Africa Women Health Champions
"My experience as UN Volunteer has opened my eyes to a lot of opportunities available for career development and has taught me how to work under pressure." Dr Esther Njinembo, UN Volunteer Technical Officer with WHO, Congo

Volunteering as an Africa Woman Health Champion in Congo Brazzaville

My name is Dr Esther Njinembo, from Cameroon. I am engaged as a UN Volunteer Technical Officer with the World Health Organization (WHO) in the team for tobacco and reduction of other non-communicable disease risk factors. I serve as an African Woman Health Champion* in Congo Brazzaville.

The scope of my work is centered on preventing non-communicable disease risk factors, which include tobacco consumption, alcohol abuse, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity. These all contribute to the increasing prevalence of non-communicable diseases like diabetes, hypertension and cancer, to name just a few. People who suffer most from the complications of COVID-19 are those with non-communicable diseases. Thus, I am determined to help countries prevent these diseases.

Controlling the risk factors for non-communicable diseases goes a long way towards preventing people from developing serious complications from COVID-19. The challenge is that most countries fail to see that important connection and their priorities are mostly attuned to fighting the pandemic. We have had to go to great lengths to convince countries to prioritize the prevention of non-communicable diseases as well, because it is a chain of action. --Dr Esther Njinembo, UN Volunteer Technical Officer with WHO, Congo

WHO’s goal is that, by 2023, we have one billion people enjoying good health and wellbeing, one billion people protected from health emergencies, and one billion more people benefiting from universal health coverage. 

I am contributing to achieving health goals by supporting 47 countries of the African continent to establish policies on the prevention of non-communicable disease risk factors. I provide necessary data and statistics for awareness-raising, support the development of awareness-raising materials, and monitor the progress of work. I also assist in elaborating guidelines that serve as a framework to implement our policies and projects within the countries.

As part of this team effort, I recently helped to evidence the links between COVID-19 and non-communicable diseases through a document that will soon be published. This will contribute to better targetting the fight against COVID-19.

My experience as a UN Volunteer has opened my eyes to a lot of opportunities available for career development and has taught me how to work under pressure. I must say it is challenging working with 47 countries, as one needs to be able to understand and work with different groups of people from different backgrounds and with different cultures. This puts in evidence your soft skills most at times and a lot is expected from you. But I believe this assignment is an important stepping stone to my career.

I learned of the importance of giving back to society through volunteering in the early years of my studies. I was a volunteer advocate for the non-communicable disease prevention and control programme organized by the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Services. We helped raise awareness of the risk factors of non-communicable diseases at local levels. With that experience, I was determined to begin my career by offering my services to mankind voluntarily, so, I opted to serve as UN Volunteer in September 2020, and am very grateful for this opportunity.

*The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme launched a new initiative in 2020: the Africa Women Health Champions. The partnership seeks to recruit 100 women to support WHO in improving people’s health and wellbeing in the region, while also promoting gender equality on the continent. Read more here.