Our Injured Mentalities In Political Choices

By Odimegwu Onwumere

“We have given politics a substantial impact on the direction of our lives. No wonder it’s so important to so many people!” shouted Aaron Ross Powell and Trevor Burrus, research fellows at Cato Institute, an American libertarian think tank headquartered in Washington, D.C, USA.

Powell and Burrus’s insight on politics in their discourse of September 14, 2012, with the designate – Politics Makes Us Worse – was the aftermath of my fears about politics in the 80s. They appended that political choices matter greatly to those most affected and the interest in political parties manufacture problems that never existed.

I came to understand what that meant: Our mentalities have been injured as a result of political choices. Buttressing this point, they enthused that for those who do pay attention, politics consistently leads in newspapers and on TV news and gets discussed, or shouted about, everywhere people gather; politics can weigh heavily in forging friendships, choosing enemies, and coloring who we respect.

Politics As A Dicey Affair

At our aboard in Oyigbo, Rivers State, Papa had told my younger brother, Henry, and I that there is an axiom that guides politicians: In politics, no permanent enemy or friend, but permanent interest. Incessantly, he shouted it into our ears that politics is a dicey affair.

Not minding, Henry showed interest in politics, but I never did. I hated politics following history accounts of how people kill and have been killed for politics and its offices. I detested killing and my bother never liked it, either, but he wanted to be a politician.

Powell and Burrus were worried why politics plays a major role in people’s lives with decisions by politicians determining what the people should do and should not, what the people’s children should learn in school and what they should be taught, how the people should eat and socialize, how they should even marry the people they love and sundry.

The highlight of that buttressed my worst fears which were on December 31, 1983 when many lives were lost to a coup for group mentalities, for political choices. The democratically elected government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari was overthrown by Major General Muhammadu Buhari in a military coup.

The same was applicable on August 27, 1985, when General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida overthrew Major General Buhari in a coup, and stayed in power until August 27, 1993.

In that coup, many lives were lost, too. As a maximum ruler, people wailed and were bullied for wailing, because of group mentalities, political choices.

Hence, there was a long struggle to attain democracy with the help of international community. When democracy was gotten in 1999, we thought that democracy would help us when a retired Army General, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was elected President Federal Republic of Nigeria in 1999.

But like the military regimes, I noticed the government sending out the Nigerian military on a largely Ijaw town of Odi in Bayelsa State, on November 20, 1999 and they massacred a people in a circumstance over indigenous rights to oil resources and environmental fortification.

Nigeria experienced a lot of politically motivated killings from that year to 2007. Dissenters to the views of the government were hounded and in 2016, democracy has not helped the people, either. All boils down to group mentalities, political choices.

Imprint Of Politics On People

Later, Papa told us of how politics of Nazism hypnotized Germany in the 20th Century. We read in the newspapers of how democracy and politics have made India to be on the index as the world’s largest population of poor people; oh! South Africa was ruined by apartheid of decades which was a sorry tale.

Across Asia and Africa, politics has imprint of woes in diverse places. Papa had told us that from 1974 when autocratic regimes gave way to democracy in Greece, to Spain in 1975, to Argentina in 1983, to Brazil in 1985, to Chile in 1989 and a host of others, politics has traumatized the people.

Soviet Union with a people living harmoniously was disintegrated by the politics in central Europe. My phobia heightened on noting that monarchical government was fad in the 19th Century and people fought against each other for dukedoms.

While peoples all over the world were fighting and hoped to gain in democracy, yet, nascent democracies collapsed in Germany, Spain and Italy in the first half of the 20th Century.

Politics Connects People With Woes

More than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, were mobilized in one of the largest wars in history known as First World War, or the Great War, that originated in Europe and lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918.

Over 9 million combatants and 7 million civilians died in that politically motivated war. This number excluded victims of a number of genocides. Because of politics, came Second World War that lasted from 1939 to 1945.

It was regarded as the most widespread war in history, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. There was the Holocaust (in which roughly 11 million people were killed).

An estimated 50 million to 85 million fatalities were recorded in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There was the Third World War where countries in extensive divergences indirectly showed their grievances.

This was christened Cold War or the War on Terror leading to the formation of the United Nations (UN). Psychotherapists observed, ‘United Nations’ was first coined and used by the then United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Declaration by United Nations of 1 January 1942, during the Second World War, when representatives of 26 nations pledged their governments to continue fighting together against the Axis Powers.

Whichever, I could not have believed much in Powell and Burrus’s pose – on how badly politics can make a people worse or influence them in a democracy till the government of General Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria came on board on May 29 2015, now as a democratically elected president.

Sharing Baked Breath In Politics

In Nigeria, the members of the two political parties – All Progressives Congress (APC), and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – have shared baked breath under Buhari government except a few persons ‘sharing’ the largesse of the government.

Nigerians at large are crying wolf since the inception of this government and I will tell you how. Politics like this has made a lot of people not to vote across the countries of the world.

For instance, many young people in America do not vote during an election. This does not mean that they do not want to be heard, but, because of how the older ones have made them to feel and see a tooting gap between them.

In 1992, Mr. T.B, then a 19 year old student, refused watching the 1992 Presidential Debates because he didn’t see how that responded to the many isolations he was facing in school.

I could remember a Chris Weinkopf, associate editor of National Review, saying, “I think both of them are really just paying lip service to young people in the way they address issues.”

Weinkopf said this “when speaking about how Bill Clinton and Bob Dole are talking to young voters.” Many people believed that democracy would be the most political idea when the idea started in the 20th Century, but politics has posited itself to be afar from the people, even though that people play the politics.

In February 2014, I was astonished of how Ukraine politics was overturned by protesters, all, in a quest that there should be closer relations with the European Union (EU). The much solicited for by the protesters was for the closer relations to end Russian interference in Ukraine’s politics.

The world saw a people that took a stand against what they knew and termed “corrupt, abusive and autocratic government” of President Viktor Yanukovych.  Powell and Burrus sniveled, saying that even if we try to ignore politics, it influences much of our world.

Nigeria Politics

My brother is today in politics, but I’m yet to see any change that the people have made with politics, or politics has made in the people.

