How dearth  of accessible healthcare facilities  threatens lives of internally displaced Nigerians

How dearth  of accessible healthcare facilities threatens lives of internally displaced Nigerians

Special Report

By

ISRAEL OLATUNJI TIJANI

While young Nigerian men and women are living their dreams, smashing career goals and coming up with technological innovations from the comforts of their homes, there are thousands of others who have been forced out of the places they called home by mindless conflicts that continue to threaten their existence.

No fewer than 5,776 internally displaced people from 897 households, from Borno, Yobe and Adamawa state are currently occupying the 2,000 units of houses at Abundance Resettlement in Wassa district, Apo Area, Abuja, after fleeing the decade-long insurgency ravaging Nigeria’s northeast

I was received into the community along with my team at about 9 am by Geoffrey Bitrus, a 42-year old farmer who has been displaced since 2014.

Bitrus, originally from Gwoza Local Government of Borno State, gave insight on health challenges women and children are facing in the community.

Residents of Abundance Resettlement rely solely on patent medicine stores popularly known as ‘chemist stores’ for their healthcare. But Ruth Paul, a 25-year-old fashion designer lost her daughter in April 2021 because she could not immediately have access to quality healthcare. 

“She stopped eating and I took her to the chemist, but it only got worse and I was referred to a hospital in Apo and later to another one in the city where she finally died,” an emotional Paul said.

Geoffrey narrated how a  young girl in the community died recently because of the same problem. The girl’s  mother, also Ruth, is married. She speaks only Hausa and her husband is a commercial motorcycle rider popularly known as “okada” in faraway Lagos. She has been living alone with their 2-year old baby.

“On this day just like every other day, I came back from the farm, since the only source of energy for cooking here in the camp is firewood, I do go to the farm in the morning to get firewood.

“On that evening after we returned, I gave her food and she refused to eat. I observed her body was hot and I bathed her with cold water. The high temperature persisted and it only got worse as she became very weak. The next day I took her to the chemist on the opposite side of the road where I purchased some drugs that were prescribed. I  had to force the food down her throat so she could take the drugs. Few hours later around 2pm in the afternoon, she vomited and she was extremely weak,.

“I rushed her to the chemist who later told me to take her to one hospital along Apo road. Getting to the hospital she was admitted and examined. But her health  did not improve. Later, the hospital discharged us and referred us to another big hospital in Abuja Central District.

A side view of the settlement

“When we got there, they asked us to make an initial deposit, before treatment could commence, which I could not afford . We were just in the hospital unattended to. Few hours after getting to the hospital she became unconscious and the doctor and nurses could not bring her back. Few minutes later they told me my daughter was dead.”

Ruth Paul is a very industrious young lady, she is a fashion designer, a skill she acquired before her village was invaded by Boko Haram terrorists five years ago. She has been supporting herself and her young child, before her demise, with the proceeds from her  sewing business.

The same fate awaits the rest of the women in the community. There is another woman who is pregnant and will be delivering her child at home with support from other women in the camp. There is no telling whether she will have a safe delivery and whether her newborn will survive in the absence of reliable healthcare facility.

The absence of an accessible healthcare facility exposes the people of Abundance Resettlement to great health challenge. There is no better time than now to be their voice by telling their stories, bridging the gap between them and government intervention.

In 2021, the Nigerian refugee crisis will be entering its seventh year. Since the violent attacks of the Islamist

group Boko Haram started in 2014,  Nigeria’s north-eastern frontier, Cameroon, Chad and Niger

have been drawn into what has become a devastating regional conflict.

To date, the north-eastern  of Nigeria accounts for over 2.9 million internally displaced persons (IDPs),

the largest in Sub-Saharan Africa and the third largest globally. If IDPs were a Nigerian State, they would

be the 20th most populous state in Nigeria ahead of Kogi, Zamfara, Enugu, Kebbi States and Abuja’s

Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

This crisis has been exacerbated by conflict-induced food insecurity and severe malnutrition, which have

risen to critical levels in the country. The challenges of protecting the displaced are compounded by the

deteriorating security situation as well as socio-economic fragility, with communities in the conflict zones

facing chronic poverty, a harsh climatic conditions, recurrent epidemics, poor infrastructure and limited

 access to basic health services. 

Sadly, the story is not restricted to the refugee camps alone. In 1985, Professor Olukoye Ransome-Kuti was appointed the Minister of  Health and adopted Primary Health Care (PHC)  in 52 local government areas as models based on the Alma Ata Declaration of 1978. In 1992, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency was established to ensure that the PHC agenda is continued and sustained. Today, Nigeria has 28,276 public PHCs across 774 LGAs and FCT.

However, only 20% of these PHC facilities are functional. Studies have shown that health systems based on strong PHC improve the management of NCDs, reduce mortality from NCDs, reduce infant and under five mortality, reduce maternal mortality and increase life expectancy at birth.

 

However, forty three years after the declaration, Nigeria remains the second largest contributor to maternal and child mortality globally, losing estimated 2,300 children and 145 women everyday.

Recall, On Thursday, December 30, President Muhammadu Buhari, signed the N17.16 trillion appropriation bill for 2022 into law. A sectoral breakdown of the budget indicated that N821.4 billion (5 percent) was allocated for healthcare across the 36 states of the federation including the Federal Capital Territory.

This fractional proportion shows this administration has once again failed to meet its Abuja Declaration commitment which requires the nation to ensure that 15 percent of its annual budgetary allocation goes to the health sector. To appropriate a paltry 5 percent of the budget to the entire country’s health sector to carter for over 200 million people at a time the nation is facing numerous health challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic, cholera, malaria and other infections is a sad commentary not just on the state of the health sector, but also on how the Federal Government view the needs of the sector. Using a per capita breakdown, it shows that only N3,987.38 was allocated to each citizen based on the current estimated population of about 206 million. This amount sadly is not enough to cover the cost of common ailments like malaria or typhoid. It must equally be emphasised that allocating such a meager amount to the sector explains the premium placed on human lives by this administration.

Personal effects at the camp

The Federal Capital Territory will spend N64,861,604,695.00 for its 2022 National Priority Projects says FCT minister Mohammed Bello with no clear amount earmarked for the health sector. Some of these priority projects include the installation of solar street lights along various roads in the satellite towns; provision of roads, water and electricity supplies to the resettlement site of Galuwyi Shere (Phase II),” stated Mr Bello, “Rehabilitation and upgrading of street lighting facilities within the FCC; Design/ construction of a dam, treatment plant, tanks and other bulk water supply infrastructure to Karshi; Abuja Light Rail Transit Phase II Addendum 1-2 (2) and the rehabilitation of federal government buildings, amongst others.”

The Greater Abuja Water supply project, he said, was a bilateral initiative to enhance water supply in the FCT, and its implementation would extend the supply of potable water to 33 districts covering Gwarimpa, one and two Utako, Dutse, Gudu Kaura, Wuye, Mabushi, Jahi, Kado, Karmo, Lokogoma, Kabusa, Dape, amongst others.

This story was supported by the Africa Data Hub Community Journalism Fellowship.

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1 Comment

  1. Omma
    July 22, 10:21 Reply
    Great piece, Nigeria govt learnt nothing from Covid-19 pandemic on revitalization of the healthcare system.

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