2017 will no doubt be a memorable year for a great number of people for varying reasons. For the good people of Adamawa state, there is no doubt that Society for Family Health will certainly ring a bell in everybody’s mind over the next three years. This is because over 2.4 million nets (which can protect from malaria for over 3 years) are about to be distributed for free in Adamawa by Society for Family Health on behalf of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM). This is a feat considered practically impossible to implement (hitch-free) by many quarters as a consequence of the insurgency that ravaged the region, hence the last net campaign was conducted over seven years ago-early 2010 to be precise where about 1,420,760 nets were distributed. A partnership of Roll Back Malaria gladiators supported by GF and Presidents Malaria Initiative (PMI) through USAID are now determined to reach every household in Adamawa with a net through meticulous planning. CRS are the principal recipients of the grant while SFH, renowned for delivering superior performance, laid the foundation of implementation excellence. Chemonics bring to the table supply chain management prowess. National Malaria Elimination Program of the Federal Ministry of Health are providing technical oversight while the State government through the State Ministry of Health are taking keen ownership of the intervention and leaning their support no holds barred.
North East Nigeria is a Complex Operating Environment- no doubt about that. Challenges are enormous. Success in this replacement campaign will not only touch the lives of the estimated 4 million populations, but will demonstrate to the world that where there is goodwill there is a way. It can be used as a model to implement in other crisis ravaged region. This is evidenced by the fact that an International Red Cross consultant flew to Nigeria just to witness firsthand and interact with the implementation team on how they are succeeding in such a complex environment. This is despite the fact that the Red Cross themselves have a strong presence in Adamawa.
Besides Insurgency, a number of variables affect the malaria dynamics here- ample breeding sites for mosquitoes, climatic temperatures that soar above 40 degrees Centigrade forcing people to sleep outdoors, hard to reach terrains with very bad road network, poverty, scattered settlements over large land masses, Internally Displaced Persons, over 25 distinct tribes/cultures, lingering mistrust from present and past mass interventions etc.
Everyone is a stakeholder in the RBM initiative and the campaign team engaged the state stakeholders very early in the process which paid off in terms of commitment and trust due to the fact that SFH is always very open to lay her cards on the table. Microplanning was conducted early July while the inauguration of the State LCCN (LLIN Campaign Coordinating Network) took place at College of Nursing Yola on 14th July, 2017. The Microplanning outcome showed that a population increase was indeed to be expected, but operating in a complex environment leaves a large margin of uncertainty that can present as complicated realities.
All the three work streams (Demand Creation, Technical and Logistics) swung into action sequel to the nets, campaign materials and campaign implementation team arriving the state. Trucks conveying the nets arrived in tranches transported in containers with security seals. These nets, valued at over 2.2 billion naira were received by SFH and the State and professionally stacked in warehouses with adequate security provisions. Nothing is taken for granted.
Take a moment. Let the gargantuan nature of this exercise sink in. WELL OVER 14,000 personnel are currently deployed on the campaign! Yes, we mean business when we say that this is an exercise meant to saturate the state and touch the lives of every household. Series of trainings and orientations were organized to build the capacity of these personnel to function optimally.
Demand needs to be created for the nets. All effort would be futile if spending billions to place commodities within reach only for people to reject them. Demand creation took the lead to ensure that Advocacies were paid to every quarters. Sensitization messages were disseminated via religious bodies. TV and radio jingles are being aired on all local stations in English, Hausa and Fulfulde. The Press are fully carried along each step of the process, hence there is adequate documentation and reporting, on-line, in print as well as electronic media. 452 town announcers were oriented and deployed with megaphones into communities disseminating key messages. Civil Society Organizations were also engaged to conduct community mobilization activities in every ward of the state. 6443 Household Mobilizers are moving house-to-house placing net cards and re-enforcing key messages with the obvious advantage of feedback from beneficiaries.
Community response to the Demand created was so overwhelming that demand surpassed supply. The ever pro-active campaign manager John Ocholi supported by his Director Ernest Nwokolo, swung into action and secured an additional 150,000 nets to save the day.
History will not close the curtains on 2017 before every household in Adamawa is able to protect itself from Malaria using LLINs. In the words of the Deputy Governor, Eng. Martins Nasir Babale, who is the net ambassador, “When everybody sleeps inside the net, everybody benefits.”
By: Simeon Onimisi Ibvori
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