Just in June 2016, the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, (CDHR) cried out, saying that the All Progressives Congress, APC-led government has failed Nigerians who voted for them.

Both Buhari, who was once a military dictator and his party, the APC, have been said that they displaced signs of incompetence during electioneering campaign of 2015.

I read from a source, saying, “The APC presented Nigerians with a glimpse of Eldorado even when they were aware that they lack no the capacity or intellectual ability to fulfill even 10% of their promise. To mask their disability, they shielded General Buhari and Prof Yemi Osinbajo (his deputy) from every form of political debate. Instead, they resorted to prepare speech-making in Chatham House, London(UK), and padi-padi town hall meeting where participants, who are their party sympathizers and paid agents would discuss pre-arranged questions.”

This is my phobia about politics and the people. People hide under politics to perpetrate heinous things against the people. It is saddening that many people are committed to their different political parties for politics than they are committed to the general public. This is what psychologists have forewarned: People will grasp group mentalities for politics and will be antagonistic.

Odimegwu Onwumere writes from Rivers State. Tel: +2348032552855. Email: apoet_25@yahoo.com

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Hundreds Of Thousands Dying In Nigeria Due To Vaccines and Immunisation Gap

By Odimegwu Onwumere

In this report, Odimegwu Onwumere writes that meningitis and other vaccine-avertable diseases have become somewhat a recurring decimal in Nigeria and in some countries of sub-Saharan Africa that include Senegal, Niger, Chad, Benin, Mali, Burkina Faso which make-up ‘Meningitis Belt’ due to poor innovative approach to delivery of vaccines

By April 17 2017, Nigeria lost about 800 lives and had 8,000 cases of Cerebro Spinal Meningitis, CSM, in six states of Katsina, Kebbi, Zamfara, Niger, Sokoto and Yobe due to embarrassing vaccine approach, informed the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN). Since 1996, there are data showing that meningitis and other vaccine-avertable diseases have killed thousands of people in Nigeria and by extension, in some sub-Saharan African countries of Senegal, Niger, Chad, Benin, Mali, Burkina Faso which make-up ‘Meningitis Belt’ due to poor delivery of vaccines.

Checks reveal that no fewer than 11,000 people were killed by meningitis alone in Nigeria in 1996 and by 2009, 600 people died. Like a recurring decimal, this dangerous disease that science says is “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” impinged on approximately 10,000 people in 2015, and exterminated over 1,000 people in Nigeria.

The world is embarrassed by the outdated vaccine delivery systems in the country, because Nigeria prefers to buy vaccines from the international market instead of set up vaccines manufacturing plants for local consummations. The highlight of this is that records show that Nigeria only delivered (1.3m vaccine doses for a country that has a population of over 180m people) during the recent impasse. These vaccines, according to media reports, about 800,000 doses were mostly ordered from United Kingdom.  Yet, according to Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, “Too many children still lack access to lifesaving vaccines because of outdated and inefficient supply chains.”

Dr. Berkley was of the belief, saying, “There is need to drive change and deliver comprehensive improvements now, countries won’t have the systems in place to protect the next generation of children, particularly the most vulnerable.”

The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) was caught up in vaccines and immunisation ruckuses in July 2013. The then President of the association, Dr. Osahon Enabulele frowned that the Federal Government (FG) failed to curtail the sprinting of hepatitis in the country due to its overdependence on foreign delivery of vaccines. At the occasion of the 2013 World Hepatitis Day, Enabulele said, “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.”

If the country had been vaccines conscious, these deaths could not have occurred. In the light of this, the World Health Organization (WHO) in one of its reports, held, “Vaccines prevent an estimated 2 to 3 million deaths every year, but an additional 1.5 million deaths could be avoided if global immunisation coverage improves.”

The international body supposed that in 2015, an estimated 19.4 million infants worldwide did not receive routine immunisations. What that suggests is that Nigeria, which includes the countries of the world, is awful in the way she sees to vaccines and how they are handled. The hullabaloo is that this oil rich country prefers to order vaccines from the Americas and Europe during outbreaks, whereas in the advanced world, such methodology of delivery of vaccines has been regarded as outdated and compromising that put the lives of people in danger.

The argument is that health and immunisation are not regarded with the attention they needed in Nigeria. According to news, “President Muhammadu Buhari submitted a budget of eight billion naira for the funding of routine immunisation and polio eradication. But the budget that came back from the National Assembly was cut by about 50 per cent. There is need for the legislature to understand the intricacies of immunisation financing and support fulfillment of the government of Nigeria’s commitment to sustainable immunisation at all levels.”

Dr. Aminu Magashi-Garba, Lead Project Director of the Routine Immunisation Sector of the Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family, who is also Coordinator of the Africa Health Budget Network was befuddled in the above commentary on April 22 2016 in Lagos, when he succinctly declared that the budgetary allocation for routine immunisation including eradication of poliomyelitis was slashed by the National Assembly during its review and passage of the 2016 budget. This could have formed the view by Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa.

Dr. Moeti said, “We must act to close the global immunisation gap. Achieving the Global Vaccine Action Plan goal of universal access to immunization by 2020 would benefit the health of millions of Africans.” This is given that pundits have said that the best ways to save lives of  children, condense cost of healthcare and give the children the prospect to live up to their aptitude is through  immunisation.

But according to Magashi-Garba, the cut in the budget meant, “We are going to have shortage of vaccine procurement this year and early next year if enough funds are not available for the vaccines to be procured completely. This also poses a problem because the funding was tied to two international commitments and it will also create a serious challenge in the sector in ensuring that all eligible children are immunised.”

Unlike Nigeria, most countries are “implementing changes and adopting new technologies like solar ‘direct drive’ refrigerators and redesigning delivery systems.” Against this influence, Steve Davis, president and CEO of PATH, sounded in the following comments as if he had Nigeria at heart, “There are too many places in the world where vaccines are still not reaching the people who need them most. We need to apply the same ambitious investments to vaccine delivery as we apply to vaccine development.”

