The health system in Nigeria is quite poor – Dr. Cassandra Akinde, medical doctor and activist
Dr. Cassandra Bolanle Akinde is a young medical doctor with a burning passion for public health, humanitarian causes and the sustainable development goals. She obtained an MBBS (Bachelor’s in Medicine and Surgery) degree from the prestigious University of Lagos in 2016.
She is currently the Team Lead for The Nigerian Child Initiative, a non-profit which promotes child health awareness and sustainable education to empower them with healthy choices. Her work centres on helping these children understand that sound education and good health are vital determinants in ensuring their success as future leaders.
In her years of working with The Nigerian Child Initiative, she and her team have reached out to over three thousand children in schools on SDG education by organising interschool essay competitions, workshops, research masterclasses, seminars and capacity building programmes.
Providing essential care services and implementation in poorly accessible areas by targeting over five hundred children for the past 4 years is another area Dr. Akinde has uncommon zeal for. This young woman is an inspiration in multiple facets. In addition to the other brilliant aspects of her life, she’s got multilingual ability in fluent English, Spanish, Russian with a growing proficiency in German.
She considers it her life’s mission to improve quality of life of everyone she comes across using all of her unique abilities. This gives her inexplicable motivation and joy. Cassandra shares her inspiring story with me in this interview.
Childhood preparation & Parental Influence
My childhood really played a major role in my life as I was raised as a humanitarian. My parents are the biggest inspiration behind what I do now. I remember as a child I will follow my mother to church where she was always assigned one task or another for the congregation.
One event that stands fresh in my memory is the day I accompanied my mother and my brother to an orphanage for the first time as it was our turn to help out in church by bringing some relief materials for the children. I met a young girl who was suffering from cerebral palsy. Part of the activities included engaging her in pottery work. We made a very beautiful clay pot that I really admired. When she saw my wistful face, she selflessly gave it to me. I was so startled, but she insisted I keep it. She was so happy giving me that pot, that till this day I remember her happy face. This was the moment I decided that giving is more fulfilling than receiving and that is how my journey to making social impact began. I kept coming back to play, teach and engage them in various games and artworks over the years.
My dad also taught me to be selfless, innately kind and liberal whenever the opportunity arose by donating all my unused toys, clothes and sporting equipment to charity.
My name is Cassandra Bolanle Akinde and I am a medical doctor by profession. I am the current Team Lead of The Nigerian Child Initiative and assistant coordinator at Medglobe Volunteers. I am very passionate about Health Advocacy and the Sustainable Developmental Goals. I am also an activist for women and children. I love meeting people and expanding my network, reading, teaching, spending quality time with my family and friends, scrapbooking and I absolutely love to volunteer! On an average day when I am not at the hospital working or out volunteering, I would usually relax at home, engaging social media and watching movies. I also spend adequate time praising God for all my blessings and asking for forgiveness for my sins.
Inspiration behind TNCI
The Nigerian Child Initiative began with the simple vision of providing a platform that would create a brighter and rewarding future for children. Since its foundation by Dr Yusuf Shittu, it has become much bigger than that. It is now a large volunteer-based platform for transforming the lives of Nigerian children by improving their access to healthcare and mentorship and building the capacity of young people to be change makers and leaders. I began as a volunteer who caught the vision, committed to the vision and slowly climbed to the leadership position of overseeing the team of vibrant young people eager to make a positive change.
With interests in Child Health promotion, Development Education and Mentorship, the team mentors children in schools and engages them with the Sustainable Development Goals and brings healthcare within the reach of children underserved and low income communities. Through our annual Essay Competition on SDGs for Secondary School students, winners are matched to mentor organisations. Since inception, we have reached up to 3,000 children with essential healthcare services including Malaria Screening, Dental Checks, Vaccination, Deworming and Essential Drugs in 5 communities across Lagos. The organisation has also educated about 5,000 children and teenagers directly on the Sustainable Developmental Goals through talk sessions in schools and at 3 Competition Grand Finales. We are also currently mentoring our 3rd cohort of 17 Global Goal Ambassadors who make us proud with their exciting social impact projects and innovations. They are each influencing other students in their schools and setting great examples for them to follow.
