Rebecca Ejifoma

With the launch of Volunteer Safe Project, George Kerry and Be in Health Foundations have called on the Nigerian Medical Association, the Federal Ministry of Health and all state ministries of health to develop training and supervision strategy for volunteers in the humanitarian sector in order for Nigerians to enjoy better health services.

The Founder of George Kerry Life Foundation, Dr. Matilda Kerry alongside her partner and founder of Be in Health Foundation, Ijeoma Ugwudi, said this during the launch of Volunteer Safe Project in Lagos, an initiative of both foundations.

Kerry said that volunteerism in health was a necessary response to health disparities and inequitable access to healthcare in developing countries. “And Nigeria, with a population of over 150 million and an average ratio of two skilled healthcare workers to 1000 Nigerians, volunteers would answer so many needs, from environmental sanitation issues to emergency response, health education and promotion, vaccination efforts and health screening services among others.”

Giving statistics, she said that globally, volunteers contribute over $35 billion (13 trillion Naira) per year in volunteer hours. Adding, she said in Nigeria, volunteers form about 40 per cent of the Nigerian health sector. They are of high value to nations and organisations, the community and the workforce in human development and capacity building.
According to Ugwudi, these groups of people play an important and often under-appreciated role in healthcare. “We can enjoy healthier communities and better health services as a result of this special group of people. Hence, volunteers in health need more training to get it right. Our training on ethics and accountability is a first step in the right direction.”

To achieve this, the project is conducting a one-day ethics and accountability in healthcare training workshop for 1000 volunteers working in the humanitarian sector. This will, according to them, increase awareness and practice of ethical behaviour and accountability among volunteers in delivering services to the public and reduce medical negligence among volunteers providing health services among others.

This training, which began on February 9, will run till March 31st in Ikorodu, Badagry, Epe, Ikeja, Lagos Island, Lagos Mainland and Victoria Island, respectively. “After Lagos, we hope to take it to all states of the federation,” Ugwudi said.

Speaking also, Director Primary Healthcare Board (PHCB), Mrs. Owojuyigbe Modupe, commended the initiative as a welcome project. She assured the organisers that the PHCB was in support of their initiative.