In the advanced world, the innovative approaches are being put in place to help augment vaccine ease-of-use and publicity. But Nigeria is still gasping for the air on where to source for vaccines during emergencies. Hear Dr. Robin Nandy, principal advisor and chief of immunisation at UNICEF, “Expanding the use of freeze alarms and rigorous temperature monitoring is critical to ensuring that all children have access to potent, lifesaving vaccines. In the long-term, we must work toward the development of products that can better withstand temperature variations.”

However, the WHO has been concerned that 1.5 million children that include Nigerians who are yet to receive life-saving vaccines they need, do not have access. Hence, April each year is mapped out by the international body to create this attention.  But on May 25 2017, at an award ceremony on health innovation given to Alma Sana, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja, the NGO introduced a bracelet that was launched by Glaxosmithkline.

The bracelet was said to be worn on the leg or wrist of infants to remind mothers the type of vaccines they have given their children and the time they need new vaccines. While speaking at the rite, wife of the Senate President and founder of Wellbeing Foundation Africa, Toyin Saraki, believed, “We need to work towards adapting a vaccine dependable Nigeria. One of the problems faced with vaccinations is most mothers forget to take their children for immunisation and this bracelet is supposed to help tackle that issue since the bracelet will be on the child from first vaccination till the age of one.”

While the bracelet is believed to “deal with the problem of timeliness, completion of vaccine doses and that of wider coverage to know the extent immunization has been covered in a locality.” According to Dr. Jean Marie Okwo-Bele, director of WHO Department of Immunization, Vaccines, and Biologicals, in commenting on a study, “For too many countries, it is nearly impossible to collect and harness data to forecast vaccine requirements and deliver vaccines when and where they’re needed. But there are innovations such as electronic data systems that are being piloted and scaled up in developing countries that could and should be more widely adopted.”

Last year, Dr. Orin Levine, the director of vaccine delivery at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation suggested four innovative ways of vaccines delivery during the world vaccine week. Inter alia, Dr. Levine said that first, for vaccines to be safe and effective; they need to be kept cold, hence the invention of Sure Chill refrigerator, which is said to be using “hydro and solar power to keep vaccines cold for days without energy and are being used in more than 30 countries and have become an important tool in humanitarian response efforts when distributing vaccines for cholera or measles can be especially critical.”

In spite of this, Dr. Levine added, “Immunisation is one of our biggest public health success stories, but safe, effective vaccines don’t deliver themselves. With consistent, visible support from national and local leaders, every community can have 21st Century systems that reliably deliver lifesaving vaccines to everyone who needs them.”

Odimegwu Onwumere is an award-winning journalist based in Rivers State, Nigeria. He contributed this piece via: apoet_25@yahoo.com

Pregnant Women Blending With Traditional Delivery Homes

By Odimegwu Onwumere

Checks have revealed that Nigeria constitutes 2% of the world’s population but contributes 10% of the world’s maternal mortality due to spent healthcare system. Odimegwu Onwumere notes in this report that as a result of the apparent failed healthcare system, most women have resorted to traditional delivery homes with the attending dangers

Despite the promise by the present government of Major General Muhammadu Buhari, which came into power in May 29 2015, to establish the 17 agendas on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) index, that include providing good health and good living to all and sundry, Mrs. Joy Ebi, 28, a trader at the Oyigbo Main-market in Rivers State, would prefer to die instead of go to government hospitals for a child birth

Ebi patronizes native delivery homes whenever she’s pregnant. Her three children were delivered in the homes. She would also patronize the native home as she’s pregnant for the next baby. This is in spite of advice from neighbours and relatives to the contrary. However, Ebi seems relaxed in the native delivery homes. She gives her reasons that she feels relaxed, accommodated and loved by the attendants unlike those in the hospitals.

“I’ve my reasons for going to native homes otherwise called quacks, to be delivered of my babies whenever I’m pregnant,” Ebi says. Adding, she enthuses that the native delivery homes attendants are kind unlike those of government hospitals.

“The native delivery homes are receptive, caring and charge little or no money unlike the government hospitals that pose above life and most times deliver women of their children through caesarean section (CS) just for money, whereas most of the women could deliver normally,” Ebi adds.

This is even as pregnant women who patronize government hospitals lament of high costs of delivery in government hospitals. According to newsmen, “One striking thing is that the charges in these hospitals are not uniform even though they are all run by the Ministry of Health.

“The policy of compulsory blood donation is also a source of worry. Pregnant women are complaining of high cost of ante-natal and delivery services.

“Some are asked to pay N12, 500 for registration while their husbands should donate blood, or pay N10, 000 for a pint of blood.

“This is excluding the money for your drugs and other laboratory tests. If you undergo CS, it will amount to over N200, 000. That’s too much for most of us.”

The rural women seek for delivery homes miles away from their abodes that often lead to some ‘putting to bed’ along their villages bush paths. It is believed that poverty is the reason for their action, because they cannot pay for the apparent mountainous bills pregnant women incur in government hospitals. But poverty is not the blight with Ebi. She is a university graduate and a trader of note in the city.

Apart from the traditional homes, many pregnant women attend religious places for prayers and also choose them as where they would give birth. Chris Ewokor in 2016, reported to BBC Africa from Cross River State, saying, “Twenty-seven-year-old Ransom Linus Martin, four months into her first pregnancy, has come to the Land of Promise church near the city of Calabar for prayers, but it is also where she will be giving birth.”

Ewokor added that Martin was not alone in her choice upon that campaigners were headlong to end the practice in southern Nigeria, where many believed that they could be delivered of their babies by ‘God’.

“They do fasting and prayer here, and if you are pregnant you need to go to the place where there is God and there is daily fasting and prayers,” Ewokor impinged Martin, adding, “At the hospital there is nothing like prayer. They don’t pray. They only give you injections. But as you pray at the church, you get closer to God. On the day of your delivery, God will help you and you will deliver successfully.”

Notwithstanding, some medical pundits are of the view that at the government hospitals, their immemorial snowballing neglect and defective funding have made them equal to native delivery homes that are being operated individually with contemplative resources.

Reporting, Pricewaterhouse Cooper, a global thought leadership organization noted, “The Nigerian elite class spends $1 billion on medical tourism and their child bearing needs, while the majority bottom poor are left to die in public hospitals or endure the uncertainties of delivering through traditional birth attendants which often end in fatalities.”

