5 questions with Aisha Daggash
Our monthly checkin with staff from around the world. Learn more about the people who work at CHAI.
Please tell us a bit about your background and what brought you to CHAI.
I am a pharmacologist by training with an MSc in biotechnology, bioprocessing, and business management. I started my career working as an intern with the pharmacovigilance department at the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, supporting the fight against counterfeit drugs in Nigeria. After a year at NAFDAC, I decided to make a transition to an organization that aligned more with my professional goals. Five years later, CHAI has provided an avenue for me to grow as a public health expert, as well as to use my academic knowledge to create an impact in public health, medicine, and pharmaceuticals. I’ve had the opportunity to work across three programs, which have shaped my thinking and experiences for building sustainable health systems.
1. What does a typical day at CHAI look like for you?
My current role is focused on providing technical assistance on health systems strengthening. Our objective is to ensure the government is equipped with the managerial and technical frameworks, tools, and skills necessary to improve structures for the delivery of maternal, newborn and child health services. Depending on the task at hand, a typical day for my team involves working closely with the government and partners to problem solve, generate evidence, think strategically and systematically to address critical gaps in the health system.
2. What’s been one of your proudest moments working at CHAI?
Without a doubt, it’s assisting the delivery of a baby girl in a keke (also known as commercial tricycle or tuk-tuk). Most states in the northern part of Nigeria have between 60-90 percent of newborn deliveries occurring at home. This is due to cultural beliefs, poor quality of care at health facilities, and financial limitations amongst other reasons. CHAI’s comprehensive maternal and newborn health program focused on the training and mentoring of traditional birth attendants on the identification of danger signs in pregnant women, prompt referral to health facilities, training and mentoring of health care workers to improve the quality of care for mothers and their newborns, improved availability of essential supplies, commodities and equipment, and the establishment of a functional emergency transport system operated by community volunteers.
A colleague and I were on a routine program spot-check with our Ministry of Health counterparts to one of the communities when our attention was called to assist a woman who was in labor, struggling and unable to sit in the keke which she intended to use to transport her to the nearest health facility 40 minutes away, because her baby’s head had descended. After a quick examination by the ministry officials, the conclusion was that the woman would deliver on the way to the health facility and it was best to support her on the spot. Within minutes, the trained traditional birth attendant from that community was summoned. She arrived with her clean delivery kit to assist the woman, also showcasing her newly acquired skills from the CHAI training and mentoring to support this emergency. We collectively assisted and witnessed the successful birth of a beautiful baby girl, in less than 20 minutes, all in the back of a keke! The driver wasn’t pleased by this activity, but the woman’s husband volunteered to take the tricycle to the carwash and to ensure it was disinfected afterward. It was also very fulfilling to see the emergency transport system in action when the new mother and her baby were referred to the health facility for post-partum care and newborn checks.
Moments like these that keep me going. Seeing how our strategies come to life, to save lives.
3. What is the best piece of advice that you have ever received?
To always be prepared for my blessings before their onset. That way, I remain motivated, constantly learning about all the things I want/dream of, so that when they arrive, I am skilled and ready for the blessings to flow.
4. What books are you reading, or show are you watching right now?
I am currently reading two books. The first is “Orchestra” by Samiah Oyekan-Ahmed, which is a fictional book on the importance of spirituality and resilience in life. The second is “The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down” by Haemin Sunim, it’s a guide to mindfulness by a Buddhist monk that offers spiritual advice on how to be calm in a busy world.
5. What advice would you give someone who’s considering joining CHAI?
The CHAI values and operating principles tell you everything you need to know about this great organization. If your goal is to save lives, take the leap of faith, and apply. You won’t regret joining but be prepared to put in the work.