Introducing the Nongov Development Project – Let’s Change the World, One Community at a Time!

Today, I introduce a project I have been working on for a while now for which I need as much support as I can get to actualize and bring succor to the target beneficiaries. It involves the establishment of a primary health centre in the short-to-middle term, while hopefully in the long term, people of the community would have structures in place to grant them opportunities to earn enough to drive further sustainable development and elevate their socio-economic status and general wellbeing.

PROJECT TITLE: Establishment of a Primary Health Centre at Nongov community, Buruku L.G.A., Benue State

PROJECT GOALS & OBJECTIVES: In the short term, the following goals are being targeted: 1. Create awareness about healthy living and hygienic practices, and provide medical/health supplies for the people of Nongov Village, in Buruku L.G.A., Benue State 2. Mobilise community and external support to build a 10-room primary health centre in Nongov Village, Buruku L.G.A., Benue State 3. Equip the primary health centre with relevant furniture, health education aids, and laboratory items/kits 4. Train ten (10) local community health workers to support specialist/medical staff in administering basic health education and treatment, preventing and controlling locally endemic diseases, and treatment of common diseases using appropriate technology 5. Facilitate two community dialogue and value reorientation sessions with the Nongov Community people on the MDGs and sustainability of the health centre project 6. Constitute a hospital management board which would comprise some of the respected and trusted youth leaders of the community, the resident medical doctor, a local government health official, as well as a state ministry of health official who would ensure proper management and maintenance of the health centre

In view of middle to long term projections for sustainability of the project, the following objective would also be considered:

1. Establish a community trust fund which would be used to raise funds from the community, private donors, government and international agencies for sustainable development in the community 2. Facilitate an insurance scheme to enable community members, who are largely farmers, to be fully involved in committing financially to the growth and sustainability of the primary health programme/project, especially in sustaining drug supply 3. Provide an ambulance for emergency transfer of patients with major health challenges to the nearest specialist hospital for proper care/treatment/surgery

PROJECT BENEFICIARIES: The primary beneficiaries of this project are the residents of Nongov Village in Buruku Local Government Area of Benue State.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE NONGOV COMMUNITY: Nongov [pronounced ˡNun-goo] is an interior community in Buruku Local Government Area of Benue State, about 150km from Makurdi, the state capital. Located at least 6 kilometres from the main road and under the Mbaade Local Council Ward, the Nongov kindred comprise approximately 10,000 adults and children. The nearest primary health centre is in Tofi, nine (9) kilometres away from Nongov, whilst the nearest health post at Mbatera, which is now dilapidated, was built in 1991 and is over three kilometres away from the village. Grossly understaffed (it has not more than three experienced staff on duty), bereft of required drugs and other medication, and located across a river, the old health centre is not easily accessible to the villagers. It is also worthy of note that there is no electrification in the community, hence the need for the proposed health centre to be powered by a power generating set, pending when the community becomes electrified. The major occupation of the people is farming.

WHY CARRY OUT THIS PROJECT IN NONGOV? 1. The World Health Organisation states that the nearest health centre to a community should not be located more than three (3) kilometres away. This condition is not being met in Nongov Village. 2. Nongov Village is not easily accessible by vehicles as some parts of the uneven road are ridden with gullies and small rocks which can easily damage vehicles plying the route; these make it difficult for the movement of people, especially during the rainy season. 3. The capacity of the nearest health post is grossly inadequate in responding to the basic health needs of the people of Nongov, considering the population of over 10,000 people. 4. Women in Nongov, including the wives of the chiefs, still give birth on banana leaves, a rather unhealthy practice that endangers the lives of women and their would-be offspring. (It is culturally acceptable for the women to give birth in hospitals.) 5. Malaria, Hepatitis, acute dysentery, ringworm, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, and HIV/AIDS are some of the most common health conditions in the locality. This calls for urgent attention.

