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Ilera Nigeria: Improving Health Information Access in Nigerian Rural Communities

In 2016, Kehinde Awede started the social health initiative, Ilera Nigeria. The name of the non-profit initiative is based on the Yoruba word, 'Ilera' which means 'health'. The main objective of Ilera Nigeria is to create advocacy, awareness, access to health information & basic medical kit to people in rural communities in South Western Nigeria. Currently, the non profit carries out its projects in rural communities, mainly the historical Ile-Ife town and surrounding communities in Osun State, Nigeria. Basically, Ilera Nigeria achieves its goal of improving access to healthcare in underserved communities with a structured set of programs. 'Thumbs & Bumbles', 'Cancer, Cares & Cures', 'All Positive' are some of their defined programs as well as other community outreaches

With Thumbs & Bumbles, Ilera Nigeria teaches young elementary public school pupils when and how to wash their hands properly to avoid germs and reduce the outbreak of diseases like cholera. Thumbs & Bubbles has been executed in 4 public schools and on the 15th of October, it carried out a physical demonstration in 2 schools to celebrate the Global Handwashing Day. This project not only teaches these pupils how to properly wash their hands but provides them with hygiene kits as well as kits for the schools.

Thumbs & Bubbles Project at Schools

'Cancer, Cares & Cures' is a project dedicated to raising awareness on common cancer diseases like breast cancer, cervical cancer, colon & prostrate cancer. This project took different forms on the 4th of February, world Cancer day and also in April, Ilera organized a cancer walk in Moro and Shekona towns- surrounding communities of Ile-Ife. As part of the walk activities, they gathered women to teach them how to carry out self-breast examination and also carried out checks for the women. To commemorate Pink Ribbon month this October, Ilera has a line up of events, breast checks and education for women in rural areas across four touch points, a religious centre, a school, a walk on a major road and a village outreach. It already implemented a seminar & check at a local church and the remaining days in October will see the consolidation of the other 3 activities.

Some members of the team before a Cancer Awareness Walk

The All Positive project set to be launched before 2018 ends is targeted towards HIV/AIDs sensitization, HIV tests using the Rapid Diagnostic Test kits, in a bid to create awareness and reduce stigmatisation of people living with the diseases. It also connects carriers to medical centres where they can get retrovirals and general health care to live longer and healthier. Also included in this project are outreaches to high schools in underserved communities to teach them about sexual & reproductive health.

Apart from these afore mentioned dedicated projects, Ilera carries out a lot of other health community outreaches. In 2017, Ilera organized self-breast examination for girls in secondary school, HIV awareness and screening in Laisi-Ese and Idita communities. Free malaria tests, screening and free mosquito nets were also given to some residents in these communities.

Medical Outreach at Laisi-Ese Community

Idita Community Outreach

One amazing thing about Ilera Nigeria is that it is mainly funded by its team of young people, mostly university students with an appreciable number of them in the college of health sciences or rounding off their medical degree. It is interesting that Ilera Nigeria started with only 3 persons but have now grown to a strength of 60 people who are driving social good projects in their communities.

Although, many Nigeria rural dwellers tend to avoid modern healthcare because of lack of education and even affordability, Ilera Nigeria devised a method of assimilating into the community and reaching more people. It does this by going through the established occupational associations in these communities such as 'Barbers Association', 'Hairdressers Association', 'Farmers Association', 'Grinding Mill Association' and others. With this method, it is able to reach communities on an occupational level and target specific health issues relevant to the groups. Even more importantly, the team gains leverage and wider access to reach persons not covered by any groups like students, children, stay at home mums, and other people in the community.

Automobile Mechanic Medical Outreach & Barber's Association Medical Outreach

Speaking to Kehinde Awede, the team lead of Ilera Nigeria, he said he decided to venture into rural healthcare because people in rural communities were deprived of access to basic health care. Actioning the SDGs is another driving force for Kehinde. In his words; "Nigeria can't totally rely on government's effort alone. Other individuals need to partner together to achieve the SDGs"

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