The highlight of it is that the dangers of pregnant women giving birth in this clime cannot be overemphasized. In the view of a 2015 World Health Organization (WHO) report, there were a predictable 814 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in Nigeria. “About half of those deaths were caused by two conditions: uncontrolled bleeding after childbirth, or postpartum hemorrhage, and pre-eclampsia,” said the source.

In a meeting held with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the presidential villa, Abuja, on Wednesday, September 28 2016, the Executive Director of the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA), Professor Babatunde Osotimehin who was a former Minister of Health in Nigeria, and the Permanent Secretary of the UK’s Department for International Development, DFID, Mr. Mark Lowcock bemoaned that Nigeria’s maternal mortality rate has levitated to 10 percent where about 111 women die on day-after-day footing.

“Nigeria constitutes 2% of the world’s population but contributes 10% of the world’s maternal mortality,” said Osotimehin. UNFP also stated that in sub-Saharan Africa, a woman has a 1 in 16 probability of dying during pregnancy or childbirth. The WHO and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) data believes that Nigeria’s maternal deaths record is a disaster, if not the highest globally.

“Even though, maternal mortality worldwide has decreased by nearly half in the last 15 years, Nigeria still faces a heavy burden, leading the world in the total number of maternal deaths per year. In 2015 alone, 58,000 Nigerian women lost their lives to pregnancy and childbirth-related causes,” said the data. Those who know better add that corruption, negligence and injustice have been the major factors debilitating the Nigeria’s broken healthcare system.

On the other hand, newsmen of a leading broadsheet in Nigeria had this to say, “The Nigerian Association for Reproductive & Family Health (ARFH) and the international NGO, PATH, revealed in a 2016 study how a lack of access to three basic medicines is increasing the threat of Nigeria’s two most deadly pregnancy complications: postpartum hemorrhage and pre-eclampsia/eclampsia.”

The source went further, “As of March 2016, there were 13 oxytocin products and four magnesium sulfate products registered in Nigeria that had not yet been judged to meet international quality standards. This increases the risk that maternal health products are poor or unknown.”

But while speaking in Uwanse village of Cross Rivers State, Ewokor explained that Dr. Linda Ayade, the Cross River State governor’s wife was appalled by the practice “of a church or traditional home birth” therefore she was crusading for a stop to the practice given her experiences in the government hospitals.

In her words, “I have worked in hospitals in Nigeria and I have first-hand experience of pregnant women being rushed in at critical times when they can no longer be helped. Some are even confirmed dead on arrival, and it happens quite often. I have taken it as an obligation to save lives and reduce incidences of maternal mortality relating to child birth and delivery, knowing what it means for a mother to die and leaving children behind.”

Odimegwu Onwumere is an award-winning journalist based in Rivers State, Nigeria. He contributed this piece via: apoet_25@yahoo.com

Nigeria’s Healthcare of Woes

In this report, Odimegwu Onwumere unearths that less than 40% of Nigerian women have access to healthcare leading to some maternal and mortality deaths. The report also shows nervousness that lack of research funds, basic amenities, too many poor policy implantation, corruption and political instability, insufficient medical experts, lack of modern medical facilities are amongst many woes bedeviling the healthcare system in the country

Laughable healthcare in Nigeria has been driving hundreds of thousands of her citizens to seek for quality medical care abroad, especially those who can afford it, thereby leaving the impoverished citizens to their fate, to putrefy in hospitals in the country known for their obsolete equipment. Worried by the extreme shortage and allotment of healthcare professionals in Nigeria, which has seen to different health challenges especially maternal and mortality deaths (where 36% of Nigerian women have access to health care system) due to dearth of feasible primary healthcare centres in the country, experts assembled in Abuja, the country’s seat of power, on a three-day workshop, which commenced on July 18 2017, to look into the circumstances.

The derisory healthcare has generated some significant reports of some of the citizens with minor illnesses ending up in the morgue, because of lack of life-saving and modern technologies in the Nigerian hospitals. This is no longer news. Connoisseurs opinion is that hardly can one find such modern equipments as “Heart Defibrillators, Holter monitor, and Bronchoscope, which is used to perform Bronchoscopy” and many others in the hospitals across Nigeria. Some added that apart from lack of modern equipments, “unrestricted and unethical practices” thrive among doctors practicing in the country. Those in this line of thought believe that in rational countries of the world, doctors are not allowed to practice after one year of internship after medical school as it obtains in Nigeria; they are allowed to practice after 3 years of residency (after medical school).

They added that in those countries, (people go to medical school after graduating first from the university). But in Nigeria, the case is different. “This results in the roll out of too many half-baked or unqualified doctors that are not well groomed to practice in Nigeria.” While these minds talked to some newspapers editors recently, they added, “Government laissez-faire attitude towards healthcare, ignorance, socio-cultural issues, fake drugs, affordability, incessant strikes by healthcare workers for non-payment and so on, are fad in Nigeria.”

According to them, “It can be observed that the staffers at the Federal Ministry of Health seem to have more interest in spending time and energy with public sector shenanigans than in demonstrating medical expertise that they have been trained for. Therefore, attention and concern of the health of Nigerians had been replaced by selfish interests of those who run the Ministry of Health at the Federal level.”

The raging debate however suggests that the healthcare woes in Nigeria are due to decades of unsuitable measures taken by the successive governments to arrest the situation.

Shortage And Allotment Of Healthcare Professionals?

According to Nigeria Demographic Health Survey 2004: Maternal mortality is increasingly high in Nigeria and the country has one of the maternal and child health indices in the world with maternal 800-3000 deaths per 100,000 live births, life time risk of dying from pregnancy related complications of 1:8 compared to 1:10 in developing countries.

A media data, March 16, 2016, lectured that there’s a population of N182million Nigerians in 36 States of the country. According to the source, “These populations share just 20 Federal Teaching Hospitals and 23 Federal and State Medical Centres. Some States like Lagos host more than one.”

Adding, the source asked, “43 Federal and State Medical Facilities for a population of 182million? That’s an average of about 4.2m people per hospital. Apparently these facilities are too small to cater for Nigeria’s population.”

