My Sympathy To Ikpeazu Over The Loss Of His Chief of Staff

By Odimegwu Onwumere

Most people think that the significant ones in the society do not need a ‘how are you?’ message from the rest of the population, especially when they are perturbed. There is a false impression pointing that due to how financially muscled they are, they do not need to be cared for and that everything is okay for them.

{Governor Okezie Ikpeazu}

No. They need our care and expression of love outstandingly in their isolation from the public called office they spend most of their time in. It is because they are not above life (even though that some of them feel that they are above life) that I want to extend my expression of commiseration to the Abia State Governor, Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu, over the passing away of his Chief of Staff, Chief Chijioke Nwakodo, who died in London, as was transmitted by the media of August 11 2017.

It is not painless to lose a loved one as a Chief of Staff at the age of 56. It would not be uncomplicated to forget such a death even though that heartache helps human beings to overcome and makes the deceased much weighty in the eyes of the living.

We however undergo the death of our loved ones in our lifetimes and the governor should put every mechanism in place to bear the permanent loss. I would not know the emotions the governor might be wearing now, but it will be nice he grieves in his own way without hurting himself. There is no amount of “Be stout!” or “Applaud up!” or “Move on!” that might heal Dr. Ikpeazu.

The governor may be wondering if Nwakodo is actually dead. Many of us had thought this way, when we lost our loved ones. But it is an incredulity that is a reality after we come to our distanced senses. The death of a loved one, keeps us defocused. No doubt. But we heal gradually with time.

Even with the time, our minds send a cluttered message to our hearts and we begin to wonder if there was a way that could have saved the life of the loved one that we didn’t apply or follow. Well, we have to understand that unhappiness is beyond thinking in different directions after death had snatched a loved one or appearing in seclusion.

The deceased, I didn’t know him in person. But I’m somewhat compelled to tell the governor through this means that I could not allow him stay alone or in a lonely mood in this gloomy time. If Nwakodo’s life was something that money or might could redeem, he would not have gone the way of our ancestors. At least, he was in London, where the healthcare is lively, unlike the moribund and on the-deathbed healthcare system in this country.

Let all the people that loved Nwakodo take heart. So, let the governor take heart and be happy that he had a man like Nwakodo who served in his government. Again, all and sundry should take heart.

It may not be easy for Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu to describe the death of his Chief of Staff – Chijioke Nwakodo, but for him to realise that Nwakodo is no more, the better. There is no other time. The time is now!

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet, Writer and Media Consultant based in Rivers State. Tel: +2348057778358. He contributed this piece via: apoet_25@yahoo.com

Father Removes Daughter’s Two Teeth Through Vicious Beating

By Odimegwu Onwumere

I opened the gate and came out, after her voice signaled that she was the one knocking. The time was some minutes to 1PM. The date was August 10 2017.

She sat down on the bench, leaning on the wall. “Oga, my father removed two of my teeth last night,” she told me, gesticulating.

Looking horror-struck, I could not believe her, if not that she opened her mouth. Two of her teeth were really off. They even changed her tonality. I was aghast and inquired of what led to the ordeal.

After narrating an inconsequential story, I flummoxed, asking myself why a father should beat her daughter to the extent that her teeth were pulled out.

I HAD dressed for the day’s transaction when Dimma, the girl of about 18, came to lay her complaint. I was hapless, owing to the fact that my house was no bank to withdraw money instantly and give to her for medications. I did not need a soothsayer to conclude that she would not be taken to a hospital by her parents. This was given that her parents and she were impecunious. I knew about their penniless existence, because they were my neighbour, very near to my house.

I told her that it was a pity. After some words of consolation and encouragement, I started hitting the road. But her predicament took my thoughts, as I voyage: I was not sure if I should characterise what happened to Dimma as child abuse, abuse of women or something. I knew that her hashish-addict dad had conditioned his mind to intimidate the family with a view that he was in control of them. Several times, his children’s voices had roared for help from his horrendous grip. His insolvent wife could not help.

The wife was a graduate of his merciless manhandling. As I learnt, she was the man’s punching bag when they got married new, till her family had to take strong measures against the husband that dimly calmed him.  Now, the children were not living carefree, whenever he was around. His presence was a nightmare, such that children playing in the dark at night encounter.

