Neima Nora Candy, an Australia Awards Alumna from Liberia, has been named 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 2,850 volunteers, and managing a US$25 million response budget. “Liberia had few healthcare 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 healthcare personnel.”
At the time Neima joined the Liberian Red Cross, there was very little information about Ebola, which was alarming for her and other healthcare 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 had learned while on-Award, such as negotiation and community engagement. These skills were especially put to the test when it came to safely dealing with the bodies of Ebola victims – 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 out of school in Australia and was well equipped with my MPH. I had also learned that it is 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 organisation 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