With better financial footing, families able to make health gains in Nigeria

October 11, 2017
Dickson Boumono harvests palm fruit to make palm oil, which she sells in her Nigerian community.

Dickson Boumono has her hands full with five children. Boumono and her family live in Southern Ijaw, an area in Bayelsa, one of Nigeria’s coastal states. To make ends meet, the 45-year-old mother sells palm oil.

A year ago, the small amounts she was able to sell wasn’t enough. Boumono struggled to provide for her family and cover basic medical and food costs. Unable to purchase clean drinking water, her children were often sick from contaminated food and water.

In October 2016, a member of Pact’s PROMOT II project approached Boumono about joining support initiatives in her community.

PROMOT II, a partnership between Pact and Chevron, is a community-based project that works to reduce new pediatric HIV infections and mobilize community and government support for prioritizing and sustaining prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) activities. The project promotes healthcare seeking behavior in women of reproductive age, encouraging them to use antenatal care and PMTCT services, and builds the capacity of communities to advocate for accessible, high-quality health services.

The project utilizes Pact’s signature WORTH program, which provides literacy, numeracy, savings, and financial skills, to increase families’ economic resources and potential. The women save together and provide loans to one another to create new businesses or expand existing ones. In addition to the financial benefits, the groups also provide a supportive environment for women to discuss their challenges and needs and learn about health topics such as HIV and nutrition.

Feeling overwhelmed by her struggle to make ends meet, Boumono was hesitant to join WORTH, but excited by the possibilities.

“When I enrolled in the project, I did not have anything,” Boumono says.

Every week, she attended meetings and contributed the minimum savings of 100 Naira—about $0.30. After six months, she was ready to take out a loan from her WORTH group. She pitched her plan for the money—expanding her palm oil business—to the group. Boumono received her first loan of 10,000 Naira (approximately $31) to purchase additional palm fruits to process for oil.

Boumono labors by the fire as she processes palm oil.

“I used the money [10,000 Naira loan] for my oil business and got more money from it,” Boumono explains. Not only did the loan help her increase the amount of palm oil she sold from about 30 liters to 70 liters per production, it allowed her to expand into new business ventures. “I quickly paid back the loan to my group. Since I have more money, I have added another business selling ogbono [a local food] to my business.”

Boumono transfers palm oil to containers for sale.

Today, Boumono uses the extra money she earns from her business to provide safe food and clean water for her family. Her children are no longer plagued by illness.

“If my child is sick, I don’t wait for my husband for money before I take the child to the health center,” she says. “I know how to save money now and can also pay school fees for my children and buy little things for them to take to school.”

Boumono credits PROMOT II and her participation in WORTH for the positive changes in her life. When looking to the future, she hopes to make her business even bigger.

In the first year of PROMOT II, 213 women like Boumono have joined the project’s WORTH groups, saving almost $1,400. Of the pregnant women participating in WORTH, almost 3 out of 4 women have used group funds to access ANC and PMTCT services.