FON FUNDS AT WORK!
Women’s Health Partnership Takes Off with DOVENET
This article by Mimi Budd, (15) 65-67 appeared in the Spring 2018 Newsletter.
Just four months before the scheduled end of DOVENET’s USAID-sponsored funding, the bright yellow and turquoise t-shirts on volunteers from the Abakaliki-based NGO proclaimed the newly created “DOVENET/FON Fistula Initiative Project.” “Rarely, if ever, in FON’s history has a grant been heralded as so central and timely to the program of one of our recipients,” said FON President Greg Jones, describing the $10,000 grant awarded earlier this year to the DOVENET-FON Fistula Project.
“I am deeply grateful to Friends of Nigeria for considering DOVENET for this collaboration,” said Ugo Nnachi, founder and Executive Director of DOVENET. “We are committed to ensuring a rewarding partnership.” She also thanked the EngenderHealth Fistula Care+ Project, the long-term USAID-funded partner that since 2015 has supported many of DOVENET’s activities, unfortunately it is scheduled to end its funding this year.
Since 2005 DOVENET has operated and received funding from a variety of sources, including the World Bank and the Nigerian government. FON’s funding comes at a time when the money can be applied to a vital project central to DOVENET’s mission, Nnachi explained.
The t-shirts echoed the FON-supported “Community Mobilization and Awareness Campaign” and were worn by the volunteers being comprehensively trained in maternal health issues and in the skills needed to raise awareness of fistula prevention and repair, as well as family planning and other health related issues of compelling concern to Nigerian women in Ebonyi State.
Nnachi said the goal of the DOVENET-FON Fistula Project in Ebonyi State is to reach over 50,000 women (and men) in 30 communities in the five Local Government Areas (LGAs) by the end of June. To date 45 volunteers have been trained.
DOVENET team member, Nnenna Aghachukwu Chima,
training volunteers in fistula awareness
Recently DOVENET focused its efforts on early marriage, female genital mutilation and the high teen-age pregnancy rates – all highly cor-related with fistula in Ikwo LGA. DOVENET continues to increase its services in Ebonyi LGA and other Local Government Areas, and Nnachi said, the organization hopes to expand services to neighboring states, where FON could play a supporting role in the future through additional funding. DOVENET has requested an additional $10,000 donation to sustain current services in Ebonyi state. DOVENET’s current annual budget is only $85,512 (NGN 30,760,000).
DOVENET approaches fistula and family planning, as well as other maternal health issues, from several perspectives. They educate families and community members to prevent fistula and they identify and refer women with fistula for treatment by physicians trained in the intricacies of fistula surgical re-pair. Volunteers are a key component of outreach, which includes home visits, town hall meetings, community dialogues in churches and schools, and mentoring sessions.
Before volunteer training sessions began, DOVENET staff visited the five targeted LGAs (Ebonyi, Onicha, Afikpo North, Afikpo South, and Ohaukwu) to enlist the support and cooperation of various traditional leaders, community chiefs, youth leaders, women leaders and health committees. “Buy-in” from local leaders is crucial because of the role these individuals play in encouraging local participation in the programs. “We rely on our community partners to distribute accurate information and to ensure smooth implementation of our programs,” Nnachi noted.
DOVENET helps fistula clients reintegrate into their communities where they often face hardships owing to their condition, which carries significant social stigma. DOVENET collaborates with the appropriate health and welfare officials and with the National Obstetric Fistula Center in Abakaliki, one of the foremost groups working on fistula issues in Nigeria.
Project activities are being monitored and progress will be reported to FON on a regular basis, Nnachi said. San Francisco Bay Area residents Angela Testani, Dick Morton and his wife Madeleine, met with Nnachi in Abakaliki this past February. They were joined by Father Edward Inyanwachi, a former FON board member who previously lived in the Bay Area and is now a priest in Abakaliki. Testani reported that she was favorably impressed with DOVENET operations following discussions, tours and a power point presentation on the history of the organization, its partnership with EngenderHealth, and the pro-grams offered. Testani wrote to FON that one of the major challenges is staff transportation to outlying areas and to bring village women to centers to receive treatment and services. Testani said she expects to provide FON with a status update after she visits Abakaliki in August.
The FON Fistula Initiative Committee continues to explore other partnering options to promote fistula repair and family planning, including the possibility of partnering with Rotary Chapters where FON has members.
FON originally provided funds for fistula care and family planning to EngenderHealth when Margaret Nelson, a friend of FON who expressed a passionate concern for the issue, donated $5,000 (see Fall 2017 FON Newsletter, Vol. 22, No. 1).
Friends of Nigeria is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization.
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Mailing address: Friends of Nigeria, c/o Warren Keller, PO Box 8032, Berkeley, CA 94707