What is wrong with the health sector?
By Osaigbovo Iguobaro, Benin
Several policy pronouncements made by the government at all levels in the past aimed at putting the nation’s health on the front burner by addressing the ever increasing demand for improved healthcare has stuck Nigerians in endless quandary.
Has this pathetic situation defied all know solutions? Lengthy worship; prayers – divine help to address the endless tales of lamentation as the population growth surges, have left some troubled Communities in Edo state on the brink of disaster.
At best, the free medical outreach sponsored by the state Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) in partnership with an international Non-Governmental Organization in 2011 across Orhionmwon Local Government Area of the state seems to be a shot fired in the dark.
Seven years after the last boat from the salvation army berthed at the neighbourhood of the locality, the health index of the agrarian Communities have remained a contentious issue.
The Local Government Area pride is among the highest contributors natural gas in West Africa and like some others, it’s also among the oil producing Areas in Edo state.
A medical health assessment tour was carried out by Health workers across over 86 Communities under the supervision of the state Ministry of Health late 2016, revealed that the Local Government Area was sparsely populated with Children and densely populated by older people.
The data was faulted by a team of Word Health Organization (WHO) went round the Communities and discovered that scores of Children between age 0 and 5-year-old Children were left out from the Immunization exercise.
Owan West and Orhionmwon Local Government Areas in the state, ranked below average out of the 18 Local Government Areas in the state. 40 percent coverage was recorded for Orhionmwon at the last Immunization exercise. The revelation sadly, has become a moral arguments whose judgement is difficult to accept by some actors involved in the survey.
Some Health workers in Orhionmwon Local Government Area blamed the dwindling health index in Orhionmwon Local Government Area on poor funding of Immunization, high cost of transportation and inaccessible road network during medical outreach, others widely speculated the problem to the alleged apathy demonstrated by migrants traders and residents living on the border town of the Communities and Delta state.
Of the 34 Primary Healthcare centres (PHC’s) in Orhionmwon Local Government Area, 33 PHC’s are functional, while a handful of them either ill-equipped or overstretched beyond capacity to address specific health needs.
In the quest for perfection, the emphasis were made to promote safe motherhood practices, prevention, management and treatment of childhood illnesses among rural people have being under the raider of the United Nations International Children emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the National Orientation agency, Edo state Directorate lately.
There appears to be a shift in paradigm and double talk which has been a major ingredients at most public fora. The 3-Day sensitization and training programme for Volunteer Community Mobilizers (VCM’s) was held at Abudu, administrative headquarters of Orhionmwon Local Government Area of the state.
Stakeholders at the event attempted to interrogate the 40 percent data on Immunization coverage and sought to re-fine a workable strategy 4o deal with the situation by expanding the boundaries of knowledge.
The key thematic areas the project Facilitators considered for evaouation include, exclusive breastfeeding Nutrition, Immunization, hand washing, malaria, anti-natal care and the management of common Childhood diseases and illnesses.
The state Immunization Officer (SIO), Mrs. Justina Aikhuele, took participants round the comparative analysis of Immunization in the state over a specific period and called for more commitment on the part of health workers, opinion leaders, (VCM’s) and other stakeholders to avoid risky behaviours, accounting for the setback.
Similarly, the state Director of NOA, Mrs. Magdalene Umunnah whose goodwill message on the occasion was delivered by Moses Ajayi, an Official of the agency, urged the participants drawn and representatives across the 86 Communities in the Local Government Area to work the talk to achieve set goals and objectives.
In the same vein, Mr. Tim Idowu, UNICEF resource person, emphasized that campaigns for improved healthcare should no longer be left alone for town criers, with a caution on participants to put the skills and knowledge acquired during the training to work.
He also sought the support of religious and Traditional rulers at the various Communities to foster unity among the their kinsmen. This he explained could be done by adopting persuasive skills to abolish acts that are inimical to healthy living.
According to him, “the PHC located in your area is for everyone. We do not want the negligence of anyone to cost the life of another”.
Relaying the views of the state Director, Primary Healthcare, Dr. David Odiko in a presentation on malaria, treatment, prevention and treatment, a Senior Official in the state Ministry of Health, Mrs. Sarah Ojo-Edokpayi, lamented dangerous health practices among pregnant women.
He told the gathering, especially couples, pregnant women and Health workers to desist from the habit of delaying registration of pregnancies and birth registration.
He argued that illiteracy should not blamed on negligence to duty at all times; adding that a Nigerians should not believe in the age-long cliché, “disease does not kill Africa man” does not mean that African people were not immutable against preventable killer diseases.
“In those days, our mothers did not embrace exclusive breastfeeding because of lack of education, while mots deaths and deaths were neither announced nor recorded, giving rise unnecessary superstitions”.
The Community mobilizer Officer, Edo state Ministry of Energy and water resources, Odiai Oladipo, became famous after his presentation which dwelled on the essentials of personal hygiene and regular hand washing.
His narrative and indifference against open defecation by humans couched into “dig and bury” slogan where necessary which appear to have been an age-long practice in some areas, captivated the attention of listeners to be mindful of safety concern.
He advised that “digging and burying of faeces” should be done in such a way that to avoid epidemic and prevent (rainfall) or run-off water from washing the faeces streams, river or pond which humans and animals depend on as their source of water.
According to him, when flies patch on faeces, and such flies come in contact with your food or water, it poses great rest to the health of the individual or society and to some extent, diarrhoea is which is the world leading cause of deaths among Children ahead of malaria, is highly contagious.
On her part, the state Health Educator, Mrs. Helen Ehigie, said hand washing reduces infectious diseases by 80 percent, hence the need for rural and urban people to adequately embrace hand washing.
James Uwaifo is the state Nutrition Officer, in a remark, argued that nutrition which is essential component for healthy living, ought not to be measured by wealth or income of the individual alone without recourse to the right dietary habits and fundamental principles.
“We must begin to look inward for local foods that are highly nutritious to minimise the incidences of malnutrition in society” which he claimed is as important as exclusive breastfeeding of babies in the first six months after delivery.
Critiquing his views, Mr. Sunday Odiase, a businessman and representative of the National union of Road Transport workers (NURTW), Orhionmwon Local Government chapter, thinks slightly different.
Odiase, enjoyed the support of some participants flowing from a rhetorical question about what would be the fate of the rural poor who cannot cope with the buying power of good nutrition with the current economic recession.
A deep silence momentarily pervaded the venue. Before the Nutrition Officer, James Uwaifo could find the microphone afterwords, he took a deep breath, while the UNICEF Programme desk Officer, NOA office in Benin, Chris Obaweki, dropped a line and found an alibi that juggled the audience.
Obaweki, advised low income earners including peasant farmers in rural Communities to leverage on their local resources in for of fruits and vegetables which are highly affordable and common.
According to him, “most of the local resources have remained untapped and in order to survive the economic hardship, create a little garden for vegetables behind your domain. The unripe plantain, vegetable are sourced locally here; Even the cashew nuts and cashew fruits which are being eating up by birds in your Communities (Orhionmwon), what are you doing with them? They are wasting away because most of you do not know the value.