The grumble in my thought was that Dimma, who could not finish her High School and had no hope of engaging in any handwork or trade except miracle happened, would continue to grow under her brutish dad, while clinging a hope that she would escape his presence and have freedom, when she was married. I could not help myself enough in the situation that Dimma found herself. In my thought, she was well captured in a Laura Davis’s “Allies in Healing: When the Person You Love Is a Survivor of Child Sexual Abuse.”

Davis said, “Abuse manipulates and twists a child’s natural sense of trust and love. Her innocent feelings are belittled or mocked and she learns to ignore her feelings. She can’t afford to feel the full range of feelings in her body while she’s being abused—pain, outrage, hate, vengeance, confusion, arousal. So she short-circuits them and goes numb. For many children, any expression of feelings, even a single tear, is cause for more severe abuse. Again, the only recourse is to shut down. Feelings go underground.”

It was certain that Dimma would go underground with her feelings; else, any expression of them, would attract more beatings from the substance-induced-dad. She dared not invite the authorities; else, the community might dissect her. Now, her hope was pain – extreme anxiety. Even, Pain, was an understatement to describe the irresistible pains Dimma was going through.

Maybe, she would take it to ‘God’, as the later was the case in this clime. No one would listen to her, no matter how hard she cried. I knew that the pains would stop in Dimma someday, but the memories of losing her teeth in the hands of her father would linger a life time.

Would loving and trusting her father be there again? I wouldn’t say. However, I found writing about Dimma’s dilemma as a way to heal. Except the authorities, she would not bring her dad’s despicable attitude to book.

Odimegwu Onwumere is an award-winning journalist based in Nigeria. Tell: +2348057778358. He contributed this piece via: apoet_25@yahoo.com

{NB: This is no fiction.}

How A Black Lady Was Forced To Be Using Bleaching Cream

BEYOND RELIGION AND CULTURE: The aesthetic beauty, scintillating black, alluring lady told me something that has kept me thinking since yesterday (July 11 2017): She said that her brother’s wife walked up to her and advised her to be using cream, make-up and many other things. In the brother’s wife words – so that she would appear charming in the streets. This lady is not a dullard or an adolescent to say. She’s above 25 and about rounding off her PhD programme. This is to say that she is not a kid that her brother’s wife, who was supposed to mind her business, would walk up to, to poison her heart. This lady is homely and comely and appears dignified, always on corporate attire and very neat. She is reserved and likes being herself. She does not join the band wagon where majority of the commuters are going crackers. This does not mean that she is a recluse or an introvert. She is humble and dresses like one. What she has read in books has affected her life positively, unlike some ladies would appear in the streets crazily bad-mannered in the name of fashion. Since the day the lady told me of the discourse, I concluded that the brother’s wife was out to demean the lady’s value, ruin her image, make her pursue dreams that were not part of her, disgrace her imagination, slander her abilities and misdirect her perception about life. For me, her brother’s wife was a negative person and the lady ought to diplomatically avoid her. I advise ladies and men to save their skins from the caustic acids they apply in the name of using cream. So, for me, the lady’s brother’s wife was a bad person, corrosive, destroyer, detractor, evil, using evil-words, and a gossip… I would advise the lady to protect her good image from the eyes of negative spectators like the brother’s wife who had been looking at the lady’s good look with hideous monstrous eyes. She wanted to destroy the lady’s confident qualities.  There is no better way to describe a person with chemical infested tongues than the brother’s wife. Beware!

― Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet, Writer and Media Consultant based in Rivers State.

Meningitis: Nigeria Kidding with Local Production of Vaccines

Successive government at all levels had raised the issue of opening local production of vaccines many times that never saw light of the day. However, with the outbreak of meningitis and the recent call by health workers for vaccine production in the country, the government may not turn a new leaf given its antecedents, Odimegwu Onwumere writes

What will it cost Nigeria to produce vaccines?

