Dr. Enibokun Orobator is a young Nigerian with a dream to see the Nigerian healthcare system living up fully to its responsibilities, but she is much more than just a girl with a dream, she is a woman on a mission.
Enibokun set her sights on the very vulnerable population of Nigerian pregnant women and children, and is doing the much she can to fight against maternal mortality and preventable childhood diseases.
The young lady who first observed the urgent need for medical interventions in Nigeria’s rural areas explains that her personal experience of working in a community where pregnant women and young children died of preventable causes prompted her to gather a team of her contemporaries and set off on a mission to educate residents on the need for adequate ante-natal and post-natal care for pregnant women as well as the need to take sick children to the hospital in order to prevent minor illnesses from getting to critical stages.
Her journey into health advocacy started in 2015 when she and her team set out to educate villagers in Delta state on issues such as the use of insecticide treated mosquito nets to prevent malaria, proper child nutrition, timely and regular immunization and the need to seek out qualified healthcare providers to prevent avoidable complications during pregnancy.
Describing how their efforts brought about some behaviour change within the communities involved she explains; “Although interventions take a while to show their full effects, we did begin to see mothers come in at 5 O’clock of the same day to say, oh, my child has had a fever since morning as against the former habit of showing up three days later when the child is no longer responding, sometimes not even speaking. They are now able to notice the symptoms of disease much earlier than before and come in at such a time where interventions can still make a difference.”
Enibokun who is trained on community interventions and advocacy put her knowledge to work in getting her message across to the villagers by partnering with the local chiefs who helped ensure that the villagers were available to listen to the team of healthcare professionals. They also gathered the support of market leaders to ensure that all possible avenues of reaching pregnant women and mothers were covered.
In addition to their on ground presence in the villages to share knowledge and answer questions, the team also set up the OMOMI mobile app which is open to pregnant women, provides them with healthcare tips and helps them to follow the development of their child in the womb. The mobile application also provides health care tips for parents with young children.
Dr. Enibokun was motivated throughout the tasking process by the knowledge that she and her team were helping to save the lives of women and children from illnesses that are largely preventable and treatable. “Illnesses such as malaria, malnutrition and cholera too often claim the lives of children who are less than four years of age,” she explains.
Facing challenges such as superstitions and unsafe cultural beliefs, Enibokun and her colleagues found themselves working to debunk misconceptions such as the belief that women must not deliver through Ceaserian Section. Equally as urgent was the need to emphasize the danger of patronizing the popularly used local birthing centers, which are powerless to handle complications during birth, instead of qualified medical personnel.
The active young lady not only plans and executes these healthcare interventions, she also partners with other organisations and participates in varied humanitarian activities during her free time from her busy job as a doctor.
Dr. Orobator hopes to see the initiative replicated across the country. It has so far been conducted in Delta state and Ogun state and she is currently working with partners to conduct an outreach in lagos.
On the national front, she hopes that efforts will be made across all local governments in Nigeria to see that health centres and hospitals are renovated and adequately staffed and equipped.
“If we can put these things in place, then we can begin to change the healthcare behaviour of individuals in these communities. Outreaches are a short term measure”, she continues, “What we need is for people to go to the hospitals and get good healthcare”, she concludes.
Dr. Enibokun Orobator is a fellow of the Young African Leaders Initiative. she describes her YALI experience as inspirational and very educational. In the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, she advises budding humanitarians to “hold on to their passion”.
*The OMOMI mobile app is currently available for download on the mobile app store.