In January 2012, history was made in the remote Nongov [pronounced 'Non-goo] community, located in Buruku Local Government Area of Benue State, Nigeria when over two hundred members of the Nigeria Christian Corpers’ Fellowship (NCCF), Benue State Chapter, paid a two-day visit on what they fondly call “Rural Rugged” evangelism outreach. Beyond sharing their faith and praying with the people, they provided social services to the villagers by bathing the children, giving the men and boys clean haircut, plaiting beautiful hairstyles for the women and girls, distributing relief materials, and providing medical services, amongst others. Most of these services, as basic and necessary as they should be, are actually luxury to the people of Nongov.
It all started when in November 2011, Oyediran Igbagbosanmi Israel, the State Evangelism Secretary then, visited the village on a survey for the next rural evangelism outreach. According to the community head’s son, Dev Israel, Igbagbosanmi was the first Corps member to step onto the land. January 13-15, 2012 was the chosen as time out for the fulfillment of the core vision of the NCCF and the impact was tremendous as the villagers came out en masse to meet with the August visitors – the Christian Corps members. When it was time for the visitors to leave, the people of the community continued to implore the Corps members to pay follow-up visits to the community, and help plead their case for development wherever they could.
The Nongov Community
The Nongov community is a collection of several scattered hamlets and villages with a population of over 10,000 adults and children, over eighty percent of whom live in rounded huts, popularly called “Channel O”, after their rounded shape. Majority of the indigenes are farmers and there is no form of electrification, even though electric cables pass through the community to supply power to other communities. The local primary school, built in the early sixties (according to one of the community Chiefs) had been abandoned for lack of facilities and staff, and most children attended classes, clustered in a group of 150 students per open hut, under the sun and in the rain. 37-year old Martin Agen, a native and missionary, is the sole teacher of over 450 children and he has done this since 2009, hardly charging school fee. He complains that he has had to send some children home because their parents could not provide (money for) writing materials for their wards, especially a pen which costs less than thirty naira (0.3 USD). There is no secondary school in the community and the knowledge gap between the average Primary 1 student and another in Primary 6 is mostly infinitesimal.
Igbagbosanmi would later return to erect a block of three classrooms with locally available materials and labour. Armed with a passion for positive change and impact, and a training in the Family Life and Community Reorientation (FACOR) programme under the umbrella of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) Community Development Service group, he erected a block of three classrooms, including a toilet facility and a motorized well in order to steer the community towards achieving universal education, amongst other MDGs. Since then, a few Corps members have found their way back to the hitherto ‘forgotten’ land to make some contribution by volunteering to teach for a few weeks. Another block of three classrooms is being completed by Ms. Evelyn another Corps member.
The Case for a Primary Health Centre
Health care is a dire need in Nongov. When most people fall sick, they use herbs because they cannot afford to go to the clinic or the hospital. The nearest primary health centre is in Tofi, nine (9) kilometres away from Nongov, whilst the nearest health post at Mbatera, which is now dilapidated, was built in 1991 and is over three kilometres away from the village. Grossly understaffed (it has not more than three experienced staff on duty), bereft of required drugs and other medication, and located across a river, the old health post is not easily accessible to the villagers. Though it is culturally acceptable for the women to deliver in the hospital, “We do suffer. Even our women, they still producing the young ones for banana leaves. We have so many sickness; like fever, typhoid, hepatitis and so on,” says Chief Moses Awua, the Zaki, who is next in line to Dev Poor, the community head. Often times, it is either they cannot afford it, or they do not have the means of transportation to the nearest hospital/health centre. According to Mr. Chizoba Okeke, a Medical Laboratory Scientist, a former member of the NCCF who was on the medical team in January says, “Owing to the absence of a health facility and trained medical personnel coupled with a high level of poverty, poor standard of living and absence of basic amenities, the community is bedeviled with a lot of health challenges, including malaria fever, which can be attributed to non-availability of Insecticide Treated mosquito Nets (ITNs), ditches with capacity to hold stagnant water that form breeding grounds for mosquitoes and thatch houses with inadequate windows and doors.” Other common health concerns include Urinary Tract Infections, Pelvic Inflammatory Diseases (PID), Hepatitis-B virus infection, typhoid fever, dermatophytosis (ringworm) – especially affecting the scalp (Tinea capitis), and parasitic worm infestation. He adds, “Cases of stomach ulcer, as well as diabetes mellitus, were also observed in the elderly people.”