“This Meningitis outbreak shows that the Ministry of Health has no solid plan of action to help prevent such widespread outbreaks. It is disheartening that here in Nigeria, we wait until there is an epidemic or an outbreak before we start running helter-skelter to try to manage it,” cried out Dr. Nini Iyizoba, a contributor to national and international health discourses.

Iyizoba’s thoughts came when over 8,000 cases of Cerebro Spinal Meningitis, CSM, and about 800 deaths were reported in Nigeria by April 17 2017, amidst were 336 children. This precarious disease that was reported late 2016 with the authorities showing lackadaisical attitude, escalated this year, especially in the North-west and North-central zones, compelling the once ostensible lame-duck authorities to pronounce it as contagion in six states of Katsina, Kebbi, Zamfara, Niger, Sokoto and Yobe – informed the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

According to science, meningitis is a serious disease in which there is inflammation of the meninges, caused by viral or bacterial infection, and marked by intense headache and fever, sensitivity to light, and muscular rigidity; and most affected age group is 5-14 years of age. The source added that those in whose hand it’s to handle such a case were motiveless given that, “Meningitis is quite common in sub-Saharan Africa and countries like Nigeria, Senegal, Niger, Chad, Benin, Mali, Burkina Faso etc which make up the ‘Meningitis Belt’.”

Apart from the 2016-2017 presence of the disease, health establishments educated that this is not the first time that the country was experiencing meningitis. “In 1996 alone, Meningitis killed more than 11,000 people in Nigeria. In 2009, almost 600 people died. In fact, just two years ago, a meningitis epidemic affected almost 10,000 people and killed over 1,000 people in Nigeria.  And now, again, in 2017, it’s happening all over again,” enthused Iyizoba, adding, “How can we not be prepared? Why should we be caught unawares? It is occurrences like these that make people theorise about the lack of empathy for the poor or average Nigerian life.”

Failed promises on vaccines

Experts have judged that if there were local vaccine production plants in the country, it is apparent that the number of the affected would not have risen as drugs would be at doorsteps to help in the outbreak. But over the years the authorities have deafened people’s ears that they would be building drug plants and manufacture vaccines in Nigeria that never come to be. Hence, Nigerians have taken the government’s overtures on production of vaccines in the country aftermath of the epidemic as a tale by moonlight.

Many believed that what the authorities have always preferred was what it did recently: Buy and share drugs. In the voice of Iyizoba, “About 500,000 doses of Meningitis C vaccine have been distributed to affected areas in the North for immediate vaccination. Approximately, another 800,000 doses are being expected from United Kingdom to help support the ongoing vaccination programmes. That brings the total to about 1.3m vaccine doses for a country that has a population of over 180m people.”

In several occasions, individuals and organisations such as the Association of Medical Laboratory Scientists of Nigeria (AMLSN) have pleaded with the federal government to redirect its focus on local production of vaccines. But the government wouldn’t do this given the many years it had been clamouring for erecting vaccines and drug production plants in the country.

The government would always prefer to import vaccines even when there were suggestions that the Federal Vaccine Laboratory, Yagba, can help Nigeria vaccines-wise go a long way if reinvested in. Before its comatose condition, this outfit produced vaccines that were sent to foreign countries.

Many failed calls on local vaccines

In July 2013, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), had called on the federal government to gear up in producing domestic vaccines, but that call seemed unattended to.

NMA’s call was in order to curtail the sprinting of hepatitis in the country, which was viral. It was the then President of the association, Dr. Osahon Enabulele who made the call on the occurrence of the 2013 World Hepatitis Day. It is evident that the call died immediately it was made.

Even when Dr. Enabulele made it known at the occasion that hepatitis virus A, B, C, D and E were accountable for the millions of death in the country, because they caused sensitive and unremitting infections and inflammation of the liver, the government did not bellyache.

Failed attempts to produce vaccines

In June 2012, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan had approved the local production of vaccines with an aim tailored towards everyday accessibility of routine vaccines in the country. While Jonathan might have meant well for the health sector with his government taking-off with Biovaccines Nigeria Limited, which was a joint project company between Federal Government and May and Baker Nigeria Plc, that project did not meet the direction it was intended to reach. If it had reached, the health sector and the government wouldn’t be gasping for air on where to get vaccines for the control of outbreak of meningitis in the country as they are doing today.

