Micro-clinics can improve the quality of healthcare in underserved villages and last mile communities in Africa. Growing up as a kid in one of the most remote parts of Cameroon, Elvis Ndansi saw his mom helping hundreds of people at her workplace in a small health center and even at our home. Sometimes at midnight, they will receive knocks on the door of a woman rushing with her baby who is convulsing or someone with a terrible fever or pain and at times they will take go to their residence to help deliver a pregnant woman in labor. His mom was called “Docta” by everyone in this village and he grew up knowing she was a medical doctor.
Elvis saw her sterilize her forceps by burning with alcohol or by boiling in a special pot in their kitchen that was specially made for that purpose. They were told never to use that ‘magical’ pot for anything. She carried out circumcisions and was one of the only healthcare providers who could do this with some sense of medical awareness and infection prevention. She circumcised over 500 kids in her career.
He only grew up to discover that his mother was not even a registered nurse but a nurse aid which is the most basic category of nursing. But the lives she saved and the pregnant women and children who received her care reminds us that we need basic fractures and dedicated nurses and healthcare providers and community health workers to improve healthcare in underserved communities.
Inspired by his mum, Elvis finally studied Nursing in the University. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in nursing and was sent to work in a very remote area compared only to that which he grew up as a kid. This part of the country was a disputed zone between Nigeria and Cameroon with lurking recurrent stories of gunshots, pirates and killings. At the age of 23, with lots of ambitions to further his studies, most of his friends and some family members advise him not to go there. But he knew he had to because he remembered where he came from and how useful his mom was to the people in that community who needed just someone who cared about them.
Elvis decided to go work in the Bakasssi health district he experienced firsthand the suffering of people in last mile communities. As a nurse, he saw firsthand how a woman lost her nine months old baby just because she had to walk long distances to access the nearest healthcare facility which was where he was stationed. Assisting this woman to untie her already dead baby was so painful that he had to pretended the baby was still alive just to permit her get some rest before breaking the news to her. This, so that the tired woman could rest from the laborious journey. As he took the child to emergency room and spent some few moments, he had to break the sad news to this expectant mother. Yes, despite her bravery, the long distance could not permit her save her baby from a simple malaria that could have been treated even at her own neighborhood.
This was the turning point in Elvis’ life. A year later at the age of 24, he decided that he was going to do something to solve the problem of lack of proximity to healthcare services in underserved communities. He reflected on the impact his mom had as a nurse aid treating people even at home. He sold a photocopier that served as his source of income while as in the university for $700 and bought a stethoscope, some few diagnostic tools and a box of medication and took up residence in a community that had no health facility closer to the population. He started providing basic consultations and prescribing essential medications to solve basic health problems like malaria, typhoid fevers, skin rashes, etc . He invited a friend #AnyeLouis whom at that time had just graduated from nursing school and they started working together. A few years later, what they started in a one room space on a small building in Bonamoussadi student residential area in Yaounde had transformed into a micro-clinic.
That is how they co-founded Unite For Health Foundation with the mission to provide access and proximity to basic healthcare services in underserved communities through the opening of micro-clinics.
It is exactly 12 years today and Unite for Health Foundation now has three micro-clinics and has provided healthcare to over 25,000 Cameroonians. They have designed a unique infrastructure of how all the micro-clinics should look like with safer spaces where women can give birth in the hands of skilled health personnel. They have also incorporated the use of digital health technology to provide more quality health services. Their mission is to construct many of these micro-clinics in different parts of Cameroon and across other African countries.
Elvis believes if his mom could do it as a nurse aid, then you and I can do it now that we have become nurses, public health experts, healthcare executives, doctors, laboratory technicians, founders and CEOs.
Let’s Unite for Health of those in underserved communities by providing them access and proximity to healthcare services.