Thanks to our partners and volunteers, and of course the local people of Guzape district, Asokoro Extension, Abuja, our World Humanitarian Day commemoration activities were a huge success. The main events were health education, health promotion and mass screening, with a focus on non-communicable and communicable disease prevention. Increasingly, the contribution of non-communicable diseases to morbidity and mortality in sub-Saharan Africa is being rightly recognised. Diabetes and hypertension are particularly notorious as silent stealers of health, as their signs and symptoms may go unnoticed till irreparable damage is done to "target' organs i.e. the brain, eyes, heart and kidneys or till catastrophic events such as strokes occur in the case of hypertension. Fortunately, both conditions are cheap and easy to diagnose and their complications are preventable and treatable; we just need a concerted effort to educate people on what to do and how to take charge of their health.
The major communicable viral infections i.e. HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C tend to receive more attention but are still widely shrouded in mystery among many indigenous populations in Nigeria. Unsurprisingly, very little is known in rural communities about prevention, symptoms, disease course and transmission interruption. A much less known fact is that these viral infections predispose to certain cancers if undiagnosed and untreated. On the bright side, if diagnosed and treated early, people could go on to live very healthy and happy lives. At The Maria-Nina Foundation, we recognise the relationship between poverty and disease outcomes and are passionate about breaking this cycle.
The Maria-Nina Foundation conducted mass screening events for diabetes, hypertension, HIV and hepatitis B and C, starting on August 18, 2019. More than 200 individuals were screened over three days. Several individuals were diagnosed with diabetes and hypertension and had the opportunity to benefit from free medical doctor consultations. One of our partner organisations, Pathway Impact Foundation supported us by providing free hepatitis B and C screening for 96 people, as well as free Hepatitis B vaccinations for 50 people. Apart from lifestyle advice for modification, a few people required immediate commencement on medications for hypertension and diabetes. A much smaller number, as expected, tested positive for hepatitis B and HIV and were referred onward to specialist centres. One young lady was given a health scholarship to enable her receive treatment for hepatitis B at the National Hospital Abuja. It is our aim that as we grow, that more people of minimal means will get support (health scholarships) for their treatment which is often expensive and protracted over several years.
On a lighter and much more celebratory note, The Maria-Nina Foundation awarded a local woman, Mrs Jummai J. Gainako the "Woman Humanitarian of the Year" for her contribution to the Guzape community. She has been instrumental to supporting local children through school, from what she earns from her small-scale business activities. Although she has no formal education herself, she values education and believes in investing in future generations. She is a shining example of who and what a humanitarian is, and proof that one does not need to have in abundance to render assistance to others. The foundation will support her and others like her in the community.
Finally, we have left a community health post open at Guzape. The need for this facility was stark and it could not have come at a better time. We are currently looking for doctors and nurses to volunteer a few hours here. It is a perfect place to practice community and tropical medicine, but much more, it offers the satisfaction of having helped another person.