EHS-COVID (405) SRHIN Case Study: Access to essential health services for vulnerable communities

14 June, 2021

Slum and Rural Health Initiative (SRHIN) is one of Africa's foremost youth-led organizations focused on making health information and services available for the vulnerable populations, residents of slums, rural communities, villages, internally displaced persons camps among others using a unique ART (Advocacy, Research and Technology) approach. SRHIN is officially registered in Nigeria, Ethiopia and The Gambia but operates in more than 8 African countries (Ghana, Uganda, Rwanda, etc). SRHIN Nigeria operates in 20 Nigerian states via its network of State coordinators and over 1,200 volunteers (health professionals, IT experts, etc). SRHIN conducts Monitoring and Evaluation for numerous local and international organizations and also trains young people about the research process via its Research Academy.

We have observed through our advocacy, research and technology projects that the coronavirus pandemic has had immense effects on the health status and access to health information and services for the vulnerable communities and the historically marginalized communities. I would utilize a case study to illustrate the problem and discuss our unique solution.

Case Study:

SRHIN operates in internally displaced persons camps in northern Nigeria. The access to health information for the residents is majorly through outreaches of non-governmental organizations and radio. During this present pandemic, due to restriction of movement to curtail the spread of the virus, they couldn't get the information via that means. So they were also caught in the mace of misinformation and fallacies. Additionally, they didn't get access to other vital health information on important topics such as family planning, mental health, etc as projects conducted in the camp were not resilient in pandemic settings.

The IDP camps don't have a good health post to attend to patients. The makeshift health centre had just a bed, little essential medications and was managed by volunteer health professionals. The health post only manages minor illness and refers the bulk of the patients in the camp to distant health facilities.

Our solution to improve access to health information was use of a community-led and digital innovation. As SRHIN had been working in that camp for over 3 years we called the leaders of the camps via mobile phone to discuss key points about coronavirus prevention and dispelled some of the fallacies and misinformation. Additionally, we developed infographics of prevention of coronavirus in more than 100 languages to satisisty the language needs of the varieties of the camp residents. The infographics were disseminated via online means (whatsapp and facebook) through some of the youths with access to mobile phone and internet. We also utilized outreaches led by our volunteers, camp leaders and some of the camp youths.

To improve access to health services we are utilizing a community - based, -led and -participatory models and task shifting approaches. We train community leaders and stakeholders on mental, sexual and physical health and supply them with some resources in order to manage some minor illnesses. This model is resilient in pandemic as we or volunteers/members from other organizations serving the community do not have to be there for the IDPs to have access to these basic health services. Additionally, with funding from Grand Challenges Canada and National Institute of Health Research we plan to construct a solar-powered structure using refurbished cargo with access to 24/7 electricity. We also plan to equip some of the community leaders we are training with mobile tablets pre-installed with our SIMBIhealth mobile app. Through all these means, community stakeholders will get access to health information and other resources that would ensure members of IDP have access to accurate health information and essential health services.

SRHIN is a youth-led organization that uses innovative means to get health information and services to vulnerable and marginalized communities. I believe other organizations and groups must have utilized innovations in reaching their target audience during this pandemic. This case study is to open the floor for discussion on access to health services for the vulnerable groups and populations during this pandemic.

To explore healthcare needs for the vulnerable and disadvantaged populations, better tailored and specific questions to different areas of healthcare must be asked.

1. What is the access of the vulnerable communities such as residents of slums, villages, rural communities, internally displaced persons camps and other historically marginalized communities to basic medications during this present coronavirus pandemic?

2. What is the access of vulnerable communities to basic surgical care?

3. What is the access of vulnerable communities to immunization services?

4. What is the access of vulnerable communities to maternal and child care?

5. What is the access of vulnerable communities to cancer care?

6. What is the access of vulnerable communities to rehabilitation care?

7. What is the access of vulnerable communities to other healthcare services?

To know more about SRHIN's work and/or partner with us for projects focused on health information and services for vulnerable communities you can reach me via email:

HIFA profile: Miracle Adesina is a physical therapist, heathcare innovator, global health researcher with focus on sexual and mental health and has over 5 years of experience in sexual and mental health advocacy and research. He is a United Nations Academic Impact Millennium Fellow, Global Youth Ambassador for Theirworld (UK-based), Global Goodwill Ambassador, HundrED Ambassador and sits on the board of US-based Universal Care for Africa Foundation. He currently serves as the Country Coordinator (Nigeria), Slum and Rural Health Initiative (SRHIN) and Senior Research Associate at SRHIN Research Academy. Miracle has over 50 publications in peer-reviewed international journals and serves as journal reviewer for more than 15 journals. He envisions a world where health information and services will be available and affordable for individuals in slums, villages, underserved communities, internally displaced persons camps and rural regions. Miracle is a member of the WHO/HIFA working group on Maintaining essential health services during COVID-19.