At the opening of the Health Canada-NAFDAC Mentorship Launch aimed at building the Agency’s capacity in the area of vaccine regulation on March 26, 2013, the then Director General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Dr. Paul Orhii said that the country was ready to start local production of routine immunisation vaccines for tuberculosis, hepatitis B, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis/whooping cough (DPT), polio, measles and yellow fever. With these words by Orhii – “We want to start manufacturing vaccines. We are starting on a right footing of vaccine production in Nigeria by beginning with capacity building of NAFDAC officers” – up till now, there is nothing on ground to show for the mouthing.

From the month of June 2012, there was expectancy that Nigeria would have a world-class vaccine plant where the production of Yellow Fever vaccines would be fad in 18 months, but this expectation also bit the dust.

Lying on vaccines

Opinions were that the government has been toying with the hope of Nigerians of benefitting from a well designed local vaccines production, given the statement by the MD/CEO, May and Baker Plc, Mr. Nnamdi Okaforthat could not have come to pass till date.

“Our job is to revive that entity using our knowledge, expertise and resources to produce and distribute vaccines in Nigeria once again and consequently end the era of 100 per cent dependence on foreign vaccine producers to immunise our citizens against vaccine preventable diseases that ravage our society.”

Okafor made it known that the requisite industrial capability had been attained. But Nigerians have been wondering why they still gasp for local vaccines today, if that target has been met. Hear Okafor again, “Our major priority now is to commence local vaccines production as soon as possible. The Biovaccines business plan is being reviewed and will be presented to the Board as soon the latter is constituted. We plan to commence construction of a new vaccine plant at the new site in Ota, Ogun State with a view to starting production of Yellow Fever vaccines within 18 months.”

Millions of money that never produced vaccines

The initial plan for the vaccines plant in Ota was to give hope in Nigeria that there would be enough and quality vaccines that are also secure and inexpensive, and create job opportunities for Nigerians.

Okafor even captured it thus: “By going into local vaccine production, Nigeria will be putting the health security of her citizens in its hands. Immunisation is a national health security issue. No country can afford to leave the health security of her citizens in the hands of foreign organisations.

“The venture would also save Nigeria substantial savings in foreign exchange and logistics costs of vaccine importation. Currently, the federal government spends over N6 billion to import vaccines every year, excluding what is imported by states and local governments.

“Local vaccine production will ensure Nigeria’s participation in an industry that is at the cutting edge of science by helping to transfer technology to Nigeria and build capacity for primary healthcare delivery.”

It is hoped that the federal government would stop making further overtures on local production of vaccines but just go into action.

Odimegwu Onwumere is based in Rivers State. He contributed this via apoet_25@yahoo.com

 

When Health Insurance Becomes Unattractive in Nigeria

In this report, Odimegwu Onwumere writes that there are loggerheads surrounding the Health Insurance scheme, causing intricacies in the areas of regulation and implementation, thereby creating loopholes for funds to go down the drain

A clash of interest has been brewing between the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and the parent body of Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) in Nigeria, Health and Managed Care Association of Nigeria (HMCAN).

{Minister for Health Prof Isaac Adewole}

A seeming fraud has allegedly been exposed in the Health Management Organisations (HMOs) by members of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Healthcare, early March this year, to the tone of N350b.

Irked by the shoddy picture, Chairman of the Representatives Committee, Chike Okafor frowned that the money in question was the eventful efforts of Nigerians in making the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), an initiative of the federal government since 2005 after the Health Act of 1999, was made. Okafor therefore advised the NHIS to hold back from funding HMOs till examination into the matter was completed.

The federal government had although convinced the citizens that there was going to be NHIS monthly capitation under the National Health Insurance Scheme Act Cap N42, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, meant to actualise the universal health coverage for the citizens but especially for children, women and the vulnerable in the society, through inexpensive cost and diverse prepayment systems. This was after the institutionalisation of NHIS in 1999 via Decree (now Act) 35 of the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Owing to the fact that health insurance is regarded as one of the most influential insurance policies, the NHIS was given a mandate to see that Nigerians did not lag in their overall health concern. But this exquisite initiative might have lost its focus as fraud and irregularities have supposedly been characterising the effort to give Nigerians a befitting health insurance.

