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Jahun, Nigeria: “Women don’t have access to good health care”

12 Dec 2016

Samuel Uduma is an Operating Theatre Supervisor in the Médecins Sans Frontières run maternity department of the Jahun hospital. The hospital offers the combination of emergency obstetrics and newborn care. 

“Every day I wake up and feel so happy that I work for MSF,” said Samuel Uduma, the Operating Theatre (OT) Supervisor for Médecins Sans Frontières in Jahun, Nigeria.  It is a fairly common sentiment among the national staff in Jahun, staff that have seen Médecins Sans Frontières in their country for decades and staff that deeply understand why. “A lot of things happened during the war [Biafran War 1967–1970]. I was not born yet, it was a long time ago. I read some books on the part MSF played. We discussed NGOs when I was studying. From there I really loved to work with NGOs.” Samuel first came to Médecins Sans Frontières in 2012 and now works with Médecins Sans Frontières in Jigawa state. 

"That need is skilled and comprehensive care for mother and baby around the time of birth, when their lives are most at risk; and for the disabling outcome known as VVF, or vesicovaginal fistula"

Samuel’s department consists of two units, the Operating Theatre and the Sterilisation Unit. His team includes the OT nurses, the sterilising technicians, nurse anaesthetists, and the hygiene officers. All are required for a significant need that stems from a lack of access to affordable and/or accessible health care. That need is skilled and comprehensive care for mother and baby around the time of birth, when their lives are most at risk; and for the disabling outcome known as VVF, or vesicovaginal fistula. “If you want to stop fistulas you have to provide good health care. Women don’t have access to good health care. When they are pregnant or go into labour, they don’t have access to health care where they can be helped in case they are not able to deliver on their own. So, because of this, they’re going to labour, staying for so long a time and having prolonged labour, obstruction of labour and this leads to fistula,” Samuel said. 

“We do surgeries and also providing health care so those that are poor, pregnant or in labour can get good health care. So we are preventing it, and also treating it. It’s a two way thing. That’s the main need here.” Understandably, the project’s reputation has spread widely and Médecins Sans Frontières now sees approximately 1,000 women every month. Women come from as far away as the capital Abuja to the south, or cross over from conflict-ridden Borno state to the east, Kano state to the west or from neighbouring countries like Niger to the north. The reasons, according to Samuel, are simple: “They know here they can get, first, free health care. Second, they trust what we give them. They trust our management; they know that MSF adheres to international standards,” he said.

“During my training, before I was accredited as a nurse, it was my dream to work for MSF. I wanted to work in that environment where we would do things the way it’s supposed to be done. I’ve trained in other hospitals and you couldn’t find gloves, you couldn’t find the supplies you needed to work…small things. I longed to practise the right way. Also personally I have a mission to leave the world a better place. It’s a personal dream, a personal mission. Every day I wake up and come to work, I feel so fulfilled. I’m able to help people every day. I’m able to put smiles on people’s faces, able to give hope to people who are hopeless. It gives me a lot of joy to work with MSF.”


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