Why Universal Health Coverage Failed In Nigeria?

In the three-day summit that was tagged Human Resources for Health Summit and was organised by the Federal Ministry of Health in partnership with global health cohorts, the keynote was dubbed “Strengthening Human Resources for Health Towards Revitalization of Functional Primary Healthcare Centres in Nigeria.” Factors hindering service delivery, to health workforce challenges, to attaining the nationwide objectives, such as that of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to achieving Universal Health Coverage, characterised the discourse. The Minister of State for Health, Osagie Ehanire while speaking at the conference, harangued the need for the authorities to enliven the comatose healthcare system in the country.

Ehanire said, “All the initiatives to achieve Universal Health Coverage will be appropriate if the right numbers of people with the right skills are in the right place at the right time with the right attitude to provide the right service at the right cost.”

Investigations nonetheless revealed that unfavourable environment has led to many health professionals from Nigeria to migrate to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries in search for greener pastures. A representative of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Ibadat Dhillion frowned at this, saying that Nigeria has lost much of her health workforce to OECD countries.

Dhillion said, “Nigeria’s health centres have been in shortage of manpower, whereas a country like Jamaica enjoys medical personnel in her health workforce who are Nigerians in the indices of 25 percent. Nigerian migrant health personnel to OECD are in the ratio of 60 percent.”

N1500 On Nigerian’s Healthcare Per Year?

In sound climes, health benefits are seen as a fundamental human right that must not be deprived the individual. For instance, pundits said that elections in countries like the USA and UK are won or lost “on the debate of Health from NHS to the Affordable Care Act.”

But this is not the same with Nigeria. Nigeria is a country without National Health Act implemented. This, if implemented, is supposed to help in bettering healthcare delivery in the country. With the huge mineral resources sales that go to its coffers, authorities said that the Federal Government (FG) spends about N1500 (about 4 USD) per Nigerian’s health care a year.

That might sound hilarious. Conversely, Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole literally wept concerning this, at the Maiden Edition of Health Communication Conference organised by Association of Nigeria Health Journalists, ANHEJ in Abuja, July 13 2017.

In Adewole’s words, “Nigeria is still far below the Abuja Declaration, a commitment by the African Union Heads of Governments to ensure that at least 15 per cent of National Budgets are allocated to the health sector.

“In 2017, the Health Budget (Nigeria’s) is only around 4 per cent of the National Budget. Though, this represents a slight improvement from around 3.73 per cent in the 2016 budget, the numbers are worrisome. This would mean that only about N1, 500 (One Thousand and Five Hundred Naira only) is being spent on the health of every Nigerian per year.”

Adewole was worried that unless the country imbibed the spirit of funding major part of its health programmes, Nigeria might not get out of the health conundrum, at least, soon. Buttressing his views, he gave instances where approximately 70 per cent of the resources to contain HIV come from foreign donors.

According to Adeowle, “99 per cent of the commodities were paid for by outsiders, so we must put our money. When we look at family planning, the large part of the money is from outside. Immunisation, the vaccines all come from outside. This country must wake up; we must put our money in health and create a positive way for the health of this nation.”

Upon Billions Of Dollars Launched?

Just as Adewole said that Nigeria depends on donors to curb her healthcare challenges, research has shown that the donors have spent trillions of naira to boost Nigeria’s healthcare system and fight diseases such as malaria, diarrhoea, measles, cholera, hepatitis, polio, and so many others; yet Nigeria is thus far to solve her health unresponsiveness.

This issue gets some Nigerians cracked. One of them who claimed anonymity, said, “The deplorable state of the Nigerian healthcare system is sad; the healthcare system in Nigeria by every indication is third world standard.

“In spite of the large budget and funds from donor countries and organizations, there is nothing to be proud of as most of the resources are flagrantly embezzled by certain group of people, who run the affairs of the Ministry as personal property.”

For example, just on February 16 this year, N40 billion (70 million Euros) to improve healthcare in Nigeria was launched  by European Union (EU) of which the Federal Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the Ministry of Budget and National Planning and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), were running round for implementation.

According to official data, “50 million Euros of the grant disbursed through the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), aim to ensure that by 2020, 80 per cent of the wards in Adamawa, Bauchi and Kebbi States will have a functional primary health care centre, providing round-the-clock services to three million children under the age of five, as well as almost a million pregnant women and lactating mothers.

“Also, 20 million Euros disbursed through the World Health Organisation (WHO), will support the strengthening of health care systems towards achieving universal health coverage in Anambra and Sokoto States.”

The EU Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Michel Arrion, while speaking at the event, said, “The focus is especially on providing services to poor, marginalised, rural women and children, saving the lives of mothers and children and improving their health and nutrition through a sustainable primary healthcare delivery system.”

For UNICEF Nigeria Representative, Mohamed Fall, “This will help Nigeria on the road to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals agreed at the United Nations in 2015 by all the world’s nations, including Nigeria.”

It is consequently assumed by some opinion leaders in the health sector that the standard of healthcare delivery Nigerians yearn for will not be reached till a drastic searchlight is beamed at the Federal Ministry of Health, which is supposed to be where Nigeria’s health woes emanate from.

Odimegwu Onwumere is an award-winning journalist based in Rivers State, Nigeria. He contributed this piece via: apoet_25@yahoo.com

Millions Expected To Die In Nigeria Due To Poor Finances For Feeding

By Odimegwu Onwumere

Over 5.2 million people are expected to be seriously affected by malnutrition by August this year, from the 4.7 million the WFP says are currently affected in North-East, Odimegwu Onwumere writes that investigations reveal that the number of children currently malnourished and sick in Nigeria is apparently more than the population of some countries

“Hundreds of thousands of Nigerians could starve to death in the famine-threatened North-East due to lack of aid funds,” the United Nations warns on May 24, 2017.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) figures picture that numerous children are affected by malnutrition in the country. In Katsina, Kebbi, Jigawa, Yobe, and Zamfara States, experts at Working to Improve Nutrition in Northern Nigeria (WINNN), exclaim, “As a result of malnutrition, 58 per cent of children under five in these states suffer from stunting, meaning their physical and mental development have been impaired.”

