Neima Nora Candy, an Australia Awards Alumna from Liberia, has been announced as the Global Alumni winner in the 2016 Advance Global Australian Awards. The award recognises an outstanding graduate who has made significant contributions as a leader in national business, commerce, industry or public service. This comes shortly after her 2015 Alumni Award for National Leadership from The University of Newcastle where she graduated with a Masters of Public Health (MPH) in 2013.
In July 2014, Neima, a Technical Assistant at the Ministry of Health in Liberia, was appointed as the National Ebola Coordinator at the Liberian Red Cross – leading a team of 100 staff members and 2850 volunteers and managing a US$25 million response budget. “Liberia had few health care workers with my expertise so I was highly needed in the fight [against Ebola] at that time,” says Neima.
The newly acquired skills and knowledge she gained through her Masters thrust her into this leadership position. “Some of the courses I did like Global Health, Global Health Policies, and Introduction to Quality and Safety in Health gave me an edge over other health care personnel.”
At the time Neima joined the Liberian Red Cross, there was very little information about Ebola which was alarming for her and other health care workers. In spite of the tense situation, Neima coordinated social mobilisation, contact tracing, psychosocial support, infection prevention and control through community-based protection, and safe and dignified burials of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) fatalities.
Neima also had to draw on the soft skills she learned while on-Award such as negotiation and community engagement. These skills were especially put to the test when it came to dealing with the bodies of Ebola victims safely – without infecting health workers or the 150 burial volunteers on her team. Due to Neima’s extensive training on protective gear, no Liberian Red Cross volunteer or staff member contracted Ebola. “I was fresh from school in Australia and was well equipped with my MPH and I also learned that it’s good to believe in yourself and the work you do which was my greatest asset.”
Apart from her work at the Ministry of Health, Neima is the Executive Director for the Health Promotion Professional Association Liberia (a non-governmental organization that advocates for the rights of health promoters and improving health promotion practices in Liberia) and vice president of the Liberian Australian Alumni Association.
Image credit: Advance 2016