Experts judged that there was a glaring misinterpretation in the way the health insurance has been handled on the part of government officials that hypothetically wanted to implement and regulate. The experts were consequently calling on the authorities for a talk in order to take a stand, given what the law has said. They believed that the government should not be the implementer of the health insurance and as well, as the regulator. In their effort, they wanted the government to come in as a regulator whereas the implementer would be the HMOs.

Speaking to newsmen on the issue in February, Prof. Mustapha A. Danesi, a consultant physician/neurologist at the College of Medicine University of Lagos (CMUL)/Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH), said, “So at present the government seems to dabble into implementations rather than keep strictly to regulation and I believe it is in the interest of everyone to make sure that government keeps to its role as regulator and facilitator.”

In the cause of investigation, Mahmud Yusuf, NHIS Executive Secretary threatened to resign when the Pandora’s Box was discovered in the health insurance agency and he did not sing a different song to that of the Representatives, saying that the health insurance agency has not lived up to the responsibility it was formed. Yusuf said that not upto 5 per cent of Nigerians have been covered by the insurance scheme as against 60 per cent that was the nomenclature on ground at the formation of the health insurance agency.

Given the slapdash practices in the way funds meant for health insurance have been handled, some private health organisations in the country had earlier raised their voice in the way remittances were made in the NHIS monthly capitation. Some private organisations in a state like Plateau State made this known. In February, Chief Medical Director of Sauki Hospital in Jos, Dr. Daniel Gana, who was a former Chairman of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Plateau State Branch, was angst-ridden.

Gana said that the federal government has only been keen in staying at the NHIS office in Abuja, but allowed other individual health and other organisations to totter. Gana’s words were that some organisations that include Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) were paid up front, every quarter, by the federal government. Literarily, Gana’s statement suggested that hospitals nationwide hardly get their salaries as at when due. For instance, checks revealed that as at February 24, 2017, no hospital across the country received their salaries, making “what the hospitals are doing now as just humanitarian services.”

There are obviously many challenges facing the health sector in the country. The 2017 budget of 4.15 per cent for health, for instance, is the fraction of 3.65 per cent it was in 2016, as against 15 per cent WHO and African Heads of State declared for countries healthcare in a meeting at Abuja in 2001. The federal government was oblivious or it knew but pretends to shy away, that health insurance has been hardly penetrated in the country given its (federal government)  unconcern attitude to the health sector.

Pundits in the health sector like the Chief Executive Officer of Novo Health Africa Ltd, Dr. Dorothy Jeff-Nnamani said, “with the objective of providing healthcare delivery solutions across Nigeria and internationally through collaborative partnerships”, while in a public presentation in 2015, that the government has not really made the citizens to understand what insurance really is.

Jeff-Nnamani was of the opinion that aside the health sector, the citizens were still aloof in the understanding of insurance in its entirety. Manifestly in a religious country like Nigeria, the source added that majority of the citizens don’t agree in preparing for the unanticipated circumstances that might befall them hence the churlish for insurance. On the assertion that the federal government has only been sitting at the NHIS office in Abuja, Nigeria’s seat of power, to supervise the health insurance scheme, the source added that federalism has been part of the culprits besetting the health insurance.

The highlight of this is that the federal government insures public servants in its employ, but the state governments most times do not follow up, thereby not relieving their employees the insurance they needed. In a nutshell, the specialists believed that the authorities have made health insurance unattractive to the citizens in a country known for nepotism. Those who know better were of the view that health insurance should not have any barrier in how people access healthcare.

While fielding questions to newsmen in January this year, Danesi said, “Nigerians do not need free health but free access to health. Free access to health is only available to those who have a lot of money.” Danesi had a view that lack of finance was not only the barrier in accessing healthcare; many people that had the money hardly get healthcare as at when due.

