Q&A: Farida Kabir Hashidu, Founder, OTRAC-Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers


An exclusive report on the development of Nigeria’s government-certified online Ebola training platform.

Ebola is back on the radar. First it was a new case in Liberia, then there was yet another case which prompted the Nigerian government to raise its alert level.

Last week, HealthNewsNG reported that a federal government of Nigeria-certified online Ebola training platform, OTRAC, had been launched. HealthNewsNG  had an exclusive chat with Farida Kabir Hashidu, the zoology graduate of Ahmadu Bello University who the developed the platform. She spoke on various issues including the nexus joining Ebola and zoology, the appropriateness of the platform, and other issues.

I know you studied zoology at Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria. Did your undergraduate study play any role in the development of the platform?

Yes it did. Viral hemorrhagic fevers are mainly zoonotic diseases (meaning: transferred from animals) and I’m an academically trained zoologist. So it’s my field.

Let’s talk about your reactions when you first heard that there was Ebola in Nigeria. How did you feel knowing a lot about the disease from the zoology point of view?

Well, it’s wonderful to know and have the opportunity to work on a topic you already have the knowledge of from school

Why did you think setting up a training platform was necessary?

It was because we are in the age of information technology and social media revolution. The NCDC plays a major role in preventing and controlling the lives of Nigerians, as such they need to give health education lectures, awareness campaigns and so on to health professionals and also the general public.

At the moment they have no provision for an online training platform so it is in this line of thinking that made me conceptualize and implement the portal as my NYSC community development service project. I’m helping the organization to improve and be better in developing human health capacity for the health sector in Nigeria.

So, how did you get the health ministry to adopt the platform?

During the course of my research for the contents of the curriculum for the website, i had to visit various departments of the ministry of health to review the curriculum i developed before publishing on the website. It was then that the directors refer my work to the permanent secretary’s office. The permanent secretary directed the technical department of his office to look into what I was doing.

How long did it take for the platform to be developed considering those very long protocols?

Almost 7 months, almost my entire service year.

How does the site work – how do I make use of the site and who can use it?

Everybody who has access to internet can use it. You log on to www.otrac.com.ng. Click on the sign up button, fill in the required information. That’s it. You become a member of the website and you can have access to all the courses on the website.

Click on any one of the course, click on the start course button, it will redirect you to the curriculum page; go through each unit of the curriculum and a summary at the end of the curriculum. Then a post training test to evaluate you and see if you actually understood what you went through.

If you pass 70% and above, you will earn a completion certificate endorsed by the federal ministry of health. There are groups and forums for each course, so that students can share their views on the particular topic.

Where did you learn to develop websites?

I designed the platform myself although i got some expertise advice from some web developers. My dad is a computer genius, and everything I know I learnt from him.

Who owns the platform now – you or the ministry?

Both, I am developing the website for them – it’s a two-way affair. I was not paid for it, what I’m doing is for the good of not only the ministry but Nigeria as a whole.


About Author

Paul is a freelance journalist, medical researcher and extensively published author. He holds a MSc degree in cell biology and genetics, and is a PhD candidate of the University of Ibadan.

1 Comment

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