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Pfizer Canada's Anthony Helou’s humanitarian journey in Senegal

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Since its inception in 2003, Pfizer’s Global Health Fellowship program enables colleagues to work in countries lacking proper health resources and to contribute to Pfizer’s legacy of driving sustainable healthcare solutions worldwide.

Pfizer Canada's Anthony Helou was one of the many colleagues selected over the years among many candidates globally to participate in a Global Health Fellow assignment. Anthony leveraged his medical expertise to plan, implement and monitor the “Mobilize against Malaria” (MAM) program in the rural villages of Senegal.


*These pictures were captured prior to implementing physical distancing measures due to COVID-19.

Anthony shared key takeaways from his humanitarian contributions as a Pfizer Global Health Fellow.

Briefly tell us about your Global Health Fellow mission/objectives. 

“My assignment was to plan and implement the MAM program in Senegal. Malaria kills one child every 30 seconds and it is the leading cause of mortality in children under five in Africa and constitutes ten percent of the continent’s overall disease burden. Once infected with the disease, most villagers have no choice but to travel to the closest healthcare facility, a journey that can take a full week by donkey for the fortunate ones.  Left untreated, malaria can kill within two days depending on the strains.  As a result, people often die en route to seeking treatment. 

Part of the MAM interventions was to bring healthcare services and treatment closer to remote underserved populations by equipping villages with health management tools, medication, birth delivery and paramedic instruments, basic furniture, and training villagers in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of malaria.

I helped establish 24 “health huts” in key remote villages in which the population can receive malaria screening, diagnosis and treatment, as well as sensitizing communities on the importance of prevention and treatment adherence. Approximately 76,000 people, including 12,000 children under five years of age, now have access to appropriate medicines that can treat malaria and other important medical conditions without having to travel long distances.

I take great pride in knowing that the Mobilize Against Malaria program in Senegal is now being used as a model for other malaria programs in Africa. Participating in this program gave me the pride and satisfaction of having made a significant contribution to society and for “a healthier world.””

 

What inspired you to apply for the GHF to do humanitarian work abroad? 

“Having lived the first fifteen years of my life in Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, I was fully conscious of the impact of malaria in this region, as I personally suffered from this disease. I made Canada my new home and I consider myself a truly fortunate member of society. I am very grateful for what life has given me.

A dream I have cherished from a very young age was to obtain a professional degree in a health-related field and help the many people in need.  What better way to say “Thank You” to Africa for all that it has given me, than going back to share my knowledge, skills and experience to help expand access to health care services and consequently improve the health and well-being of many disadvantaged people in this part of the world. The Pfizer GHF program allowed me to fulfill this dream, and it changed my life forever.”

 

What is the most valuable lesson that you learned during your Global Health Fellowship? 

“The GHF program is the best school ever! I learned that we, humans, can adapt to any conditions and situations, even the most extreme and challenging ones. We just need to trust ourselves and our passion will lead us right into our purpose. Despite hardships, you need to remain focused and energized with the positive impact that you have on people.

I also learned how to develop projects with limited resources, a skill has enabled me to look at all my current projects differently. Now I’m able to go above and beyond in my work as well as stay focused without feeling overwhelmed. Working in resource-constrained environments has expanded my creative solutions and out-of-the-box thinking, proactively identifying and resolving obstacles, which allowed me to bring new ideas and insights to drive innovation in the execution of the program. It’s made me a more flexible manager, more willing to accept change, and always put things in perspective. It helped me in my ability to adapt and aid others in understanding and accepting change as well. Moreover, it has allowed me to expand my horizons and establish strong personal relationships.”

Anthony is one of the many Pfizer colleagues globally who was paired with partner organizations to work together to bring about meaningful and systematic improvements in health service delivery for people with the greatest need. Given the current evolving global COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 GHF program was cancelled but, once deemed safe by health authorities, will return to offer humanitarian support to communities in the developing world.