In a quest to proffer a solution to resolve the crisis rocking the Health Insurance scheme, Danesi added, “Regulation means, make sure that the laws are implemented and make sure every accredited HMOs are quality HMOs, and make sure that accredited health care providers are quality providers. Those are regulatory issues and make sure that the money that is paid is properly kept and disbursed to the HMOs in order to pay the providers and so on, and that is facilitation. If we are housing the money that is paid, disburse it as fast as possible so that there will be no hitch in the implementation.”

The source, however, frowned at the situation where a patient lineup in the hospital for hours to see a doctor; something that ought to be easy for the patient. Adding, it stated that in a state where free access to health is fad, it means that a patient sees the doctor on arrival to the hospital and not need donkey hours to see a doctor. This is even as a Senior Director for the Health, Nutrition and Population Global Practice at the World Bank, Dr. Tim Evans, said, “Universal health coverage is an essential ingredient to end extreme poverty and boost shared prosperity within a generation. Putting people’s health needs ahead of their ability to pay stems poverty and stimulates growth.”

It is believed by connoisseurs that the only way to get free access to health is through health insurance.

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet, Writer and Consultant based in Rivers State. He contributed this piece via apoet_25@yahoo.com

Atrociousness of Cancer on Nigerian Women

Odimegwu Onwumere writes that cervical and breast cancers are undermining the development of women in Nigeria with over 9,000 of them dying yearly from the scourge, and if government does not take urgent step to proffer solutions against the malady, the number of victims will increase

Madam Chinyerem Michael’s husband died in 2013 of blood pressure (BP), leaving their three teenage children to her care in their squalid situation. Later, she developed cancer of the breast.

Without a proper access to the hospital due to poverty, on December 26, 2016, her matrimonial family in Afikpo, Ebonyi State, was thrown into mourning, as her remains were lowered into grave, after she died.

“I’m yet to believe that my mum is late from the cancer complications she battled for two years and could not have entrée to suitable medication in the country, because we’re not financially stable to take her overseas,” Michael Sunday Michael, her first son in his early 20s, said.

While the Michaels were gnashing their teeth for their loss, the family of Priye Walson residing at Seaside Road, Oyigbo, Rivers State, was celebrating the survival of their mother and wife that survived cancer in India.

“My wife was flown to India when it was detected that she had cancer and today, I’m celebrating her survival. The in-thing was that I could afford sending her to India for treatment. If not, she could have died in the process in Nigeria where the healthcare is zero,” said Mr. Priye Walson.

Chinyere was one of the 800,000 women in developing countries including Nigeria, which international oncologists have said die of breast and cervical cancers yearly, especially due to destitution.

Specialists believed that cervical cancer had taken lives of women than could be related to HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria plunked together. There was apprehension that more women numbering 3.2 million would be diagnosed of breast cancer in 2030, from 1.7 million that have been the ratio, according to The Lancet, a medical journal.

The Director of Sebeccly Cancer Care and Support Centre, Dr. Omolola Salako, at a health sensitisation and screening for Health Writers Association of Nigeria (HEWAN) in Lagos, bared fears that out of the numbers, no less than 9,000 Nigerian women die annually as a consequence of cervical cancer.

There were detections that many of the women, perhaps, could not have had cancer or died, especially those with cervical cancer, if the Federal Government had distributed cervical cancer vaccine to reduce the pervasiveness of the malady in Nigeria.

Investigations revealed that during the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan presidency, the then Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu increased cancer awareness through the media.

According to a reliable source, “In 2011, Prof. Chukwu launched the cervical cancer prevention vaccination, Human Papilloma Virus Vaccine, being the first time it has been done in Nigeria.”

But under the President Muhammadu Buhari presidency, the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole recently told the News Agency of Nigeria that the Federal Government would ‘soon’ start giving out cervical cancer vaccine to reduce the commonness of such cancer in Nigeria.

“There is now a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer and we are working to make the vaccine available,” the minister said, adding, “I can tell you today that there is no public hospital that has a functional cancer machine.”

Head of Radiotherapy and Oncology Department of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, Idi-Araba, Lagos, Dr. Remi Ajekigbe, told authorities that breast cancer was the major disease affecting women with a quarter number of the affected detecting it earlier, whereas over 70 per cent detect it late. Ajekigbe supposed that the later does so because of the myth that such illness was inflicted by witches and wizards, but largely due to they cannot afford treatment at the hospital.

