Africare’s ‘Power Forward’ initiative scaling down malaria burden – Country Rep says
Africare, an international non-governmental organization based in Washington D.C., said in Abuja on Wednesday that its partnership with oil giant ExxonMobil, and the National Basketball Association (NBA) to mentor secondary school students in the country on public health, through an initiative, Power Forward, was yielding desired results.
The Country Representative of the institution, Dr Orode Doherty, said the initiative had greatly improved knowledge base of the students on how to live healthy, prevent diseases and ensure good hygiene.
She said the focus of partner organizations had been mainly on malaria, and that the disease burden was declining in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, where the initiative had been implemented for three years.
Doherty, who spoke at the launch of the fourth year of the Power Forward, said the initiative would continue to focus on developing life skills and public health knowledge among secondary school students.
She however said funding challenges could not make the programme go beyond Abuja since it was launched. She appealed to federal and state governments in the country to see the programme as what could help reshape the nation’s health systems, and therefore support it.
“The work of Power Forward is really to engage young students in the FCT to use basketball as a platform to learn about life skills and public health and (Sustainable) Development Goals. Malaria is one of the diseases that we focus on in Nigeria that the children know about. It is something that individuals can contribute to the eradication of it through individual behaviour.
“So, definitely, understanding that every fever needs to be tested, and every fever that is tested, using a rapid diagnostic test and found to be positive, needs to be treated with the use appropriate ACT. To prevent malaria, we ensure that the children have understanding of who vulnerable groups are, people who are at most risk of having malaria.
“We make them know that they should clean their environment and that insecticide bed nets are used in pregnant women and children.”
She said the success of the programme is measured based on the impacts on its children. “We are looking at the improved behaviour and the effects of the thing we are doing on the children…The school environments are cleaner. People now understand that they can break down ethnic and religious barriers, focussing on improved behaviours,” she stated.
Executive Director, Glisten International Academy Abuja, where the programme was launched, Samira Jibir, urged parents to ensure they discharge their roles in nurturing their children to become productive and successful adults.
She said there are many distractions for children of current generation which according to her are in conflict with the nation’s socio-cultural values.
She explained that exposure to high technology waves without control, their being left at the mercy of adults such as house-helps, relatives, drivers, cartoons, and without comprehensive sexuality education, constitute dangers to their future.
“We neglect our roles as adults to guide, love and protect these children; we have failed these children. This is the burning issue in our souls. We must therefore channel their energy towards positive programmes like these sports – for example basketball. What Power Forward is doing is quite commendable and is one of the healthy ways to engage the children’s time positively, build their confidence, develop friendship, team spirit and most importantly maximize their potentials.
“We urge parents to have more presence for their children not presents, love them and for schools to engage them in positive programmes. We once again thank Power Forward, all their sponsors, all the students and members of staff working for the success of this programme. We are proud of you (students) and we know as nation builders, we look up to, the world is waiting for you to explode positively,” she said.
Former captain of the National Basketball Team, Olumide Oyedeji, who inspires the students in basketball game, urged them to do all within their reach to excel in life.
Oyedeji, who has helped drive the project in the past years, said children of current generation have greater advantages more than the people of his time to be outstanding in their chosen career. According to him, using sport to promote fight against malaria is a good initiative, as according to him, youths and the entire society believes in the power of sport to achieve desired goals.
“It is incredible that we are entering the fourth year. Power Forward has sensitized our youths in malaria, public health and sports. I have no doubt that we are witnessing something special today,” he said.
He urged the students to embrace the opportunities offered by the initiative to prepare themselves for good future.
Oyedeji further charged the children: “I need you to be strong when you are weak. I want you to be brave when scared. I need you to be humble when you are great. Be focused and determined. If you work hard and believe in all of these, your future is guaranteed. I’m sure nobody can stop you. Make good use of this opportunity. Stay away from anyone that can have negative impacts on you.”
ExxonMobi said in a statement it made available at the event that since 2000, programmes it supports had distributed more than 14 million bed nets, nearly three million diagnostic tests and more than four million antimalarial treatments – reaching more than 125 million people worldwide.
Similar statement released by Africare said Power Forward programme uses basketball to teach and mentor 300 students from 10 secondary schools each year in Abuja. 600 students, it said, have benefitted from the programme, which was launched in Abuja on November 19 2013.
“Power Forward teaches health literacy and life skills such as effective communication, conflict resolution, embracing diversity, gender equality, malaria and HIV/AIDS prevalence and prevention, water sanitation and hygiene, and the Sustainable Development Goals.
“Students from 10 secondary schools participate in the project. The schools represented are: Model Secondary School Maitama, Rahinna Model School, Raberto Schools, Divine Mercy Secondary School, Glisten International Academy, Bicados International Secondary School, Government Secondary School (GSS) Karu, GSS Zone 3, GSS Garki, and GSS Airport.
“Power Forward launched the Adopt a School program in February 2017, with each project school adopting a government secondary school in Abuja, where the participating students are expected to regularly pass on the public health and life skills knowledge to their peers in the adopted schools. 2000 indirect beneficiaries have already been reached with malaria prevention and treatment messaging, with an end year target of 10,000 individuals reached,” the statement noted.