BENEFITS OF PROJECT TO THE HOST COMMUNITY: Here are some of the potential benefits of carrying out the project: 1. Marked improvement in healthy practices and easy access to affordable health care by the people of Nongov Village 2. Value-reorientation of the people towards wholesome living through advocacy, trainings and sensitization 3. Reduction of child mortality 4. Improved maternal health 5. Control of HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other related diseases 6. Development of a global partnership for development 7. Employment of the local labour force in the construction projects/tasks, thereby creating short-term employment for the community people 8. Community participation and ownership of the project: the people would develop a sense of commitment and ownership in the achievement of the millennium development goals in their locality 9. Further development: it is also hoped that this project would bring more attention to the host community, and this would attract more attention from the government as well as donors and volunteers for further developmental work in the community

PROJECT PARTNERS: Talks are in progress with the following parties to support the project, even beyond completion of this first phase – i.e., the establishment.

The Nongov Community will help in o Mobilisation of the indigenes and residents for community-wide awareness outreach to mark the World Health Day, as well as dialogues with the community’s elders and youth leaders in establishing the primary health centre o Maintenance of the centre and accommodation of its staff, both from NYSC and the Ministry of Health

The Benue State Ministry of Health is being approached to support by o Equipping the primary health centre with all necessary medical equipment and drugs o Staffing the centre with a medical doctor (who would manage the centre), a trained nurse, and a pharmacist o Providing a vehicle and two of its staff (the head of births and an health educator) for sensitization programme to mark the World Health Day 2012 at Nongov Village

National Youth Service Corps, Benue State o Posting of Youth Corps members: a doctor, a pharmacist, a nurse and peer educator trainers on completion of the project, for sustainability and effective service provision in the community

Individual and corporate project sponsors o Provision of funds and other materials for building project and borehole construction o Awareness creation and support in fund raising drives for the project

SOURCES OF FUNDS FOR PROJECT These projects will be funded through donations and support by members of the community, the Benue State Ministry of Health, Makurdi, and as many people in my networks who share the ideals of this initiative

DURATION OF PROJECT: The first phase of this Project is expected to span a period of thirteen weeks, beginning from Monday, February 27th, 2012 (consultations and proposal submission) and ending in the week of Monday, May 28th, 2012.

CONTACT DETAILS: For further enquiries concerning the project, kindly call 0803 335 4965 or 0802 582 0901, or send an e-mail to gbengaawomodu@gmail.com.

DONATIONS & FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR THE PROJECT: Through this medium, I solicit financial support and otherwise from everyone who shares in the ideals of this project. Considering the short timeline for the first phase, financial support/donations can be paid into the account below. Please send an e-mail to gbengaawomodu@gmail.com and/or an SMS to 08033354965 or 08025820901 with the payment details for confirmation and proper records, as each donation will be acknowledged and documentation made available at the end of the project, for transparency and easy tracking.

Account Name: AWOMODU Olugbenga Akinsanya

Bank: Ecobank

Account Number: 0061802372

Kindly help share this post within your networks, on and off the social media. Thanks!

**For further details about the project, click to download a PDF copy of The Nongov Community Primary Health Centre Project_ May 2012_ final_ by Gbenga Awomodu.

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Gbenga Awomodu is a Batch B (2011/2012) NYSC member serving at the Ministry of Commerce and Industries, Makurdi, Benue State. Also an editorial assistant with BellNaija.com, Africa’s foremost fashion, entertainment and lifestyle blog, where he interviews some of Nigeria’s best young minds, writes a bi-monthly column “On Becoming a Man” and other random posts, he has served as the transitional Music Director of the Nigeria Christian Corpers’ Fellowship, Benue State Chapter, and is passionate about driving positive change through advocacy and implementation of social development projects. In June 2007, he assessed sixteen partner organisations in four Northern States – Nasarawa, Bauchi, Borno and Kaduna – working on the David & Lucille Packard Foundation sponsored Expanded Access to Sexuality Education (EASE) Project in North-Eastern Nigeria. He multitasked, interviewing principal officers, staff and beneficiaries, taking snapshots, writing a story on each organisation visited, amongst other related tasks.