But despite this, authorities seem not to be working round the clock to arrest the situation, even as WINNN adds, “An estimated 370,000 children with severe acute malnutrition in these states will require lifesaving treatment this year, while 183,352 breast feeding women are malnourished. Without urgent intervention, some 70,000 of those children are likely to die.”

Twenty Million People In Danger

Nigeria is among countries like Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen that the UN says pose the jeopardy of malnourishment and where 20 million people are in danger due to draught and conflict and will be dubbed “the world’s worst famine for decades”.

The U.N’s Financial Tracking Service (FTS), articulates, “Nigeria’s humanitarian appeal is the least funded. Nigeria’s aid response plan for 2017 has received $241 million of a requested $1.05 billion to date, of which the WFP’s demand for $300 million to provide life-saving food aid in the North-East has only been a sixth funded.”

This has raised sharp fear that only this June, the UN can merely assist 1.3 million of those most in need, as against the 1.8 million people it had before tabled to provide aid to.

The genuineness of this is that apart from the North-East, malnutrition and stunting are besetting the growth and development of children in most Nigerian towns and villages.

Hundreds Of Thousands Of Children Dying

The UNICEF says that in 2016 alone, the South-East geo-political zone of Nigeria had a number of 34, 889 malnourished children, while 6, 700 deaths were recorded.

The same was pertinent to the South-South zone, with a total of 86, 304 malnourished children, and 16, 700 deaths; while in the South-West, there were 84, 417 cases of malnourished children and 16, 300 deaths.

The source goes further to reveal that the North-West zone had 1,594, 462 bags of the ugly omen and 308, 000 deaths.

The North-Central had 43,635 toll of malnourished children with 8,400 deaths; and North-East had 695,998 cases and 134, 000 deaths.

Millions Of Dollars Needed

At a media discourse with the theme – Investing in Child Malnutrition For the Future – Mrs. Philomena Irene, UNICEF Nutrition Specialist says that there are 2.5 million children on the index to be treated for malnutrition, but about 500 have been treated; all simmer down to poor funding.

“$107 million is needed for treatment of malnourished children in Nigeria, but just $21.5 million have been realised, leaving a shortfall of $85.5 million,” as according to UNICEF, adding, “Only $5 is needed to prevent malnutrition in a child while a total of $71 is needed to treat each malnourished child.”

It is believed that sixty-six percent of children are malnourished in the country and the percentage is expected to increase due to the WFP heralding apocalyptic famine in Nigeria.

According to the WFP’s regional director Abdou Dieng in a statement to the Thomson Reuters Foundation in Dakar, Senegal, “We need $250 million to prevent famine in Nigeria in the coming months.”

Effects Of Hunger

This plight is however moving groups and individuals to warn of the effects of malnutrition on children.

Those who know better say that the worrisome aspect is that the blights are not being handled with the attention they needed despite WFP dwindling efforts in feeding people in the affected areas.

“If we don’t get the funding, hundreds of thousands of people could die of hunger,” says Dieng, adding, “Hunger levels would increase as the rainy season restricted aid delivery and continuing insecurity limited the population’s ability to farm.”

But before this revelation, there were media reports suggesting that, “Available statistical estimates show that no less than half a million Nigerian children aged five and below die yearly as a result of malnutrition, hence, investing in nutrition will yield valuable returns.”

Between Health And Nutrition

At a workshop organised recently in Kaduna to point out aspects of leakage in media coverage of health and nutrition questions, Beatrice Eluaka frowns at the health and nutrition financing vacuums in Nigeria.

For Prof. Sandy Thomas, the Director of the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition on investing in nutrition, “Meeting the 2015 World Health Assembly target for stunting will add 29,7 billion to Nigeria’s income.’’

Eluaka who is the project director of CS-SUN, a Civil Society Organisation and member of the PACFaH coalition, observes, “The Nigeria demographic and health survey (NDHS) 2013 reported the national prevalence of stunting at 37%, underweight 29%, and wasting 18% in children under five years old.

“The worst hit regions in Nigeria for stunting are the North-West and North-Central which have 54.8% and 29.3% respectively.”

There is apprehension that stunting children hardly recover from the peril they incur due to malnutrition. In Enugu, Henrietta Ugwu, who is the Enugu State Nutrition Officer bares her fears that immediately a child is above the 1000 days expected of a child to have adequate nutrition, the chance of rescuing the child is slim.

In an examination by correspondent Doyin Ojosipe, May 18, 2017, Ugwu says, “Malnutrition is something that is irreversible because what you may be seeing is the physical appearance of the child.”

The statement goes further, “The damage has been done in the brain, that the child may not attain in terms of development, in terms of growth, in terms of every other thing, even workforce when he comes of age he may not be able to contribute excellently to the economic development of a nation as other children that were well taken care of.”

Exclusive Breastfeeding

Mrs. Irene says that malnutrition has made Nigeria to be among the highest contributors to under-five child mortality in the world. “Unfortunately, only 17 percent of nursing mothers in Nigeria engaged in exclusive breast feeding for their children.

 

“From the birth to a child’s six months, they are not to be given water, all they needed in order to boost their immune system, is the breast milk.”

This is even as Dr. Bamidele Omotola, another Nutrition Specialist at the UNICEF, enthuses, “Between when a baby is conceived to when the baby is two years old, over 90 percent of the brain is formed to adult size but because of malnutrition, because the mother did not feed on proper nutrition when pregnant, it affects the formulation of the brain cells and because the brain is the center where the baby is able to manipulate, conjuncture things, that ability will also be lost.”

However, Mrs. Irene further notes, “If government does not spend the $1 needed to prevent malnutrition now, $16 would be spent on numerous diseases that malnutrition causes in the future.” It is therefore hoped that Nigeria will receive the funds required to avert the amplified number of 5.2 million citizens from starving to death.