One of the major challenges was funding of course. We had difficulty getting sponsors and raising funds for our programs but with meaningful partnerships over the years the problem has been circumvented but we are always open for more opportunities.
Another challenge is that of recruiting volunteers who share the same vision ,passion and possess similar character to do what we do .A lot of young individuals are looking at our platform as an avenue for furthering their career or adding portfolios to their CV without actually having any passion or zeal to do any real work but just in the name only and that can be disheartening.
Being a Medglobe Volunteer
Medglobe Volunteers is an international organization that started out of an urging desire to increase drug adherence, therapeutic outcome, decrease drug abuse and misuse; hence promoting health worldwide. We also conduct health outreaches and participate in various health campaigns and community health walks thus promoting health advocacy.
After working on #StopPneumonia campaign,I intend to collaborate with Dr Chioma Nwakanma on #CheatonCervicalCancerAwarenessCampaign as this is the awareness month.
My other projects in the year will include; Neo Childcare Solutions Limited, a mobile clinic health service provider which seeks to bridge the gap of access to healthcare for the children in remote areas.
WASHED UP- Water Sanitation and Health Education against Diarrhoea, Malnutrition and Pneumonia. SkillsUpForGood – Capacity building seminar,Substance Abuse project ,Domestic Violence Docuseries
TNCI in 5 years…
In the next five years I see The Nigerian Child Initiative as a leading non-profit organisation expanding across all the states in Nigeria and hopefully even across some West African countries. I see it being on the world map for the impact it is making, with a larger volunteer base who capacity has built to reach out to more children. I can also see it as a platform for transforming lives of the young people and providing employment opportunities. As for me personally, I can see myself on the board of trustees of the NGO still spreading the word about health awareness and sustainable education both locally and globally.
Health sector in Nigeria
I have been practicing for almost 3 years now and can say categorically that health system in Nigeria is quite poor. In my humble opinion, one of the biggest health challenges is inaccessibility to quality health care. The Government performance in health sector has been abysmal. Investment in infrastructure has been poor and meager remuneration for health workers has created massive brain drain to the U.S and Europe. It is such a shame that despite the huge talents of Nigerians excelling in health sectors across the world, our own health system is failing.
So, my suggested solution to this problem lies in the Nigeria’s policy makers and health professionals including the Nigerian Diaspora to come together and create a long-term blue print for the sector. This shall involve intersectoral cooperation and collaboration between different health related ministries as partnership is very key in sustainability. The blueprint will include strategies, time lines and key performance indicators to ensure success its success in the long run. Creating the blue print and making it a reality is one of the most meaningful ways in improving health care for Nigerians.
Also, as health care professionals we must think of new, cost effective and innovative ideas to solve our healthcare problems. Several Nigerian digital health start-ups like HelloCareNg and Doctoorah are already doing work in this area. After all,being tech- savvy is very imperative in this world and era.
My biggest inspiration comes from God the Almighty. I also get inspiration from my parents who are the real humanitarians and my biggest cheerleaders. I also get inspired daily by women all over the world achieving success in all their endeavours despite the setbacks of their background, culture and traditions. Lastly, I would say that all the volunteers I know inspire me by their selflessness and their enthusiasm with which they diligently offer their talent and service.
Being a woman of rubies
I am a young woman who takes immense pleasure in celebrating other women around Nigeria and the world. I think it is a trend we should all adopt as one’s woman success is ours too. Women should always support women and surround themselves who will do the same. It’s a huge honour for me to to even be featured on this great platform celebrating women and their successful stories of gallant exploits. And I hope someone reading this will get inspired and in turn inspire others.