services. One of the highlights of my time here was visiting our clinics, meeting our local staff, and talking with our patients. The MdM facilities support both the IDP and the host community populations, with all patients receiving free healthcare and medicine. This is especially valuable for displaced people as they are often far from home with very little disposable income.

By mid-morning in Maiduguri it’s already 100◦F, and the temperature continues to climb throughout the day. To combat the heat, each health facility has multiple rechargeable fans to move the hot air around. It doesn’t necessarily keep the patients (or staff) cool, but it helps to at least move the air. Staff have been teasing me because I’ve had some challenges acclimatizing to the heat and therefore carry a fan with me throughout the office!

Each clinic starts the day with a health information session run by our community mobilizers – topics such as malaria prevention, the importance of pre-natal visits, etc., are discussed with the patients as the health workers prepare for the day.

From the time they start seeing patients to the time the clinic closes, the health workers are non-stop – our clinics see roughly 100-150 patients a day.

 

The MdM office has two cats – Fatso and Pompom. These cats have free reign of the office and bring smiles to the health workers and staff, providing their “humans” with a reprieve from their daily challenges. And they are fascinated by the oscillation of fans!

The MdM team is working in a unique environment, but despite all of the challenges they come to work every day with enthusiasm and energy, excited to do their part for the local community. I am so glad that I came to Maiduguri and had the opportunity to meet our team here. I haven’t even left yet and I’m already looking forward to my next trip.

For the latest information on the crisis in Nigeria and other parts of Africa, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or sign up for updates.