Nurse Without Borders
Seaside man on annual trek to help save lives in Nigerian hometown.
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Working in a shed and the garage of his Seaside home, Richard Anyanwu packs boxes with donated pharmaceuticals, stethoscopes and glucose testing strips in preparation for a three-week trip to Nigeria. The volunteer head of the nonprofit Medical and Humanitarian Aid for Africa (MAHAFA), Anyanwu has gathered the supplies to deliver this week to his hometown, Umueze.
In Nigeria, where average life expectancy is 48, Anyanwu’s deliveries can save lives. He describes one patient suffering so severely from malaria that he couldn’t walk until he was treated with Cipro. “The consensus was, if we didn’t come, he would have been dead,” says Anyanwu.
Anyanwu, a nurse at CHOMP, began his efforts in 2001 after his 72-year-old mother died of a stroke. He now travels to Nigeria twice a year for three weeks. Aided by a volunteer staff of four doctors and 10 nurses, the team reaches about 1,000 people on each visit.
Undiagnosed chronic conditions like hypertension are among the most devastating in the region, Anyanwu says. “We don’t want to see 200 people and give them a week’s supply. We’d rather see 50 and give them enough” to cover the six months between trips.
With donations of unexpired medications from individuals and about a dozen local doctors, Anyanwu says locals are eager for effective drugs. “People start becoming their own doctors, and going to the local chemist who is not well trained” when they lack access to healthcare.
“What we’re doing as a small nonprofit is the same thing the Red Cross with their big resources and big establishment, is trying to do,” he says. And unlike some larger aid organizations, “When I go, we are in the trenches, not air conditioning. We are sweating.”