The Entrepreneurial Scientist: Meet Yemi Adesokan – Innovator, CEO & a TR35 2011 Winner

Nigeria, no doubt, is blessed with an array of brilliant minds who continue to excel in their various fields of endeavour, at home and in diaspora. 34-year old Yemi Adesokan is a scientist and entrepreneur with experience in the development and optimization of multiplex capture and high-throughput genome sequencing technologies. As a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School, he pioneered the development and implementation of the BioWeatherMap project, an initiative that collects real-time assays and uses them to track and limit viral outbreaks and antibiotic resistance in the developing world. An industry consultant with extensive experience in providing strategic advisory services to Fortune 500 life-science companies, Yemi holds a BS in Biology from the University of Houston and a PhD in theoretical chemistry from the University of California, Irvine. In this exclusive interview with BN Editorial Assistant, Gbenga Awomodu, Yemi who was recently named among the world’s top 35 innovators by the MIT Technology Review, speaks about his career, his startup pathogen sequencing firm, Pathogenica, which he co-founded in 2009, and the impact of his work in improving global healthcare.

Meet Yemi Adesokan
My name is Yemi Adesokan and I grew up in Okupe Estate Maryland, Ikeja, Lagos. I went to the Maryland Convent Private School and in 1989 went to Command Day Secondary School Ikeja completing SS3 in 1994. I remember that summer vividly as that was when the Super Eagles performed stupendously at the USA ’94 World Cup. Like most kids, I played soccer barefooted outside, went to “lesson” after school, endured mosquitoes, malaria, ate Suya and had hot nights without NEPA and no petrol for “gen”… good ol’ growing up in Lagos.

How would you describe your journey in the field of Biotechnology thus far?
Exciting and challenging at the same time. My doctorate is in theoretical chemistry, so switching to genomics as a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard was frightening for a fleeting second. However, having an advisor like George Church, plain hard work and God’s mercies got me over the initial hump. Biotechnology and genomics, in particular, has been a driver of the healthcare industry over the past decade, especially with the completion of the human genome project which has catalyzed the emergence of the field of personalized medicine. I and the Pathogenica team feel very fortunate to be at the fore front of the genomics revolution.

You were recently named among the world’s top 35 innovators 2011 by the MIT Technology Review. How do you feel about the honour, and why do you think you made the list?
When I googled TR35 to review the list of individuals such as Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Sergey Brin (Google) and Konstantin Novoselov (Nobel Prize Winner in Physics) that have made the cut over the last 5 years, I felt honoured and humbled to be considered among such greats. The successes of the TR35 innovators over the last few years show that the MIT Tech Review has a pretty solid track record of predicting emerging technologies and innovators. We are excited about the recognition, and we also realize this is no time to rest on our oars. We are working as fast and as hard as ever before to commercialize this technology globally.

Continue reading here: The Entrepreneurial Scientist: Meet Yemi Adesokan – Innovator, CEO & a TR35 2011 Winner

An apple a day…

That quote is rather cliché, but I just had to mention it for its relevance to this post. Somewhat.

It’s been a while since I have been telling whoever cared to listen that I wanted to do a ‘comprehensive’ medical check-up. It was soon time to travel to the NYSC camp, and I had not yet done anything. Then, I promised myself that would be one of the first things I would do immediately after camp. Circumstances beyond my outright control (including getting appointed as part of the next set of transitional executives of the Nigeria Christian Corpers Fellowship in Benue State) meant I had to remain longer than I had planned to, immediately after camp.

Long story short: so I called my guardian and he asked a number of questions, including where my PPA is. Then I broached the topic of health, and how I had been getting tired and exhausted easily, even with minimal physical exertion, bla bla bla. When I mentioned that I intended to do a ‘comprehensive’ medical check-up, guess what he said? “Is that what you want to be spending your money on? Just make sure you rest well…” If you get where I am headed, this was someone who would have picked up the bill several months back, but here he was making me realize again that as a young man, I had to sort out such bills myself!

