A news website wholly dedicated to reporting the Nigerian health sector has been launched in Lagos.

The Nigerian Health Journal according Kingsley Obom-Egbulem , its Managing Editor, intends to satisfy the need for useful ,well researched stories on the Nigerian health sector written in an engaging prose.

“To achieve this, we are leveraging on the power of social media to access and share life saving news and information that can reverse the growing cases of preventable deaths due largely to lack of useful news and applicable health information. That is what Nigerian Health Journal is all about; news for the sake of your health”, says, Obom-Egbulem.

The website (www.nigerianhealthjournal.com )which began two years ago as a blog offering well written features, special reports, exclusive interviews and analysis of major health stories recently expanded its scope on popular demand to serve as the hub for news, information and debates on critical health issues in Nigeria. “

We are creating a one-stop market place of ideas for Nigerians to engage with those they trust with their lives and we believe this is long overdue”, says Obom-Egbulem.

Health news in most Nigerian dailies hardly ever lead the papers either as major front page or back page stories unless there is an epidemic or a major health event is happening or a personality is in town. In these circumstances, health is reported as events not necessarily as an issue with far-reaching economic ,social and even security implication.

Obom-Egbulem says “this is an anomaly that reflects weak understanding of the right to health, poor priority given to the place of health systems reforms ,universal access to quality and affordable health care and preventive medicine especially through health education within the media.”

“It is also an indictment on reporters who expect health news to just happen. When it comes to health, the news doesn’t just happen or break, you happen to the news; you literally break it. For instance, how many professors of medicine are still teaching in our colleges of medicine and how many are required to produce the quality of doctors Nigeria needs. Such news can never break, you have to break it.”

The Nigerian Health Journal according to Obom-Egbulem has taken part of the responsibility of not only holding government accountable for actions and inactions on health but would also provide a “virtual people’s court “ where anyone can be put on trial for mismanaging the health of Nigerians.

“We must start to engage so as to proliferate health information. Let’s keep talking and doing something about our health care system because if we remain silent and allow politicians to keep politicking with our health, by the time they are out of office, we would definitely have need for more morgues, hospices and graveyards.”

Health news competes with football, entertainment, celebrity gossips and the horse-trading within our political clime. And Obom-Egbulem says “because health is a matter of life and death health news must compete well and that means being innovative. It also means that health news should be sexy, sassy and smashing without losing its capacity to activate positive change”.

For more information contact:editor@nigerianhealthjournal.com

With diabetes now one of the burdens of  affluence among most Nigerians, its presence in a patient portends even greater danger as TB may just be lurking in the corner writes Kingsley Obom-Egbulem

Some diseases may not have come close to the dwelling places of most Nigerians but for a change in their  life style occasioned primarily by an increase in income and status. Diabetes is one of such diseases and its  affecting and claiming the lives of millions of Nigerians  albeit silently.

Diabetes is a disease that causes high level of glucose in the blood. People with diabetes lack insulin which is needed for the control  blood sugar.And due to inadequate insulin production they need to be on insulin injection for life.

There are two types of diabetes; Type 1 usually develops in childhood and requires lifelong injection of insulin, while Type 2  develops in middle age( causing kidney, eye, and nerve damage.) It may not  have symptoms and usually can be controlled by diet and drugs if detected early.

For those "who have arrived",it might just be wise to add a lifestyle of regular check ups to the "chop ups"

“Diabetes is both a disease of poverty and affluence especially in Africa and I can say without any fear of contradiction that some people wouldn’t have had diabetes if not  for the fact that the food they eat and how they live changed with an increase in their income”, says Dr. Anthonia Ogbera ,Head ,Endocrine Department at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital(LASUTH),Ojo.

Consultant Endocrinologist at the Lagos University Teaching (LUTH)Dr. Olufemi Fasanmade seem to agree with her.

“Overseas ,obesity is a disease of the poor. The rich are slim while the obese are apparently poor but here one of the signs that you have arrived is your size and when you are slim it’s a sign that you are not eating well and that’s is why we have people who are really sick but would not admit it until it is too late just because of the picture our society have painted about a healthy person”, say Fasanmade.

Most Nigerians are now living in urban centres with its attendant change in lifestyle and diets. African foods ,vegetables and fruits which are readily accessible and affordable in the rural areas become a thing of the past the moment families migrate to rural areas. With that comes also a change in diet as well as lack of time to exercise and work out due to the busy nature of urban life. This perhaps explains why half a million Lagosians are believed to be living with diabetes according to information from the Sonny Kuku Foundation(KSF).

