Nurses in Lagos are going against all odds to improve neonatal and infant health care

Through dedication and commitment to service, nurses in Nigeria’s commercial hub, Lagos State, are working hard to improve routine immunisation.

Nurse, Emmanuel Oluwafeyikemi (left) and nurse Glory Pius (right). – Photo Credit: Ijeoma Ukazu
Nurse, Emmanuel Oluwafeyikemi (left) and nurse Glory Pius (right). – Photo Credit: Ijeoma Ukazu

 

Driven by a passion for the profession and the joy derived from seeing children alive and healthy, nurses in Lagos State have been going above and beyond to ensure children in these perilous times are immunised.

“If children don't get immunised, their foundation is shaky,” says Agnes Okoro, a nurse at Ishaga primary healthcare centre, Lagos State. “Children are the future that we see, and immunisation helps guarantee that future. Once they are fully vaccinated, there is a high chance of reduction in neonatal and infant mortality and that way I am sure their future is saved.”

“There were times when I didn’t feel like working. Times when I felt that the risk of the job was too much. Times when I had to sacrifice time with my family. Times when I was on the verge of quitting, because the workload was too much. But I sat down and thought to myself, if I quit and other nurses do the same, who will immunise these children?”

“Using their child’s immunisation record, which is stored at  the health centre, and includes their house address and street number, I trace mothers who haven’t come to the health centre for immunisation.”

Nurse Emmanuel Oluwafeyikemi (left) and nurse Glory Pius (right). Photo Credit: Ijeoma Ukazu
Nurse Emmanuel Oluwafeyikemi (left) and nurse Glory Pius (right).
Photo Credit: Ijeoma Ukazu

When the mothers do come to the health centre for immunisation, nurses like Okoro complement the work done by others. She says, “To maintain a high level of hygiene, I always carry out a second cleaning of the tables and other surfaces after the cleaning staff have done their part, because I know children are susceptible to germs and they could touch the table.”

Another nurse, Glory Pius, who works at St. Timothy Catholic Hospital, Ojodu, says, “It was not easy going to the hospital to get children immunised, especially with the strict COVID-19 protocols placed on almost all entry points into the hospital, but the children are my priority. Sometimes, with no means of transport, I had to trek a long distance to attend to children’s immunisation needs.”

She goes on to say, “There were times when I didn’t feel like working. Times when I felt that the risk of the job was too much. Times when I had to sacrifice time with my family. Times when I was on the verge of quitting, because the workload was too much. But I sat down and thought to myself, if I quit and other nurses do the same, who will immunise these children?

“As a nurse, it’s my duty to ensure that the immunisation needs of children are met, that every child is completely vaccinated against childhood diseases. I also dedicate myself to counselling and providing mothers with regular health education.”

Blessing Oko, a nurse at Ifako Ijaiye General Hospital Lagos, agrees: “Being a nurse is a noble calling. I really believe that the way the I answer that call is through immunisation, because it is a way of saving the lives of children. There were times when my family members were scared I might get infected with COVID-19 due to my exposure, But, that fear did not stop me because I have a duty to save lives and so I marched on to the hospital to carry out routine immunisation on children. And going to their homes when their mothers were unable to bring them to the hospital due to the transportation costs.”

Another registered nurse, Emmanuel Oluwafeyikemi, working with Eradok health care services in Ogba, Lagos says, “I always want to see children healthy and alive, and for this to happen, I need to play my part, especially because the mothers often travel from far away to get their children immunised. I try to always be available at the appointment time given to them.”