Gone are those days as a child when one’s parents and guardians paid those medical bills, amongst others. Now that I have to part with some appreciable amount, I have found myself thinking twice, thrice, and again! I am thinking of the opportunity cost, but I also remember the Assistant Director, Lectures, back at the orientation camp who kept reminding us that most Nigerians are always eager to fix their cars, but hardly go for an annual medical check-up. I don’t have a car yet, but I get the drift. We seem to pay more attention to maintaining our gadgets than our health (in my case, I’d probably spend my last kobo on buying books or maybe paying for internet subscription so I could have access to reading material online.) I still imagine the caliber and number of books that would buy me if I walked into Laterna Bookshop on Victoria Island.

But, only the living and healthy will be able to read, eat… whatever!

So, when last did you go for a medical check-up? How well do you take some time to rest? It is disheartening to hear of breadwinners who slump and die as a result of accumulated stress. Do you still place priority on the care of your material possession than your health? What are your two cents on this matter?

Like that cliché goes: an apple a day keeps the doctor away. An annual ‘comprehensive’ medical checkup would probably keep the nurses away as well, ‘cos I still dread those syringes like arrows infringing on my (personal) freedom!

Photo credit: graphicssoft.about.com

Guest Post: Sickle Cell Research Prospects: The spermaSORT “Hb-A” Condom for “AS” Couples by Olumide Adenmosun

By Olumide Adenmosun

Three healthy generations...

Shhh!!! The hall was silent that you could hear the tingle of a pin drop. ‘Twas the Poetry Night and the hall was scanty, sparsely dotted amidst the rows by mature minds; no thanks to the Sound City show that got D’banj an open platform on the school field. Guys dumped the Poetry Night to go rock to the drunken rhythm of the KOKO-MASTER.

OMG! I was to be the recipient of an award, the cash prize of which hinged on students’ attendance and proceeds from ticket sales that night. For the romantic poem I’d written (for no one really) all night – some few months earlier; D’banj just stole my show. I had a N5,000 worth of hand shake and acknowledgement anyways. Hmmn, I later joined the tipsy crowd to dance away my sorrow. lol!

I vividly remember Shakespeare’s mime of “I AM MAD!” (Shakespeare’s a friend’s nickname here) –trust me Damola is almost one weird Shakespeare re-incarnate; and Tolu’s squeaky voice, with his romantic strums on the acoustic guitar, was ecstatic that night; then ‘twas finally a recitation from my bunk –mate’s former girlfriend. Like a dirge it was when she ended it in tears – “They’ve taken away my treasure!” Oh, this silly boy is not here – I said to myself as I looked round the hall. She obviously was now all alone on the emotional highway. They called it QUITS! But only a few knew why…. Dude, five years have gone down now and he’s never found her match. They would be a BIOLOGICALLY DANGEROUS PAIR – he reasonably moved on…

The Red Blood Cells

A simple cross sequence in genetics tells us that “AS” couples are no good pair. A typical probable progeny line could yield a 25% chance for an “AA” birth, a 50% chance for an “AS” birth and a 25% chance for an “SS” birth. Life is never easy for a Sickle Cell individual in crisis; matter-of-factly, I have lost two close friends to the Sickle Cell disease – the last just being some few weeks old now – after several worthy investments from her parents – a high quality and expensive University education and a graduate programme off the shores worth a fortune. She’d return to mother earth as a result of an autosomal recessive gene – a mutation in the amino acid sequence of the genes coding for her haemoglobin structure – which has only got glutamic acid substituted for valine, causing her red blood cells to sickle and become energy/oxygen starved.

It’s in your hands!

