The Health Initiative for Rural Dwellers, HIRD, initiated by the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, appears to be providing some relief to people at the grassroots level. Oghenevwede Ohwovoriole reports
Quality healthcare has become a luxury in Nigeria such that even the rich can ill-afford, not talk of the poor, the rural dwellers and the internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the society.
Amid this prevailing circumstance, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) came up with a healthcare programme tagged, Health Initiative for Rural Dwellers (HIRD), to help provide healthcare services to the rural dwellers, the underserved, and the IDPs who do not have access to quality healthcare services.
The HIRD programme is launched in every first quarter of the year after it was officially launched in 2014 by the then NYSC Director General (DG), Brig. Gen. Johnson Olawunmi.
Since then, every successive DG of the scheme has maintained the programme.
The rationale behind this noble initiative is to reduce the mortality rate in the rural areas and increase access to quality healthcare services.
In 2021 when the then DG Maj. Gen Shuaibu Ibrahim launched the quarterly activity in Damaganza Hausawa rural community of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), he expressed pleasure that the programme was bringing healthcare services to the rural dwellers.
He said at the time that over two million persons had been attended to by the NYSC medical teams on the HIRD platform, in addition to the treatment of patients.
On that occasion, he noted: “Driven by our determination to deepen the impact of our healthcare services, management launched the NYSC-HIRD in 2014. It is a platform for contribution towards promoting the well-being of indigent persons at the grassroots by granting them easier access to free and quality healthcare.”
According to him, the programme was (and is still) largely implemented through medical outreaches in communities across the country, during which corps medical volunteers carry out diagnosis; treatment, including minor medical procedures, and referrals of patients.
He added that drugs, eye glasses and other medical consumables were also given to patients free of charge. In addition, he said the HIRD activities were ongoing simultaneously across the 36 states of the federation.
The community leader of Damaganza Hausawa community, Bello Musa, was full of appreciation that the NYSC chose his community for the HIRD event and wished that government would do more for them.
Eight years later, in 2022 during the flag of the HIRD programme in the first quarter, the wife of former president, Mrs. Aisha Buhari donated and inaugurated a mobile clinic for the NYSC as her contribution to the scheme in providing qualitative healthcare services to rural dwellers.
In her address, Mrs. Buhari, who was represented by the wife of a former Governor of Nasarawa State, Mrs. Mairo Al-Makura, said: “Like other Nigerians, I observed with great admiration, the critical role the NYSC played in the effort to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, especially at the peak of the surge in 2020.
“The intervention of the medical corps personnel who joined other frontline health workers, as well as thousands of other corps members that produced and distributed items such as face masks, hand sanitisers, liquid soaps, food and other palliatives further underscored the relevance of the scheme and heightened our hope in the NYSC.”
While calling on federal and state legislators to include the provision of drugs as well as other medical consumables and logistics for the NYSC health initiatives for rural dwellers, she said it “would improve the healthcare services, which the team renders to their communities.”
It was at the event that the then DG of the NYSC, Maj. Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim said since the commencement of the NYSC Health Initiative for Rural Dwellers, over four million rural dwellers had been reached in communities across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
“In the course of the programme implementation, we have enjoyed the support of some government agencies, non-governmental organisations and philanthropists through the supply of drugs and other medical consumables,” he said.
In 2023, the NYSC took the HIRD programme to Malaysia IDP camp in Abuja. Over the years, the scheme has been providing medical care through the posting of medical graduates to both government, private and faith based hospitals in both urban and rural areas where they have been of immense support to the health sector where medical personal are not adequate to provide healthcare services to the general public.
The NYSC DG, Brig. Gen. Yushu’a Ahmed at the 2023 flag off of the HIRD programme at Malaysia IDP camp in Abuja said out of the four million persons that have benefited from the scheme’s HIRD programme two million of them of them have been treated by corps medical personnel.
Speaking through the Director Legal Services, NYSC, Ahmed, he said:
“I am pleased to report that, so far, about four million persons have been reached with more than two million of them treated by our Corps Medical Personnel under the auspices of the HIRD. The successes recorded since the inception of the programme are numerous, especially with lots of lives saved and positively impacted.”
Despite the impressive strides recorded under the programme, a lot still needs to be done to reach more communities in the country. There is therefore the need for Nigerians, especially Corporate Nigeria, to support the HIRD programme.
The point was made by Gen. Ahmed on that occasion when he said: “It is worth mentioning that beside this intervention in the health sector, the NYSC is actively involved in other programmes targeted at nation-building and enhancement of the quality of lives of Nigerians.
“We implore other public spirited individuals, philanthropists and corporate organisations to contribute to the success of these worthy endeavours through technical and material support.”
According to the Director, Community Development Service (DCDS), Zainab Isah, the scheme has contributed immensely to societal development through various ways.
“In nearly five decades of the scheme’s existence, corps members have added value to the society in diverse ways especially through its Community Development Service component, which includes healthcare delivery, digital skills, education, construction, agriculture, advocacy/campaign amongst others,” she said.
On the HIRD programme, she noted that the health sector has greatly benefited from it since its inception.
“Since its inception, the programme has recorded tremendous successes. Our target group has enthusiastically accessed the services availed by the Corps medical personnel which include treatment for a wide range of diseases,” she stated.
Also, the Secretary of the IDP camp, Ahmed Ibrahim, said they were very happy that the NYSC came to their camp to render health services to them and their families for free. He called on the government to provide manpower in the healthcare facilities around the camp.
“We are very happy that the NYSC are here to treat our people. But it is not every time we get such medical assistance. Most of the time, we go to the hospitals and we are asked to pay money but we don’t have.
“A lot of the time, our women deliver at home and if they can’t deliver at home we take them to the hospital where they ask us to pay N25, 000 or N50,000 and we don’t have such amounts to pay. Government should please help us by sending medical personnel to the healthcare centre around this place because most of the time when we go there, there is no doctor to attend to us,” Ibrahim said.