Ali Abba, Making His Father Proud
Working as a Team in Chad
Chad’s capital Ndjamena is home to 700,000 of the country’s 15.8 million people—just 4% of the total population. Yet despite hosting only a fraction of the population, Ndjamena is home to 65% of Chad’s physicians—creating a life-threatening imbalance for the 15 million men, women and children who live in other parts of the country.
Baga Sola, the second-largest town in Chad’s Lake Region, is one of many underserved regions in the country. In this and similar areas, few are able to consistently provide enough food for themselves, and malnutrition remains a leading cause of death in the country.
This perilous situation can be intensified by outbreaks of deadly diseases: 800,000 cases of malaria were reported in 2016, with 44% of cases under the age of five and 9% affecting pregnant women.
A critical shortage of health workers isn’t the only barrier restricting access to healthcare. Poor wages, inadequate working conditions and a lack of transport to remote regions constitute further obstacles in the quest to improve Chad’s healthcare capacity.
International Medical Corps has been supporting communities in Chad since 2004. We initially helped refugees who fled Darfur, a region in Sudan often associated with relentless violence. Today, we save lives and relieve the suffering caused by the Boko Haram crisis, a conflict that started in Nigeria but that has created consequences affecting neighbouring countries such as Chad.
Ali Abba, born and raised in a village two hours from Baga Sola, realised at a young age that he wanted to help address the vast disparities in Chad’s healthcare system. “My father guided me toward that path; he wanted me to save lives”, Ali explains. Today, he works as a nurse at Baga Sola Hospital, a facility located in the Lake Chad Basin, a region where International Medical Corps has been providing assistance since 2012.
After studying nursing for four years in Cameroon, Ali joined one of International Medical Corps’ teams in Chad as a Nutritionist Supervisor at Baga Sola Hospital in 2014. Since then, Ali has been making his father proud. Among other things, he was involved in a project that supported four health centres in and around Baga Sola by providing equipment, pharmaceuticals and—crucially—healthcare professionals, an effort made possible thanks to generous support from the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) and UK Aid Direct.
Though providing trained staff in Chad will enhance the healthcare system, even more, important is what they—together with the local staff—can achieve by working as a team. In addition to his regular responsibilities, Ali trains nurses on the paediatric ward. “They ask me a lot of questions, we discuss a lot. I also ask questions sometimes, and these discussions are very useful. We are always learning from each other,” he says.
Every discussion builds a more effective workforce and a stronger hospital. This strength, however, can only support people in need if they know where to come for help. This is why International Medical Corps also focuses on building community awareness and ensuring that local populations trust the medical assistance they can seek free of charge. Since we began our community awareness activities in the area, the extension of knowledge has already started to reap rewards: “We saw an increase of attendance, thanks to the activities”, Ali explains. “It motivates people to seek treatment at the hospital and clinics. International Medical Corps is doing a great job to heal people here”.
Chad’s health crisis will not be solved with a single intervention. Tackling an issue with so many challenging elements will require both time and dedication. But determined staff like Ali are a crucial step in the right direction. Ali and others like him do so much more than plug an acute gap; they leave a legacy of skills that will benefit generations to come.
Written by Sophie Steele