Every Sickle Cell Foundation on earth sings its tune; doctors sternly warn; even pastors preach its gospel; and informed parents tell its tale… DON’T YOU EVER MARRY ANOTHER “AS”! Make an informed decision! Just like they’ll tell you to know your HIV status, you got to also know your Blood Genotype. Trust me; they’re all very necessary and reasonable campaigns. If you’ve ever witnessed any of their painful crises, then you’d almost want to advocate a punitive measure for the love birds who erroneously (however innocent) inflict the Sickle Cell Disease. For the very volatile homes, the death of a crises-laden sickle cell kid may lead to a divorce or a summary death of the marriage. They see the union of their seeds as a POISONOUS GAMBLE.

But hey! I’m one of those fine endangered species. Beyond the foetal years, I’m the last to come down with malaria or some other blood related illnesses. I remember Mr. Chris teaching us Ovalocytosis and some other adaptive mechanisms we’ve got (that was probably Genetics and Evolution 201) as having the sickle cell trait in our genome line. I mean I’m one of the “AS” packs. And someday, I’m thinking the Sickle Cell allele in our genome line is gonna be extinct by natural selection – from the massively audacious sensitization of marrying right.

But why do we have to care about what we didn’t cause. I mean I wasn’t there when Glutamic Acid was selling its birth right to an idiotic Valine in a mutational process that distorts the amino acid sequence of our haemoglobin. Even when I’m loving what I’m seeing in another mate of like genotype, there’s already a billboard with red dripping blood – DANGER! Your genotype makes you no good match.

If I’m going to play against the rule, then that’s because I know there’s a functional alternative. Without playing the blind Hebrew faith, I know there’s a ransom in Science – which in itself is another dimension of faith – the Greek kind of faith. I wouldn’t gamble the 75% chance of birthing a healthy “AA” or “AS” kid; I’ll just ignore the dicey choice and rather resolve to PICK my TAKE.

Someday a law will be passed, and I think it’ll be framed thus: “If an AS-couple are ever going to tie the nuptial knot; then they must subscribe to a special planned parenthood in Assisted Reproductive Technology.”

Amniocentesis

The existent functional procedure for now is the PGD (Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis). Confusingly, before I joined in the IVF art, I’d think it’s the Pre-natal Testing that involves the CVS (Chorionic Villus Sampling) – that could be run on a 10-12week old pregnancy; or Amniocentesis – run on a 15-18week old foetus; or the Percutaneous Umbilical Blood Sampling. All these will indicate the genotype of the baby whilst still in the womb; and a subsequent decision will have to be made by both parents – whether or not the pregnancy should proceed to term – for the birth of the Sickle Cell child diagnosed. I wouldn’t live to subscribe to such a decision; neither will she!

The much more considerable option is the PGD (Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis) – where after an ovarian stimulation, the lady’s eggs (yea, she could be stimulated to produce as many as 20 eggs in one cycle) are retrieved and fertilized with her husband’s sperm – in vitro (outside the body). And at the time when the embryos have attained at least 8 cells in healthy divisions; just one of the cells (blastomeres) may be biopsied and genetically tested. Much more advanced procedures now consider a Polar Body Biopsy (such that the integrity of the embryo is preserved). Of the many biopsied embryos, just the very ones without the “SS” genotype are marked and selected for an Embryo Transfer back to the lady’s uterus. Just like you were formed in your mama’s womb, it’s the survival of the fittest. The remaining unused/untransferred embryos may either be discarded or cryo-preserved/vitrified – except you want to carry all 20 babies at once anyways. (lol!)

For me, and ethically speaking, PGD is a better choice; however, its limitations are:

– the procedure is damn expensive;
– it’s only got <20% success rate (meaning you could be lucky to have a pregnancy once in 5 trials);
– and the technology is not here yet in Nigeria (I’m not in the affirmative if it’s yet routinely popular in Africa – save South Africa!).

