Coug nurse Abel Saba’s goal is to open a medical clinic in his native Burkina Faso. This summer he and fellow Coug nurse David Oni took a step toward that dream by traveling to the West African nation to hold free medical clinics.

Saba and Oni worked with a team of volunteers from Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso, along with a local physician, to treat 2,000 people in a week.

Most of those people came for Hepatitis B vaccines, because the virus is “a huge deal” in Burkina Faso, Saba said. The World Health Organization estimates the virus affects about 1.9 million people there out of a total population of 20 million.

Hepatitis B vaccines ran out after three days, but the health care team also provided diabetes and blood pressure screenings, vision and hearing tests, and counseling on smoking and alcohol use. They donated their diagnostic equipment to the local doctor when they left.

WSU College of Nursing graduates Abel Saba and David Oni with the rest of their volunteer team who are from Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Ivory Coast.
WSU College of Nursing graduates Abel Saba, center in white coat, and David Oni, sixth from the left, traveled to Saba’s native Burkina Faso this summer to provide free medical clinics and food aid. They’re pictured with the rest of their volunteer team who are from Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Ivory Coast.

“This trip brought me closer to starting a medical clinic back there,” said Saba, who graduated from the Washington State University College of Nursing with his BSN in 2017. He’s currently in the Doctor of Nursing Practice program at WSU and hopes to graduate and become a nurse practitioner in 2021.

Oni graduated from the WSU College of Nursing with his PhD in May and is an assistant professor in the School of Nursing at Oregon Health and Science University.

Along with medical supplies, Saba distributed two tons of rice to needy people. He also took three dozen pairs of shoes – which he bought for $1 a pair when Payless went out of business – for kids attending the school he founded in Burkina Faso when he was just 18 years old.

Saba works as a nurse at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane and used some of his own savings for the medical mission this summer. He also founded a nonprofit, with some of his former BSN classmates serving on the board, to help fund the school and eventual medical clinic. Several local churches also supported the mission.

Map of Burkina Faso
Burkina Faso, in West Africa, has a population of about 20 million. Adobe Stock image.

Along with providing much-needed medical care, Saba said he made contacts on the trip who should be able to help him once he’s ready to start a permanent medical clinic. He envisions splitting his time between the U.S. and Burkina Faso once that happens.

He’s concerned for his country, he said. Northern Burkina Faso has been the target of terrorist attacks by extremist groups, causing migration south and creating a humanitarian emergency.

Being able to help through the knowledge and skills he’s learned in nursing school at WSU “makes me feel a sense of accomplishment,” Saba said. “I came to realize the education I’m receiving is so useful.”

Read an earlier story about Abel Saba’s work in Burkina Faso.