A Stitch in Time: Here’s How You Can Help!
From the foregoing, it is no gainsaying that there is an urgent need for a sustainable healthcare programme for the 10,000 plus people of the Nongov Community, Buruku Local Government Area, Benue State. I decided to advocate for this and met with the community head in February 2012, and he was delighted to hear about the Nongov Community Primary Health Centre Project. Since then a lot of research and consultations have been carried out. In the short term, the Nongov Primary Health Centre Project involves: awareness creation about healthy living and hygienic practices, and provision of medical/health supplies; mobilization of community and external support to build and equip a 10-room primary health centre in Gbeji Village, Nongov Community; training of ten (10) local community health workers who would implement community health education and enlightenment, pay house-to-house visits, and support specialist/medical staff in administering basic health education and treatment, preventing and controlling locally endemic diseases, and treatment of common diseases using appropriate technology; facilitating two community dialogue and value reorientation sessions with the Nongov Community people on the MDGs and sustainability of the health centre project; and constitution of a hospital management board which would comprise some of respected and trusted (youth) leaders of the community, the resident medical doctor, a local government health official, as well as a state ministry of health official who would ensure proper management and maintenance of the health centre.
In the middle to long-term the following objectives would be pursued: establishment of a community trust fund which would be used to obtain funds from individual/private donors, government and international agencies for sustainable development in the community; facilitation of a health insurance scheme to enable community members, who are largely farmers, to be fully involved in committing financially to the growth and sustainability of the primary health programme/project; and provision of an ambulance for emergency transfer of patients with major health challenges to the nearest specialist hospital for proper care/treatment/surgery.
You can contribute to the success of this project by donating cement blocks. 3,200 pieces of 6-inch blocks and 1,800 pieces of 9-inch blocks are required to complete the building. When you donate a thousand naira, you give eleven 6-inch blocks or eight 9-inch blocks towards guaranteeing accessible and affordable healthcare for the people of Nongov.
For further details about the project, click to download a PDF copy of The Nongov Community Primary Health Centre Project_ May 2012_ final_ by Gbenga Awomodu.
Below are the account details:
Account Name: AWOMODU Olugbenga Akinsanya
Account Number: 0061802372
N.B: This is a project-specific account. Every donation will be acknowledged and duly accounted for. Kindly help share this post within your networks, both online and offline. For further enquiries concerning the project, kindly call 0803 335 4965 or 0802 582 0901, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. From Saturday 12th May 2012, there will be weekly updates on the progress of the project on http://thenongovproject.wordpress.com and responses to Frequently Asked Questions about the project. Kindly ask any questions below and I will attempt to answer them all. Thanks!
Photo credit: NCCF Benue, Gbenga Awomodu, Oyediran Igbagbosanmi
Gbenga Awomodu is a Batch B (2011/2012) NYSC member serving at the Ministry of Commerce and Industries, Makurdi, Benue State. Also an editorial assistant with BellNaija.com, Africa’s foremost fashion, entertainment and lifestyle blog, where he interviews some of Nigeria’s best young minds, writes a bi-monthly column “On Becoming a Man” and other insightful posts. He has served as the transitional Music Director of the Nigeria Christian Corpers’ Fellowship, Benue State Chapter, and is passionate about driving positive change through advocacy and implementation of social development projects. Follow him on Twitter: @gbengaawomodu | Gbenga’s Notebook: www.gbengaawomodu.com | Facebook Page: Gbenga Awomodu