Rita Melifonwu is the Chief Executive Officer of the Stroke Action Nigeria.
Stroke Action Nigeria is an active listening and learning stroke support organisation enabling stroke survivors and their carers to do extraordinary things.
As a nurse in the UK, Rita saw that the stroke survivors in her ward were often of a black and minority ethnic background, who had little or no understanding about strokes.
She also realised there is a strong family history of strokes and stroke risk factors in her family, as her favorite aunt had a stroke on her way to a market in Onitsha and could not get the needed emergency care.
So, she decided to take action and then became a stroke advocate.
When she won the UK Department of Health’s 1999 Mary Seacole Nursing Leadership Award, she established Stroke Action in UK, which is the model for Stroke Acton Nigeria.
Sadly, despite the rate of stroke in Nigeria, only 5 small stroke centres in Benin City, Ile Ife, Ibadan, Enugu and Illorin were available.
Even the facilities were poorly equipped, as well as being overstretched with no proper stroke education for healthcare professionals.
So, in 2012, SAN launched a Stroke Support Toolkit and trained 28 Volunteer Stroke Ambassadors to establish stroke support groups in Abuja, Anambra, Benue, Delta, Edo, Imo, Lagos, Ogun.
The Stroke Ambassadors provide hospital befriending for survivors and community stroke awareness outreach without any funding, while the stroke advice clinic helps to support stroke survivors in preventing re-current strokes.
In 2013, SAN signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Federal Ministry of Health to collaborate in reducing strokes and developing quality stroke care in the country.
In 2015, Stroke Action joined forces with the Medical Association of Nigerians Across Great Britain to collaborate with pushing the MOU implementation.
As a result of this, the Nigeria Stroke Reference Group was inaugurated on 15th September 2015 by His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari.