Community Health Center Offers Free Services to Vulnerable Children

"Ihemesi" community in Imo State, Nigeria has a single health center that serves nearly 10,000 residents. Malaria, typhoid fever, and malnutrition are common and many caregivers cannot afford to pay for their children to be treated at the health center. Often the health center would turn away children who could not pay.

In June 2011, the PEPFAR-funded, USAID project, Community-Based Support for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (CUBS), initiated a support program for vulnerable children in Ihemesi. Working with a local community-based organization, CUBS facilitated sensitization sessions to teach villagers about the importance of caring for vulnerable children and convinced the health center to provide free care to these children for malaria, typhoid fever, malnutrition and minor ailments.

To improve the quality of care, CUBS trained a focal person for vulnerable children in growth monitoring, health education, HIV testing and counseling, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and basic child care skills.

CUBS' training and advocacy activities have ignited a passion for vulnerable children at the health center. The staff now pay attention to these children and teach community members to bring in children in need of care and support. Since 2011, CUBS and its implementer, Management Sciences for Health, have enrolled 1,106 vulnerable children into the care program. CUBS continues to support these children by paying for their emergency medical care, while the health center has maintained provision of free care and treatment to children suffering from malaria, typhoid, malnutrition, and minor ailments.

Ihemesi’s local leaders are also grateful for the project’s work in their community. "CUBS is really taking care of our children. They are placing children in school, giving them educational materials, and providing free medical treatment," said one of the village chiefs.

To sustain this work, CUBS has integrated training on care for vulnerable children into staff programs at the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development, the Ministry of Health, local government areas, and community organizations.

James Ayodele is a communications consultant for MSH Nigeria. Kate Amaka is an intern with CUBS.

(Note: The name of the community has been changed to protect the staff and beneficiaries' privacy.)