Odimegwu Onwumere is an award-winning journalist based in Rivers State, Nigeria. He contributed this piece via: apoet_25@yahoo.com

Stigma Against Leprosy Sufferers In Nigeria Results To High Number Of Cases

By Odimegwu Onwumere

In this report, Odimegwu Onwumere reveals that fragile healthcare system culminated to dearth of technical know-how in diagnosis and treatment, sensitisation and high discrimination of leprosy sufferers in the country, where 9 out of 10 were children, whereas the last leprosy hospital in Sweden closed in 1948

During the January 29 2017 World Leprosy Day, the World Health Organisation’s Global Health Observatory Data showed that Nigeria had 2,893 new cases of leprosy sufferers in 2015, making the country one of the three countries in Africa the organisation said that had the highest level of victims.

According to the source, no fewer than 212,000 more sufferers were reported across the world in the year in quote. Correspondingly, other African countries that included Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia had 4,237 and 3,970 cases.

Defining leprosy, those who know better said, “Known as Hansen’s Disease, leprosy is caused by a type of bacteria otherwise known as mycobacterium leprae and is known to multiply very slowly.

“Its incubation period is said to be between 5 years while symptoms can take 20 years to appear and it mainly affects the skin and peripheral nerves.”

It was revealed that Nigeria in 10 years recorded 43,179 cases. However, in early 2016, the Leprosy Mission Nigeria (TLMN) warned that no fewer than 3,000 fresh cases of leprosy were emerging annually in Nigeria and narrow-mindedness against sufferers was skyrocketing.

Checks revealed that when this revelation was made, the authorities barely listened nor moved against the malady with the appropriate measure that was required.

Because of lack of awareness and sensitisation, many of the sufferers were said to hardly show themselves for treatment, thinking that the disease was a death sentence. This was confirmed at a seminar in Abuja, where Mr. Terver Anyor, the Funds Development Manager of TLMN, purportedly told newsmen, “Some sufferers hide due to lack of awareness or fear of stigma and discrimination, resulting in high number of cases of the disease. There is need for awareness. The last leprosy hospital in Sweden closed in 1948. It can also be eradicated in Nigeria.’’

There were data in 2015 showing that Anambra State had 14 cases of leprosy and about 3800 Nigerians were sufferers. But in April 2014, experts had amplified their fear over stigma attached to sufferers, but the authorities were yet to rise to the occasion in creating the much needed awareness in their defense.

A chieftain of The Leprosy Mission-Nigeria (TLMN), Dr. Sunday Udo showed apprehension that he didn’t know from where some Nigerians got the information that leprosy was not curable; he however advised them on the contrary, saying, “The last fight against leprosy is the stigma. It is a very deep issue that we need to find a way to break the reign of stigma.”

Notwithstanding, while observing the 64th Anniversary of World Leprosy Day this year dubbed “Zero Disability Among Children Affected by Leprosy” the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole was befuddled, saying that leprosy still had a dangerous position in sixteen states of the country owing to different high “endemicity” in those states.

Such states were given as Jigawa, Kano, Kaduna, Kebbi, Bauchi, Taraba, Niger, Kogi, Ebonyi, Abia, Cross River, Edo, Osun, Ogun and Lagos States. It was revealed that the 2,892 leprosy cases reported in the country, as according to the 2015 calculation, “nine per cent was made up of children, while victims with “grade II disability” accounted for 15 per cent.”

Statistics that was unrestricted by TLMN showed that “Grade-2 disability – the deformities that set in when leprosy is untreated – rose to 14 percent in 2012, up from 12 percent in 2010. Also, the proportion of children affected rose to nine out of every 10,” the source said. Despite this, a National Coordinator of the National TB, Leprosy and Buruli Ulcer Control Programme, Dr. Gabriel Akang had said in 2015 that as his agency was the custodian of the country’s data on leprosy, “We are saying that Nigeria was able to meet the target of 1/10,000 cases of leprosy. This is the elimination target.”

Albeit, given the new cases of leprosy patients in Nigeria, the WHO Regional Director for South-East Asia, Dr. Poonam Khetrapal Singh showed uneasiness that synergy between the authorities was supposed to be put in place in order to overcome. His apprehension was hinged on the data, as according him, “Leprosy affected 212000 more people globally in 2015. Of them 60 percent were in India. The other high-burden countries were Brazil and Indonesia. Of the new cases 8.9 percent were children and 6.7 percent presented with visible deformities.”

It was however experimental that in 1998, after the beginning of the Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT), Nigeria accomplished WHO’s eradication aim of less than one case per 10000 population at the national level. But In spite of this, there were indications from some quarters saying that the WHO informed that MDT was “made available free of charge to all patients worldwide since 1995.”

Checks further revealed that the new leprosy cases in the country were as a result that many victims never went to health professionals to seek for advise, or that they went late thereby making the matter worse.  According to a national director of TLM, Dr. Moses Onoh in 2016, “The deformities you see on persons affected by leprosy is a result of late treatment but it is not leprosy in itself. Most of them do not come for treatment until they are faced with the deformities. It’s just a deformity which can also occur in other ailments. It is not contagious and can be treated and the treatment is free.”

Based on poor sensitisation of the citizens, pundits were worried that many people believed that leprosy was hereditary or some super-natural powers’ way of punishing some persons. But as according News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), “Adewole said that this is very bad of such beliefs, adding that the Federal Government had launched a five-year National Leprosy and Buruli Ulcer Strategic Plan (2016-2020) as part of its efforts to eliminate the disease in the endemic states.”

The source continued, “This document facilitates the implementation of appropriate strategies to increase case detection, improve treatment outcome, prevent disabilities and provide rehabilitation services to affected persons.” But many stakeholders were worried why the fresh leprosy cases owing to the fact that since 2000, the disease had been defeated headlong with the authorities providing multidrug therapy, or MDT – which had been affordable in the 80s to date and was formulated to cure leprosy.

According to Onoh, “There are four organisations in Nigeria which oversee leprosy-related diseases and are committed to its total eradication. They are based in Enugu, Enugu state, Jos, in Plateau state, Ibadan in Oyo state and Abuja the federal capital territory which are situated in the south-east, south-west, north-central and the nation’s capital respectively.”

But Dr. Akang had a contrary view, saying, “The fight is not over especially as we have been able to identify cases of child leprosy and this means, we have transmission of the disease going on in some communities…”

It’s hoped that the authorities would close the last leprosy hospital soon as Sweden did in 1948; some sixty-nine years ago.

