Health Hero: Nneamaka Nwanka
“My day usually starts at sunrise, just when its rays begin to stream through the open windows of my home, ushering in a new dawn of possibilities,” says Nneamaka Nwanka, who spends her days visiting households throughout her community in Ebonyi State in southeast Nigeria. “The act of rendering services to my community kindles my quest to identify people who need immediate healthcare services.”
Nneamaka was selected by her community to serve as a Community Health Influencers, Promoters and Services (CHIPS) agent. CHIPS agents are trained by the U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) to treat children under age five who are suffering from malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea and to detect danger signs that require referral to a health clinic. They also provide counseling services to pregnant women and older members of the community, referring them to health facilities when appropriate. CHIPS agents play a valuable role by providing essential health services in communities that do not have a health center close by.
Most often the sick children brought by mothers to see Nneamaka have a fever, which is a symptom of malaria. One day, Nneamaka visited a pregnant mother named Ngozi whose two–year-old daughter, Ada, had a fever. Ngozi did not take Ada to a health clinic as she did not have the money to pay for medicine. Nneamaka tested Ada for malaria with a rapid diagnostic test, and after confirming that Ada had malaria, she provided malaria medicine to treat her. Nneamaka then took Ada and her mother to a PMI-supported health facility close to her home for free malaria testing and treatment. Nneamaka also ensured that Ngozi registered for free prenatal care services since she was three months pregnant. Ngozi told Nneamaka, “Thank you for bringing wellness to my doorstep. Your timely advice has helped me know the right action to take whenever my daughter falls sick and I thank the American people.’’
Care is not sought for 30 percent of children in sub-Saharan Africa suffering from a fever, according to the World Health Organization. Young children in Nigeria are at particular risk as the country has the highest incidence of malaria globally, accounting for 27 percent of the world’s malaria cases. Nneamaka sees the difficulties parents face when they do not know where to get help or do not have the resources to travel to a health facility or pay for medicines. CHIPS agents like Nneamaka help families get the care they need.
Since November 2021, PMI has trained more than 110 CHIPS agents to support the Ebonyi State Ministry of Health and the State Primary Health Care Development Agency. The agents provide essential health care to 1,700 households in 444 communities.
Nneamaka is pleased that the CHIPS program is making a difference in the health of those around her. “Now, I am happy with the improved health conditions of children and pregnant women across communities in Ebonyi State because of the progress made towards providing them with real-time access to quality healthcare services,” she said.