An aversion for check up

The matter is worsened by poor  health seeking behaviour as a result of high cost of accessing quality medical care and checkups. “And after several years of  not checking your  blood pressure(BP) or monitoring your blood sugar level the next thing  is that the person begins to present with signs of diabetes and  when you tell them they have diabetes they wonder and ask you ‘how come’, they hardly believe it, but that’s the fact,” says Ogbera.

According to a study carried out in LASUTH in 2006 on the burden of diabetes in Lagos alone, about 140 to 160 patients already diagnosed with diabetes are catered for on weekly basis and 25% percent of people with diabetes already have diabetes related complications by the time they are diagnosed of the disease.

It is believed that diabetes accounted for 1 in 6 hospital admissions in Nigeria and 1 in 6 persons admitted for the disease eventually die of diabetes related complications.Over half a million Lagosians are said to be living with diabetes

Unlike infectious diseases,diabetes  does not ‘jump’  on  anyone as it takes time to develop in a perosn. The tendency for it to develop can be checked or prevented. Early onset of diabetes can also be detected and complications prevented through regular checkups. However, some doctors believe that the poor health seeking bahaviour of Nigerians is responsible for this.

Dr. Femi Olaleye of Optimum Healthcare Services is of the view that the average Nigerian would ordinarily  not seek  for medical attention and when he is ill, he would not bother much so long as his appetite, sex life and bowel movement are not affected by the illness.

“This attitude is commonly seen in regions where there is poverty and lack of access to free healthcare services. The decision-making capabilities of the poor man are eroded to a point where he lives in hope that his medical condition will ameliorate miraculously as long as the condition does not affect what he considers as his primary functions which are; eating, excreting and enjoying sex. But we know that the definition of good health is not the absence of disease but the maintenance of physical and mental well-being of the body and the prevention of diseases. But it costs money to maintain health and prevent diseases”, says Olaleye.

It also pays to eat with discretion and be sure to check your waistline and body mass:Pic:CDC

Staying healthy in the face of competing demands according to Olaleye is a major challenge for most Nigerians. “We have gradually over-priced healthcare services out of the reach of the average Nigerian, and as result, the demand for our kind of healthcare services are plummeting. Our patients are now seeking ’cheaper’ alternatives, which sadly in some cases, are very fatal and continues to lead to loss of lives.”

Even for those who can pay for a checkup, there is still an attitude that is anti-checkup and this has a role to play in case detection rate of diabetes and similar disease of lifestyle.

The Link with Tuberculosis(TB)

One of the challenges of living with diabetes is the risk of being infected with TB. In 2008,a survey of TB patients receiving treatment at the LASUTH showed that the prevalence of under-diagnosed diabetes was 6%. And for most endocrinologists, this trend is a worrisome reality that needs to be given some measure of attention. Hence the SKF made it a subject of focus at its recent public seminar in Lagos.

Titled; “the Emergence of Diabetes Mellitus in Tuberculosis”, the seminar was to raise awareness on the relationship between diabetes and TB such that screening for diabetes in TB patients will be mandatory.

But Dr. Dan Onwujekwe, Senior Research Fellow and TB clinician at the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research(NIMR),Lagos said the reverse should be the case. “Most doctors would agree with me that diabetes lowers the immune system  and affects the body’s ability to cope with diseases  and so you become prone to infections; and not just that, the TB bacterial thrives in sugar environment hence, we will rather advice that those currently treating diabetes  should screen regularly for TB because they are highly susceptible”.

While it may sound like a case of which comes first;between the egg and chicken, whichever way it is tagegd, emergence of diabetes in TB patients or emergence of TB in diabetes patients are frightening combination the Nigerian healthcare system should be bothered about and starts responding to.

Sadly, most TB treatment  programmes in Nigeria are donor driven initiatives most of which do not incorporate diabetes detection and treatment, hence Onwujekwe’s counsel  for those currently treating diabetes to go for TB screening regularly since the treatment is free.

But the implication of treating TB in a person with diabetes is enormous. “TB patients with diabetes can actually have their blood sugar increased when they commence TB treatment due to the effects of Isoniazid one of the drugs used in TB treatment”, says Fasanmade.

One way to address this burden according to Fasanmade is through a co-location of treatment centers for diabetes, TB,HIV and AIDS . “That way ,we can ensure that diabetes patients  can also have the opportunity to access TB diagnoses and care within the same facility”.