“The hospital is always not the first port of call. The patients must have gone to all sorts of places before coming to the hospital. The pastors are not helping issues by claiming miracle cure for cancer. It is wrong. The ‘Whiteman’ that brought Christianity came along also with medicine and hospital care. Pastors should tell them to come for medical care while they continue praying for them,” Ajekigbe said.

Unlike in Nigeria where low survival rates from breast cancer is accommodating owing to late diagnosis due to poorly equipped hospitals, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, said that breast cancer is the most recurrently detected cancer among women.

According to the source, “1.38 million cases were diagnosed worldwide in 2008.” Unlike it is the most regularly reported cause of death in cancer among women in Nigeria, “Breast cancer survival rates vary greatly worldwide, ranging from 80 per cent or more in North America, Sweden and Japan to around 60 per cent in middle-income countries and less than 40 per cent in low-income countries.”

The cost of the vaccine was said to be N21,000 and cervical cancer is the second biggest killer cancer of women in Nigeria after breast cancer. Despite the coordinated efforts through international public health agencies in tackling breast and cervical cancers affecting Nigerian women, casualties are on the increase due to poor access to hospital.

However, there was an advise by Dr. Salako, who is also a Consultant Clinical and Radiation Oncologist at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, saying: “Every sexually active woman is at risk of contracting HPV and should adopt the habit of going for regular screening in order to detect the virus early. It takes only N7,000 to get a Pap smear test once in five years and N21, 000 to get vaccinated for life. But when the infection has been allowed to grow into full blown cancer, one is not even sure of curing it with N500,000.”

Contradicting the views that there are airs of hope in the Nigerian hospitals, the Pink Pearl Foundation, a community-oriented organisation that provides support, facilitates connections and empowers young women facing cancer, said, “Nigeria is ill equipped to deal with the complexities of cancer care. A wobbly healthcare infrastructure makes clinical services hard to come by and inadequately distributed. Only a few health centres have functioning radiotherapy equipment and the cost of care remains out of reach for most Nigerians who have received a cancer diagnosis.”

For Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka who disclosed in 2014 that he is a cancer survivor, “The important thing is that I am convinced that we have enough funds in this nation to build cancer centres, including research that this nation requires. It is very capital intensive, some of it, but there are many ways and treatments for cancer just like there are many kinds of cancer. Even diet forms an important part. Diet is critical.”

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet and Writer based in Rivers State. E-mail: apoet_25@yahoo.com

Losing a Generation to Obstetric Fistula

Odimegwu Onwumere writes that despite government’s efforts in the media against Obstetric Fistula, many rural women and girls are still suffering from the menace without proper access to hospital

{Minister for Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole}

Aishat Sani, 14, had pushed for a long time in the labour room at a hospital in Kaduna State. It was 4-5 hours and her handlers said that the blood provision to the urethra has stopped, which means in the medical term “ischemic death and drop off”.

Sani’s channel of urine is intervallic between the bladder and birth canal. She can no longer control her urine as it later comes from kidney and empties into the birth canal. After the experience, she oozes out unpleasant odour resulting to her husband abandoning her. She is now a Vesico Vaginal Fistula (VVF) patient and conversely, being derided by her friends and well-wishers.

While she survived during the child birth but only developed Fistula, Nkechi Lawson, 15, from Ebonyi State, is not living to tell her experiences during a child birth. She is no more, resulting from what stakeholders in the health sector attributed to “unfortunate admittance to quality and reasonable healthcare as well as dearth of emergency obstetric care.”

Despite media hype by government and its agents saying that everything VVF, a condition linked with discharge of urine in women was under control, Aishat Sani is one among the many girls and women in Nigeria, especially in the rural areas, who are untreated and cannot access treatment. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) recently unearthed that many girls and women are badly affected with the disease in Nigeria, with Ebonyi State encompassing the highest of over 3,000 cases.

