Aboubacar Kampo, Chief of Health, Abuja Nigeria
Tell us a bit about your background.
I am from Mali but consider myself more as a world citizen as I was born and raised in Germany, studied in Mali, Russia, Ukraine and USA and have lived studied and worked in over 10 countries.
I am a medical doctor/surgeon and public health specialist by profession. Have practice clinical work for 7 years before adventuring myself in public health. I worked in several complex emergency countries such as Afghanistan, Liberia, DRC, Chad, South Sudan etc.
What do you do?
I am responsible for all UNICEF Health Programmes in Nigeria as well as U-Report. So I am heavily involved in health sector reforms in conceptualizing and drafting health policies and strategies to improve the health of women and children. I am responsible for all the procurement of vaccines and their supplies for Nigeria. The implementation and roll out of U-Report is also a program where I am heavily involved in. And the boring side of my work is to manage about 100 staff and $125 million USD budget per annum.
What’s your working day like?
I am usually at the office around 7 am which gives me time to check all my outstanding emails and work which I couldn’t finish. Then meetings, and brainstorming session with staff the whole day, in between I have administrative work to do to keep our programs running. A good chunk of time is spent on following up on government issues and how best to resolve them as well as relating with donors to ensure buy in and continuous support. And I have to spend time sorting out staff issues. This how my day look like in Abuja Head Office, when I am not in the field to supervise and monitor activities. I get home at 7pm.
How would you describe your job to a 5-year-old?
I sit on a chair in the office, think about good ideas, which helps you to not get sick so that you can play all the time.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
Professional Soccer player
How/when did you join UNICEF?
I joined UNICEF New York in 2008 from Afghanistan where I was the Country Director for International Medical Corps. Since I joined humanitarian work I always wanted to work with UNICEF, I must have applied 100 times before I got called for an interview with UNICEF, and my second attempt was the good one.
What are the most satisfying parts of your job?
When someone is able to change the political landscape to revolutionize new thinking even when the concept preceded you way before, but you could actually put it in action with very tangible results, someone really gets the sense that this is worth going through all the trouble, to guarantee a healthier life for our children.
What’s the most challenging aspect of your job?
Work life balance.
What’s your best UNICEF experience/memory?
Gosh I have many, note sure which is the best, I have beautiful memories from every country I have worked in. In Nigeria I have promoted U-Report and have been the first U-Report country who hit the 1 million Ur-Reporters. In Afghanistan when I successfully negotiated a hostage situation. In Zimbabwe I had a wonderful team with whom we have set up the Health Transition Fund that reduced maternal mortality by 50% in a period of 3 years.
And one of the most touching moment was when the former long lasting Minister of Health from Zimbabwe and very vocal critic of UN, Prof. Stamps, came to the UNICEF office personally to thank me and UNICEF for having revitalised the Zimbabwean Health sector. Worth mentioning is that at that time Prof Stamps, Zimbabwean from the older generation, in his eighties. Upon my arrival in Zimbabwe I was called into his office, he had been very critical of UNICEF. I was subjected to a very tough and long intimidating speech. The only thing I could say at that time was: please give me time before you judge me and UNICEF. And after 3.5 years when he heard that I was moving to Nigeria, Prof. Stamps came personally to the UNICEF office to congratulate me and UNICEF for the extraordinary achievement, in saving the health system and with it many lives of women and children. It felt really good.
What’s one of the biggest risks you’ve ever taken in your life?
When studying in my first year of medical school, I travelled to see a friend just 2 days before my state exam. Travelled on Friday, took my books with me and was scheduled to fly back on Sunday Morning. As an African I didn’t take into account winter blizzards, and that what happened. Stranded in Odessa until early in the morning, the flight finally left at 4 am for Donetsk (Ukraine) I managed to arrive in time to show up for my state’s exam in anatomy and passed it with the scare of my life.
What are your passions?
Family, my work, and soccer
What advice would you give others who are seeking a similar job as yours?
Always follow your dream and always dream big. With hard work and passion all dreams come through.
Who do you look towards for inspiration?
In God for eternal blessing, in my mom and dad for wisdom and poised attitude. In Nelson Mandela for humility and greatness and in Bob Marley for saying out lout what everyone thinks quietly and fighting for the greater good of human kind in the way that he knew best. But to be fair I look for inspiration everywhere and from anyone, my team has been a great source of inspiration and who have defined and shaped my thoughts. Sometimes I just get inspired by the simple person who was unknown to me few minutes ago, and who the next minute fascinates me in doing something some way which I have never seen before to solve his/her problem without complaining. And if he/she can do it with very little, why can’t I with so much? It always gives me another perspective of life, and makes me appreciate whatever comes to me.
My colleagues don’t know that…
That I got lost in a national safari game park in Kenya. Somehow I got detached from the group and started walking alone. I got the scare of my life…..the second after my biggest risk . So while I was walking blindly in the park watching out for eventual Lions, hyenas and cheetahs a bus came along the road. I put myself in the middle of the road to force him to stop and take me on board, just to find out that in this game park there were no dangerous wild life and you could actually walk around. Now I was standing there sweating in the middle of a primary school bus. What a laugh we had and great lesson to always listen when the tour guide is explaining the tour. LOL