For the scribes who’d still insist – “I want to enjoy the God-given passion and the sexual experience of impregnating my wife myself!” Sure! But you really may have to be in the WAIT. Without some sort of in-vitro involvement or manipulations, it’s probably going to be possible with our “spermaSORT Hb-A Condom” someday. In the brood of my heart it lays – oozing with optimism (should some research faculty proffer investigational aids soon); and here is the pictorial analysis:

spermaSORT Hb-A Condom

This is going to be the end-product of a research protocol titled:
“Monoclonal Anti-sperm Antibodies for Sorting Preferential Fertilization in ‘AS’ Couples.”

Illustration of the "spermaSORT Hb-A Condom" by Olumide Adenmosun (c) 2010

On a good day, except there’s some sort of auto-immune disease (where the body’s immune system resort to attacking self cells); the human sperm cell has surface antigens or cellular markers that are recognisable in the human genome line; and as such not immunogenic. But one of the causes of infertility is a silly group called Anti-sperm Antibodies. In Andrology, when you observe under the microscope – some kind of “unholy associations” amongst a good number of sperm cells, such that their morphology shows a head-to-head joining or tail-to-tail joining (not Amorphous forms this time), or some bonding of any sort; then the suspected conjugating culprits are ANTI-SPERM ANTIBODIES. Such sperm cells may not fertilise an egg! You need to test for such antibodies from the semen sample or blood samples from both couples; then proffer an alternative fertility treatment in Assisted Conception if Immunologic Infertility is confirmed – else there’ll be no pregnancy ‘till the Kingdom come’.

With this baseline understanding and with advances in human genetics and biotechnology, I really think our “spermaSORT Hb-A Condom” is only a research away from the mind map. The haploid nature of the nucleic contents of the human sex cells tells us there are 23 chromosomes in there. One of these chromosomes contains the gene that codes for the complementary half of the human haemoglobin; in this case, and commonly – it’s the “A” or the “S” beta-globin chain. Except otherwise, genetic sequences should have complementary transcriptional proteins expressed on/in the resultant carrier cell as biomarkers (epitopes, antigens, glycoproteins, etc.). And from a previous patent whose chief investigator was tagged Th. Papayannopoulu; 1976: Brit. J. Haemat – 34, 25 (Identification of Haemoglobin S in Normoblasts and Red Cells Using Fluorescent Anti Hb S Antibodies); from their paper, these cell lines or biomarkers depicting the presence of Haemoglobin S gene were designated HuS-1 and HuS-2 – in somatic cells (cells with the diploid number of chromosomes). If only these cells can also be found on the sperm cell membrane or just a protein biomarker that indicates the presence of the Hb S gene – then I smell the birth of a new technology to stem the Sickle Cell Birth in a time machine – a black hole…

Like a pump action, the “spermaSORT Hb-A Condom” voids preferentially sorted/treated sperm cells. The Sort Grid comprises two major compartments – the Conjugating Chamber, and the Immuno-activated Capillary. These compartments are sufficiently filled and laced respectively with Monoclonal Antibodies specific for sperm cells bearing biomarkers that indicate the presence of Haemoglobin S; such that the conjugate thereof (Antibody – Hb S Carrier Sperm Cells) are inactivated and incapable of fertilization. Haemoglobin A (Hb A) carrier sperm cells are therefore preferentially sorted, and find their route to the beautiful egg that makes its way down the tubes for FERTILIZATION.

“Write the vision, make it plain, that he may run that reads it…”, so the Bible says in Habakkuk 2:2-3.

Olumide Adenmosun

I’m writing this so that someone somewhere may also find a reason to run with it. I only have a clue here, and I believe it’s worth a damn try – as it’s got its merits… For the many agonising couples who’ve had the brunt of a Sickle Cell birth; and many others faced with an agonising decision of having to call it quits; the “spermaSORT Hb-A Condom” will someday find expression at some reputable research institutes, make it through all the clinical trial phases, and finally bag the FDA endorsement as a natural assisted conception alternative technology to stem the Sickle Cell Births on a global scale.

The days are sure here!

…be of good cheer!

Contact: ADENMOSUN, Olumide
E-mail: olucyno@gmail.com
Phone: +234 803 437 9442