Odimegwu Onwumere writes from Rivers State. Tel: +2348032552855. Email: apoet_25@yahoo.com

Kids With Cerebral Palsy Tortured, Killed, In Nigeria

Odimegwu Onwumere exposes how government and community hardly support families living with cerebral palsy children leading to some parents, health workers assaulting and doing away with children with special needs

In what may appear like a Hollywood or Nollywood films, Nigerians stood dead recently watching a leaked video recording of  a renowned Nigerian physiotherapist going berserk against a child with cerebral palsy (CP). The physiotherapist assaulted the child several times.

The CCTV that uncovered the inimical behaviour of the physiotherapist showed that the child was slapped and pushed around the ground several times. The mother of the child whose name was given as Mrs. Bukola Ayinde – Founder of P4:13 Foundation and author of Diary of a Special Needs Mum – could not bear with the pains of watching the manhandling of her daughter with special needs.

Ayinde’s voice echoed amid bitterness. “Such was a primordial behaviour of a health worker who was supposed to save life,” she cried out. “I could not believe that it was my daughter that was maltreated the way the physiotherapist did. The most annoying was watching my daughter hit her head on the tiles and others several times.”

It was noted that the physiotherapist from hell happened to be Ayinde’s family physiotherapist. To further the humiliation of the child, the physiotherapist used other objects like cell phone on the child. According to a report dubbed “My Daughter with Cerebral Palsy Was Battered by the Therapist I Trusted” credited to Ayinde, she claimed that the physiotherapist warped her daughter’s hands quite a lot of times.

“At a point she sat on my daughter’s hands, at another point she tied her hands behind her head.  I watched as my daughter fell from her chair while her neck was stuck in between the space at the vertical back rest and the flat wood used for sitting down. Did I mention that she took out time to take her selfie? Up to five times.”

It was however learned that the authorities under the auspices of Registrar at Medical Rehabilitation Therapists Board at Yaba had apprehended the victimizer of the child. But some of the people who watched the video said that they could not finish watching the video given its pitiable nature, heart breaking. To them, they were of the view that the health worker should not have seen any mother that gave birth to a child with special need as her wish.

Having children with special needs is not the preserve of any woman, be her poor or rich, they said. In February 2017, there were reports of the wife of Kogi State Governor, Barrister Amina Oyize Bello, the founder of Hayat Foundation, a Non-Governmental Organisation, NGO, named after her first son, Hayatula Olarize Bello, saying that she was “mocked and stigmatised” for the reason that her fate bestowed a CP child to her.

“I have a son named Hayatula Olarize Bello. I gave birth to him sometime in 2007 and he has Cerebral Palsy,” Bello said. “Initially, we didn’t know, we were just living in denial. We travelled from one country to the other, seeking solution and of course, we went through all those challenges and discovered that he had Cerebral Palsy.”

In a chat with the media, Madam Bello frowned at conjectures that most parents lock up their children with special needs inside their homes and would not want any stranger to notice they have such a child.

“The major challenge was a society that was not accepting his kind. When we showed him too much love, people began to say that we must have used him for money rituals and when we don’t, it is like we are hiding him,” she added.

While many parents would hide such a child, Mrs. Kawan Aondofa Anjira, the Founder of SEEDOO Initiative, a group that sees to children with special needs, while fielding questions to journalists on the issue in Abuja, last year, claimed that children with special needs were not only hidden by their parents, but also killed.

“Children born with cerebral palsy (CP) are killed every day in Nigeria, whereas they should deserve a right to survive,” Anjira claimed.

Madam Bello conversely testified that she could not imagine being wicked let alone practicing wickedness. She said that she was humane and loved people so much beginning from when she was growing up, hence she loved her son so much not minding his nature-given fate.

“I grew up with empathy for people and I love my son regardless; and my husband had to really put his feet down and insisted he is my first son,” she said. “Eventually our journey took us to Kennedy Craig in the United States and Johns Hopkins respectively. There, not just the hospital, but society was so loving and for the first time I realized there was nothing wrong with my son.”

While Madam Bello said that the country she travelled to loved children with special needs, Air Vice-Marshall Femi Gbadebo (Rtd) who had a 20-year-old son suffering from CP, stated, “Having managed my son’s condition for quite some time and travelled extensively around the world, I came to the conclusion that something is fundamentally wrong with the way disability is being managed in Nigeria.”

Those who know better said that CP patients are common in Nigeria. According to Freeman Osonuga, Founder/ Executive Director, Heal The World Foundation Nigeria, “The prevalence of cerebral palsy among pediatric neurology clinic of the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital from 2000 to 2006 was a dashed 50.3 percent.”

Just in 2013, Nigeria was said to have 700,000 children with cerebral palsy, as according to Consultant paeditrician, Prof Afolabi Lesi while speaking at the maiden National Cerebral Palsy (CP) family forum organised by a CP initiative, Benola, Lesi, Dean of Clinical Sciences at the University of Lagos (UNILAG).

“60 to 80 per cent of such children would have co-morbidities such as seizures and intellectual disabilities, among others,” said Lesi.

This was even as Gbadebo sermonized that about 17 million people were passing through CP around the world; it’s believed that where there is a CP patient, the household is affected, especially in Nigeria where the healthcare is unsatisfactory.

Arguing that the mindset of Nigerians must change if cerebral palsy would be ultimately defeated, Gbadebo said, “We need to get the Federal Government and the private sector involved in this fight. I believe that it is ignorance that gives rise to the fear and stigma associated with disabilities in this country.”

However, while the physiotherapist that assaulted the child perhaps saw CP as a crime, this is then again not the view of experts, advising, “Cerebral palsy (CP) is a physical disability that affects movement and posture. It is an umbrella term that refers to a group of disorders affecting a person’s ability to move. CP is a permanent life-long condition, but generally does not worsen over time. It is due to damage to the developing brain either during pregnancy or shortly after birth.”

Odimegwu Onwumere is an award-winning journalist based in Rivers State, Nigeria. He contributed this piece via: apoet_25@yahoo.com