Perhaps, this might just be one way out of the woods. But the greater responsibility rests on our health system as it is currently configured with no template for  such co-intervention. The potentials are there however, especially with the successes recorded in  TB/HIV co-response.

An international children charity is looking for a Programme Coordinator to be located in Lagos.

He or she will be responsible for managing the existing programs in West and Central Africa and aggressively identifying and developing new ones. The job requires working from home (in a highly networked environment) but involves extensive traveling – up to 20 days a month. A highly disciplined attitude, strong work ethic, unimpeachable integrity and last but not least a genuine concern for children are essential pre requisites.

The ideal candidate should:

  • Hold a Bachelor’s degree in any discipline – a Master’s degree will be an added advantage
  • Be between 30 and 45 years of age
  • Have outstanding communication skills – both written and oral
  • Have high computer literacy and a sharp analytical mind
  • Have at least 7-10 years work experience in a demanding commercial setting. Experience in the corporate world, a health services delivery organization or a high profile non profit would be preferred

Please send a printed CV (no more than 2 pages) along with a note of about 250 words on ‘Why I think I am the Ideal Candidate for this Job’ within 7 days of this announcement to the following email address: hrcc10@gmail.com

Only short listed candidates will be contacted.

Please find below a list of information on job openings  within the Nigerian health sector.

Job Titles – Medical Officers,



Pharmacy Technicians

Front Desk Officers

Closing Date –December 14,2010

Organisation –A multi-specialist Hospital

Offer     – Not Stated

Qualifications: Degrees or professionally qualified candidates should with detailed CV indicating full physical address and phone numbers.

Apply to: The General Manager ,P.O Box 2494,Festac Town, Lagos

or call 08056343315,08022951542,08028858713


Job Title – Customer Service Reps(Minimum of OND in any field)

-Medical Sales Reps

Closing Date – December 21,  2010

Organisation –A Pharmaceutical Company

Qualifications: University Degree in Pharmacy(for Medical Reps)

Other Requirements: Candidates for both positions must reside in Abuja,Lagos,PH,Warri

Must speak good English and not more than 28years old.

Apply to: optionshealth@yahoo.com with CV within 2 weeks.



Job Title – Paediatrician

Qualified Nurse/Midwives

Laboratory Scientists

Laboratory Technician

Pharmacy Technician

Front Desk Officers

Closing Date – December 21,2010

Organisation –An ultra modern Hospital

Apply in person to :The Recruitment Consultant

29A Oju-Olobun Close, Off Bishop Oluwole Cole Street,

Victoria Island, Lagos


Job Title –Pharmacist in a reputable Pharmacy

Pharmacist Grade 1

Closing Date – Not stated

Offer     – Attractive salary, accommodation, leave & out of station allowance and a car loan

To apply: call 08168380889,01-8970494


Job Title – Medical Officers

Closing Date – Not stated

Organisation –Graceland Medical Centre,

Location: Opp  Volkswagen of Nigeria, Badagry Expressway, Lagos

Qualifications: Post NYSC to 5 years working experience with current practicing licence and qualification  registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria

Interview dates: December 7,9,10,14,17 2010 Time;10am to 4pm each day


Job Title – (1)Experienced Medical Officer

(2)Medical Laboratory Scientist(applicants must have valid

registration with relevant professional bodies

Closing Date – Not Sated

Organisation –A well equipped multi-specialists Hospital

Qualifications(1) Minimum of 6 years post NYSC experience

Offer: Salary  and fringe benefits include a furnished flat with utilities

Apply to: send CV to warrihospital@yahoo.co.uk or call 08167696144


Job Title –(1)Senior Medical Officers with at least 5 years working experience

(2)Medical Officers with at least 3 years post qualification experience

(3)Double qualified B.Sc Nurses with at least 3 years post qualification experience


Closing Date – Not stated

Organisation –Goodseed Specialist Clinics

Location: Ajao Estate, Lagos

Apply to: The Medical Director,

Goodseed Specialist Clinics

1/3 Asa-Afariogun Street,

off Osolo Way, Ajao Estate, Lagos

The fourteen weeks old strike by doctors in Lagos State may have ended. But it left in its wake sorrows, tears and blood. Among the affected communities are people living with HIV and AIDS in the state. According to Ibrahim Umoru, Coordinator of the Network of People living with HIV/AIDS(NEPWHAN)in Lagos, the strike was a nightmare especially as it affected  access to life saving antiretroviral and other quality  monitoring and follow ups.