Across the country, experts’ opinion is that the number of girls and women suffering from Fistula has risen to 90 per cent, with about 13, 000 novel cases diagnosed annually. In a chat, a Clinical Associate, Fistula Care Plus, Dr. Suleiman Zakariya was angst-ridden, stating that 150,000 Nigerian women are living with Fistula. The irony is that there’re only 20 Fistula surgeons across the country, handling just a minute number of the victims, as against thousands.

Besides this influence, specialists said that not all medical doctors know about repairing Fistula. While many girls and women are affected by Fistula, professionals said that the exercise of early marriage being a major contributory factor to Obstetric Fistula in Nigeria; in climes like North America and Europe, Fistula has be hounded away more than a century ago.

However, the UN General Assembly Report in 2011, titled ‘The Girl Child – Report of The Secretary Genera’, stated, “The younger a girl is when she becomes pregnant, whether she is married or not, the greater the risk to her health. Girls under the age of 15 are at more risk of dying in childbirth than women in their 20s.” According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “Adolescent pregnancies put newborns at risk. The risk of death during the first month of life is 50 per cent higher among babies born to adolescent mothers. The younger the mother is, the higher the risk for the baby.”

In an assessment, Dr. Ejike Orji, Country Representative, Ipas Nigeria, warned against girl-child marriage, saying that it’s a major contributory factor to Fistula. Orji said, “Early marriage puts girls at great risk for premature child-bearing, disability and death. When a girl is under-aged and is pregnant, the birth canal is not well developed.

“It is narrow and unable to carry the head of the baby. If the baby is forced to pass through the birth canal, two things can happen. The girl, who is a baby herself and has no business having babies, would either rupture her uterus, and both the girl and the baby will die.

“The other thing that can happen is that even if the girl succeeds in delivering the baby after several hours of labour, she will end up with VVF, or if it is in the rural area where there are no skilled attendants, she will develop RVF. VVF occurs as she is pushing; she is stressing the tissues of the birth canal, because the head of baby is bigger than the birth canal.”

Checks revealed that about 230 million girls and women (that include Nigerians) worldwide are afraid to be pregnant for the reason of family planning because they do not have entree to novel contraception. Many of the women are even derided in their different villages for the reason of myths surrounding family planning. Mr. Ban Ki Moon as United Nations Secretary General held-responsible the pushiness of Fistula in countries that include Nigeria on extremely pitiable access to reputable maternal health services. He bemoaned this during the 2016 International Day to End of Obstetric Fistula.

Moon observed that the victims of Fistula annually were not less than two million globally and these were poor and marginalised women and girls. “The persistence of Fistula in some countries and regions is an indicator of very poor access to quality maternal health services,” he said.

Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, accredited in the course of the world Fistula Day, saying, “For UNFPA, ending Fistula remains one of our highest priorities, and we will continue to accelerate efforts, both in our own work and within the United Nations system.

“The global Campaign to End Fistula, launched in 2003 by UNFPA and partners, has made significant progress towards eliminating fistula and supporting its survivors through prevention, treatment, social reintegration and advocacy. UNFPA has supported more than 70,000 Fistula repair surgeries for women and girls in need, and Campaign partners have enabled many more to receive treatment.”

In another vein, Zakariya added, “There is need for government to provide needed policies to reduce chances of women coming down with Fistula. There is need to improve the health seeking behaviour of Nigerian women and access to family planning. There is also the need to upgrade care for obstetric care to prevent obstetric fistula.

“There is still need to increasing awareness at the community level about fistula, improve the health seeking behaviour of women at the community level, institute girl child education, women empowerment, poverty reduction, road networks and other infrastructures.”

This was as Moon added, “We must strengthen health systems and address broader development and human rights issues affecting women and girls: poverty, gender inequality, early marriage, early childbearing, and lack of education. Fistula has virtually been eliminated in most high-and middle.”

Osotimehin noted, “As we talk about ending polio, HIV/AIDS, female genital mutilation and so many other forms of suffering, so must we commit to stepping up our efforts to end Fistula, once and for all.

“This means heeding the call of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to leave no one behind, especially those most neglected, invisible and powerless, including the women and girls living with Fistula. Now is the time, and I am confident we can do it.”

Odimegwu Onwumere is a Poet and Writer based in Rivers State. E-mail: apoet_25@yahoo.com