UN Volunteer Dr Sonia Bako (right) in action during surgery with her operating room team: Anaesthetist Cadidjatu Colubali (back) and Instrument Nurse Flamina Camala (left).
UN Volunteer Dr Sonia Bako (right) in action during surgery with her operating room team: Anaesthetist Cadidjatu Colubali (back) and Instrument Nurse Flamina Camala (left).

Delivering life-changing health care in Guinea Bissau

On World Health Day 2023, the global community emphasizes the importance of accessible and equitable health care for all. In Guinea Bissau, specialized UN Volunteers are servicing the health sector and delivering impressive results. They are hosted by the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), World Health Organization (WHO), UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and UN Development Programme (UNDP).

 

Dr Sonia Bako (Niger) is an Obstetrician and Gynaecologist with UNFPA. On her watch at Buba Health Centre, Quinara region, maternal deaths have been reduced drastically. 

Dr Bako, 51 years old, is in charge of community maternal and reproductive health care at the health centre. She contributes to UNFPA's mandate in ensuring that every pregnancy is wanted, every birth is safe and that every young person reaches their full potential.  

In 2022 alone, Dr Bako and her team performed 148 caesarean sections, seven emergency gynecological interventions, and over 2,500 obstetrical and gynecological ultrasounds. This directly benefited 1,725 women who received quality antenatal care.  

From June 2021 to June 2022, the Buba Health Center recorded no maternal death, reflecting the life-changing improvements in maternal health outcomes achieved under Dr Bako's guidance. Her involvement in Buba has also given her the opportunity to advocate the importance of accessible and high-quality health care for women. 

Dr Bako has the technical knowledge and proven professional experience required to manage a maternity ward and an operating room. She works jointly with her colleagues to find solutions and achieve common goals. In addition, she enriches the team by sharing her skills and knowledge, while encouraging others to do the same. --Dr Albertine Ribière, Technical Specialist Maternal Health at UNFPA, Guinea Bissau 

Dr Bako Sonia (right), UN Volunteer Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, with a patient who had a cesarean section at the Buba Health Centre.

Dr Bako Sonia (right), UN Volunteer Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, with a patient who had a cesarean section at the Buba Health Centre. ©UNV, 2022

UN Volunteers are also essential to safeguard the duty of care of the United Nations towards its own staff and dependents, for example through the UN Clinic.

Cesar Marcelino Vieira is a national UN Volunteer Nurse. At 40 years of age, he heads COVID-19 monitoring and vaccination at the UN Clinic. Cesar's priority is raising awareness among UN staff and their dependents about COVID-19 prevention measures and the importance of immunization. So far, he has reached 255 staff members, 140 dependents, 62 non-staff members, and six retirees. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Cesar and his team have conducted home visits for UN personnel who have tested positive for COVID-19. They have been under constant surveillance, ensuring they are quarantined and receiving the necessary care until they test negative. Thankfully, no serious cases were recorded in the UN community. 

In January 2022, there was a surge in positive cases, with 28 infections recorded within a single month, as opposed to the previous record of five cases per month. In response to this alarming increase, Cesar promptly triggered the information chain within the UN system. Immediate communication with all UN agencies, and through them to UN personnel, resulted in the rapid containment of the situation. Consequently, the number of vaccinated individuals increased significantly in March 2022.

Cesar's efforts and teamwork have played a vital role in managing and monitoring equipment such as ventilators, ECG monitors and oxygen concentrators. His dedication to providing quality care has resulted in an impressive 80 per cent improvement in patient care and recovery rates. 

I gained invaluable skills from collaborating with colleagues from diverse backgrounds and learning about different social, cultural and scientific perspectives. I intend to utilize the knowledge I gained from volunteering to enhance my ability to assist those who require it in my technical and professional field. --Cesar Marcelino Vieira, national UN Volunteer Nurse in the UN clinic, Guinea Bissau 

The commitment of Dr Bako and Cesar to improving health outcomes in their constituencies demonstrates the power of individuals to drive change. It also underscores the vital role that qualified human resources – including specialized UN Volunteers – play in the health sector. 

Currently, 24 UN Volunteers are deployed with UNDP, UNFPA, UNICEF and WHO in Guinea Bissau.