As the world marks World AIDS Day(WAD), many are celebrating  achievements recorded in the global AIDS response  especially the 2010 Global AIDS Report published by UNAIDS which indicates a reduction in the rate of new infection and as well as access to treatment. But for Lagos state, the death of PLWH during the strike by doctors should be a cause for all to be worried as their death were indeed avoidable.

To mark this year’s WAD,NIGERIAN HEALTH JOURNAL reflects on this seemingly glossed over tragedy in this interview with NEPWHAN’s Ibrahim Umoru.

As someone representing a community that was at the receiving end ,what would you consider the cost of the suspended strike by doctors in Lagos?


The cost is enormous to the citizenry generally and particularly heavy to People Living with HIV (PLWH). You will agree with me that in the management of HIV, one gets to see a doctor quarterly. That is for patients who have been on treatment for long and are stable; while those who just started treatment would have to see their doctor say, monthly. It’s so worrisome for our secondary hospitals where our nurses have not been strongly grounded in triaging*. Many people who could not afford private hospitals resorted to taking traditional herbal medicines and those who had no choice actually died.

That means the strike led to treatment interruption for many PLWH…what is the implication of this on AIDS control in the state especially with the likely issues of drug adherence and resistance?

There can’t be anything closer to the truth than this. You know there are various categories of PLWH. Some have vast treatment literacy experience while some were just  initiated into treatment and others were  just about to start treatment . The implication is that those who have been on treatment for a long and time and are experienced and  have become very stable but within the period of the strike there can’t be  any quality evaluation of tests done .Also, there were no consultations for opportunistic Infections(OIs)  just in case any was present. Patients were just coming to pick their drug refills without doctors’ examinations that are routinely done quarterly for this class of patients. However, some are not that experienced and worst of it is OIs could just come up within that period and the only alternative is private hospitals. How well informed are doctors in private hospitals with regards to the management of HIV and AIDS? So, that becomes an issue. I lost a close client to complications resulting from opportunistic infections. I have  another PLWHA who committed suicide that period too. These are some of the numerous painful losses to us in the PLWHA community resulting from the strike.

Is it true that knowing the consequences of a strike on PLWH some doctors in a particular treatment centre tried to ensure that there were no treatment interruption despite the strike?

Yes! Very well yes. I am aware of a particular doctor that took all the risk to be available for some days to PLWH during the strike. This is very commendable as the risk was enormous if his colleagues  had found out. That to me is the height of humanitarianism.

So, what becomes the fate of PLWH who died during this strike? Are you making your case known to Lagos State has that become one of the many casualties of being HIV positive in Nigeria?

Definitely, I am going to make a case to Lagos state as am trying to collate data from the various treatment sites around. At least, we have it on record. But come to think of it, can they bring back those lives again?

What could have been done other wise to prevent these needless deaths even in the face of the strike?

There is great need to improve the skills of nurses in triaging and palliative care. However, our leaders have to be more sensitive and proactive in the welfare of workers generally and health workers particularly. What the doctors were asking for were not out of the moon. They were things they had all negotiated and agreed upon long before now.

Someone has argued that doctors should get a bit more creative when considering a strike action given the implication of a doctors strike. Do you think so?

Our leaders and policy makers should be more creative and compassionate too. The problem is when most of them get there; they care no more about the populace. This should not be so!

So what can be your advice regarding the best way for doctors to strike without downing tools especially when you consider the fact that when their needs are finally met, they cannot bring back the lives that  have been lost?

The underlying fact is we should not allow issues to get to the point of strike at all. A strike that lasted for months is a reflection of the gross insensitivity of the people at the top. They don’t attend these hospitals as they and their families get health care outside the shores of our land. The people need to ask questions. We need to engage our various representatives in the legislative arm of government. The government too need to engage with the populace as they are too far away from the people they govern. These lives as you rightly attest to cannot be brought back. We should be more proactive in leadership and be on ground with the people.

For PLWH on treatment and for AIDS support groups, what lessons have been learnt from this ugly experience bearing in mind that  workers strike in Nigeria is now a way of life and healthcare workers are not left out?

We need to address our positive living lessons more creatively and increase the treatment literacy efforts in the support groups. Most importantly, we need to engage the government particularly in Lagos state to make sure we are heard at the right quarters. To this we have started restrategising to engage with government. You would recall  that the Lagos state government has a law in place protecting PLWH and a section of that law provides for a board and PLWH are supposed to  be part of that board that focuses on fund for drug buffer for people living with HIV. Furthermore, we wish to engage with Lagos State AIDS Control Agency( LSACA) to find out the composition of their board as the law that sets up such agency up to NACA provides for our representation there. That way we can be heard.


