It still feels surreal that I have come to the end of my summer practicum. I must confess that I was not sure how my practicum experience was going to be, given the uncertainties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to these uncertainties, my practicum completion dates had to be moved a couple of times so that I could meet the goals initially set for the practicum and to gain as much knowledge and skills I had planned to learn at the start of the practicum.
Having gone through all these, I must say I feel more empowered than I ever imagined I was. It was an introspective and self-reflective period for me. I remember feeling quite sad that I could not visit family and friends due to the pandemic. I recall feeling so lonely at a time, but I reached out to an inner strength that I never knew I had and I felt much better and much stronger. This goes to prove that indeed, ‘where there is a will, there is a way’. If you persevere, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
Departing New Jersey to Lagos, Nigeria whilst observing physical distancing- “the new normal.”
My practicum even though did not go as planned, has been very interesting. I finally (after much delay) got the opportunity to travel to my home country Nigeria which is the location of my summer practicum. I enjoyed the privilege of working with primary data on child nutrition. I produced a framework for performance monitoring and management for a project that is focused on improving child nutrition in the communities. Even though I couldn’t go out to the communities to put names and faces to the data I worked with, owing to the lockdown necessitated by the pandemic, however, I felt fulfilled knowing that I played a small part in improving nutrition and health status of some vulnerable children. This has strengthened my resolve in learning as much as I can and being the best public health practitioner, I can be. The big lesson for me from this experience is that despite the pressure on the outside, we can draw from our inner strength to stay focused on the goal, adopt new strategies when necessary to make the positive impact we desire to see. There is always light at the end of the tunnel, so let us keep pushing.
Just another day at work!
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”.
State nutrition officers of NPHCDA meet to review plans on improving Vitamin A supplementation in children under five across the 36 states in Nigeria.
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.