Individual Achievement Award

Nigeria: Rita Melifonwu

Rita Melifonwu lobbied the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) to sign an MOU with Stroke Action Nigeria (SAN) on 30/09/2013 to implement national power to stop strokes campaign incorporating stroke assembly conference; stroke services development including a Nigeria Stroke Reference Group (NSRG), national stroke registry and stroke strategy. She lobbied the Medical Association of Nigerians Across Great Britain (MANSAG) to support the implementation of the MOU. A multi-disciplinary NSRG was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari on 15/09/2015. In recognition of the International WSD Theme, Rita supported and coached two female stroke survivors of working age to become Stroke Ambassadors and members of the NSRG. They were able to overcome the social stigma and cultural barriers that they experience as a result of having stroke related disability to engage in stroke advocacy, stroke policy decision making and peer befriending at their local hospital. Ms Onyinye who is only 30 yrs old opened the 2015 Stroke Assembly by sharing her experience, encouraging citizens to exercise their power to stop strokes and announcing the terms of reference of the NSRG to the Nigerian Public. Her speech has wide media coverage reaching over 100 million Nigerians through radio, television, newspapers and social media.

In Nigeria, stroke affects 168,000 people annually. However, without a stroke registry, we do not have adequate information on the prevalence, economic or social ramifications of stroke in Nigeria. There is no organised stroke care, no formal stroke education for professionals, majority of Nigerians refer to strokes as the effects of witch craft, evil spirit or arrow from God. SAN collaboratively embarked on the national power to stop strokes campaign with the FMOH as an outcome of the MOU. This resulted in several stroke support organisations emerging across Nigeria, a Director of SAN Dr Biodun Ogungbo collaborate with an agency to produce a video - ‘Dance with Death’ further raising awareness of stroke to local communities. The NSRG inauguration is the culmination of the evidence that we have the Power to STOP Strokes in Nigeria, supported through Rita Melifonwu’s production of the first ever Stroke Handbook for Nigeria published by SAN and launched at the Stroke Assembly on WSD. The NSRG will tackle all facets of stroke “ prevention, diagnosis, acute management of stroke victim, secondary prevention and promotion of healthy living through its work streams:

  • Strategy
  • Education, Training and Research
  • Stroke registry
  • Standards
  • Publicity

Partnership and collaboration are key to effective stroke services development. Participatory governance led to engagement of citizens, government and agencies in change management to
achieve effective joint working with MANSAG, the FMOH and the multi-disciplinary NSRG. The principal objectives of the 22 member NSRG, to which Stroke Action, MANSAG and the FMOH has three representatives each are to:

  • Develop a National Stroke Strategy encompassing the principles of prevention, management, rehabilitation, long term care and support for survivors and carers
  • Establish National Stroke Registry
  • Facilitate Stroke Education and Training for healthcare professionals
  • Serve as an advisory body to the Federal Ministry of Health on stroke services

Having stroke survivors and a carer on the NSRG helped us to creatively overcome challenges and barriers experienced with engaging people with disabilities in strategic decision making
processes. Each health and social care professional organisation has a place on the NSRG: Medial, Nursing, Neurological Society, Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Speech and language Therapy, Social work, and, the WSO. The idea of the Power to STOP Strokes Campaign as a vehicle for engaging stakeholders to roll back strokes in Nigeria is in itself innovation as this has never been done before.

See photos of Rita Melifonwu and from Stroke Action Nigeria’s World Stroke Day: Trust 6th Nov 2015.pdf CONFERENCE @ 2015 Stroke Assembly on WSD [FMOH-SAN-NSRG].JPG Health Watch 27th Oct 2015.pdf


Contact Details:

Stroke Action Nigeria (SAN)
22 Algiers Street
Wuse Zone 5
Abuja FCT, Nigeria
Contact Person: Rita Melifonwu
Contact Email:

World Stroke Organization

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The Post Stroke Checklist
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