*prioritization of patients for medical treatment: the process of prioritizing sick or injured people for treatment according to the seriousness of the condition or injury: Microsoft® Encarta® 2009.

By Kingsley Obom-Egbulem

A couple of weeks ago, Ted Turner-the founder of CNN and some of his colleagues in the United Nations Foundation visited Nigeria. The main objective of their visit was to evaluate how the nation is responding to polio and other deadly childhood diseases affecting children mostly in northern Nigeria.

As Turner and his team were deliberating with some of our leaders , I wondered to myself, “where are our Turners and what are they doing about the problems of childhood diseases in Nigeria?”, “where are the big boys  and big girls of northern Nigeria; and what have they done about ending child marriages and maternal mortality?”

Do they even know that these problems exist right in their domain?

Now, just in case you are not aware, northern Nigeria is among the very few parts of the world where polio have not been eradicated. The sad side of the story of polio in the north is that its eradication have been given several religious albeit political colouration yet the facts are there to be seen.

With the help of nothern elites Nigerians will stop being the image of polio in Africa

Imagine these scenarios: an illiterate peasant farmer and his wife are stuck with 5 children-all of them crippled by polio with its attendant consequences. And on the other side of the divide, we have the home of an influential northern politician; he is pictured with his 5 children playing football and cycling around the garden ;all five children purportedly born in high brow hospitals and immunized against the childhood deadly diseases including polio.

Just for the records, Bill Gates have spent no less than N114billion in eradicating Polio in Nigeria. (Gates have spent N1.2 Trillion Naira on polio eradication globally. This amount is 1/3 of Nigeria’s 2010 budget of 4.079 Trillion Naira).

And you ask, what are the Bill Gates of northern Nigeria doing about childhood diseases? What are they doing about child marriages and its consequences such as vesico virginal fistula(VVF),obstetrics complication and even death? How are the Bill Gates of northern Nigeria responding to the rate of infant and maternal mortality which appears to be the highest in northern Nigeria?

What about cholera-a disease that broke out this year in most part of northern Nigeria and claimed about 1,550 lives? So, what did the Bill Gates of northern Nigeria do about cholera-a disease that even some poorer countries only read about in newspapers or see on CNN?

The power brokers:These men would live a more fulfilling life eradicating childhood diseases

It is imperative to state that this discourse is not about polio, cholera or the north-south dichotomy. It is actually a lamentation about how we leave undone the little but fundamental things that makes all the difference and pursue bigger things which we end up making nonsense of ;it is a reflection on the current campaign for the presidency of Nigeria vis a vis the burden of the north and what ought to be the primary concern of some of those dying to rule this country albeit by force.

This discourse is borne out of what could be described as an urgent need to redirect the thinking and wisdom of the northern elders forum such that they can truly become the much needed oasis  in northern Nigeria’s desert of underdevelopment and vane quest.

I have always bothered about the irony that  northern Nigeria represents. Northern Nigeria remains the most backward by every standard yet Nigeria have been ruled mostly by presidents from this part.

It won’t be out of place to ask how these men have helped the fate of  northern Nigeria-a region that continues to wallow under the burden of diseases ,mass illiteracy as personified by the ubiquitous almajiris(street urchins) who are all over the place and making nonsense of whatever achievements made by northern political leaders in the name of governance.

And while I was still bemoaning the way mothers(especially teenage girls) are dying in the north, the children that died of lead poisoning early this year, the cholera outbreak, the embarrassing impact of river blindness, diarrhea, guinea worm, vesico virginal fistula, poor enrolment of children in schools, the existence of a northern elders forum brought smiles to my face. I was shocked to know about these “wise” old men and how influential they are even to extent to deciding who becomes the president of Nigeria-the world’s most populous black nation.

Gates:demonstrating the difference between being wealthy and being "possessed by wealth

I am still wondering where these elders stand in the face of the worrisome under development in the north. Im really troubled why these men have not met and arrived at a consensus on how to confront the problems of street urchins in the north.

These elders must be next to Elohim if they can ask Babangida, Gusua and Saraki  to step down for Atiku. And  I said to myself, how come these same elders have not been moved to the point of asking their subjects to award special scholarships to medical students of northern origin so as to strengthen the quality and quantity of  manpower rendering healthcare services in the north.

