I was excited when it was confirmed that I would be working with a critical stakeholder in the fight against malnutrition in Nigeria, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA). I looked forward to traveling to field offices and communities to witness first-hand the implementation of programs targeted at tackling malnutrition in Nigeria, particularly among children aged 5 years and below. This excitement was cut short due to the unprecedented occurrence of COVID-19 pandemic and the social restrictions it brought on the global community – many have referred to this phenomenon as the “new normal”. For now, I will have to be contented with virtual interaction until travel restrictions are eased.
Prior to the start of my practicum, my travel tickets were canceled as a result of border closures. Adjustments were made to accommodate remote work hours before the reopening of borders. These unprecedented times give a literal meaning to the word “global” in my opinion. It is interesting to see how the world can be affected by a viral outbreak in a city. It demonstrates how the world is connected and makes it look somewhat “small”.
Despite the work changes imposed on us by the pandemic, I have been able to formally interact with stakeholders working on Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) in Nigeria, thanks to one among many of the features of the new normal called “zoom”. These interactions have further fired my appetite to learn and contribute to the goal of improving nutritional status of vulnerable subpopulation groups in Nigeria. Under the mentorship and tutelage of Dr Nneka Onwu, who is the director of the department of community health services at NPHCDA in Nigeria, I support the nutrition division of NPHCDA. The nutrition division of NPHCDA facilitates implementation of nutrition service delivery at local government and community levels. It works on promoting adequate food supply and proper nutrition through education, assessment, counselling and support, community sensitization and mobilization.
I am thankful that I can still learn and support this ongoing program in Nigeria aimed at improving child health despite the challenging times. Interestingly, I always look forward to waking up very early due to the time difference, to attend zoom meetings. It is encouraging and really inspiring to see the passion to improve child health from the technical officers, program managers and other participants.
Even as we adapt to the new normal, I am encouraged by the knowledge that I am not alone and we are all in this together.