Perhaps, you would expect these men to speak up against the devastating impact of polio on the future of children. You would expect these men to become icons and advocates against child marriages and regularly engage their brothers and sisters about the need to protect their children from possible disability in the future if they don’t respond positively to polio eradication.

These men(and even women) would rather fly around the country campaigning for the presidential ticket, when there are more than enough work to do in their home state. It took a young man from far away America; a man who had no business doing what he is doing in the north to fight the polio epidemic.

I want to see a Babangida campaigning for an end to maternal mortality and offering to grant women free access to cervical and ovarian cancer screening and treatment, a Gusau advocating for prevention of  mother to child transmission of HIV and access to quality HIV education among young girls and women. I want to see a Bukola Saraki, an Abdul Ogbe, an Adamu Chiroma spend the rest of their lives advocating and pushing for bills that will guarantee access to affordable(if not free)quality health care service for everyone, particularly women and children in the north.

Ciroma:Leader of the "wise men" from the north

All these are  worthy causes any man can spend the rest of his life working for and the good thing about such causes if that you don’t need to rent a crowd to achieve them; you don’t have to pay Nollywood actors, footballers or musicians to sing your praise and you can’t heat up the polity trying to achieve them; it has nothing to do with a zoning formula either.

It is simply about doing things that would make the next generation believe that the word elder is not about senile dementia but about the sanctity and sanity of our redemptive decisions and consensus.

In the midst of the frenzies of the forthcoming elections, it is imperative to warn Nigerians that our votes can either make the difference between a suicide attempt or a decision to live life “more abundantly”.

By Kingsley Obom-Egbulem

Nigerians added another term-“Toxic Politicians”  to their political lexicon recently. Thanks to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC), who decided to dare and “ look Medusa in the face” and release what they call “list of corrupt politicians” that must be barred from contesting the 2011 election.

I was particularly impressed at the metamorphosis the list has undergone, especially since the media began analyzing its legal, political and moral implication. For me, the name “Toxic Politicians” will forever remain apt  until perhaps, our political system stops producing and throwing up individuals with toxic tendencies.

Toxic according to the Encarta  Dictionary, has to do with something poisonous: “something relating to or containing a poison or toxin ;deadly: causing serious harm or death”. Does this describe some of our politicians? The answer as always, is blowing in the wind!

And so, for any right thinking people, there is the need to start looking at our politicians from a different perspective especially when you realize that your vote can actually be a suicide attempt or a decision to live a good life depending on who you chose to vote into office.

Let’s try and paint the picture better so we can start making up our minds where we want to be in the next four years, courtesy of our votes.

Nigeria got hit by cholera this year. While the affected states were wondering what hit them, the disease had claimed over 1500 people out of the 38,000 cases recorded. It took the efforts of the United Nations for us to know this.

In many developing countries, cholera remains a disease only discussed in the classrooms of medical schools. But the giant of Africa is  battling with it and with casualty figures that compares only with that of countries like Haiti. Perhaps Haiti would not have appeared on the cholera fact sheet if not for the devastating earthquake it suffered earlier this year. So, how do we explain the cholera embarrassment in one of the world’s largest oil producing nation?

Cholera;humans struck by a preventable disease.How can we prevent such dehumanisation with our votes

Jonathan:can his Goodluck save Nigerians from these needless yet endless deaths?

Lets remind ourselves that cholera is not a natural disaster. It is not like the Tsunami or Hurricane Katrina that nature unleashed on the world within the last six years.

If my knowledge of integrated science serves me well, cholera is an acute and often fatal intestinal disease that produces severe gastrointestinal symptoms and is usually caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.

We were taught that virtually the only means by which a person can be infected by cholera is from food or water contaminated by bacteria from the stools of cholera patients. Prevention of the disease is therefore a matter of sanitation. So, we can safely say that cholera occurs where there are poor access to safe water and basic facility…and do not forget that we are living in the world’s largest oil producing nation.

I love to think along health lines. Somehow, I  chose to see things from the health point of view-i.e. the health implications of several actions and pronouncements. So, one can easily decode how I interpret some of the  hollow and pedestrian political jingles  currently running on our radio and TV.

Each time I see the jingles of Atiku, Gusau, Jonathan and IBB, the questions that keep running in my head are obvious: “What did you guys do about these common diseases currently whipping out Nigerians especially in your part of the country? How do you ensure I don’t die of preventable diseases when I vote you in for the next four years? How would a vote for you ensure that I don’t die before my 46th birthday “celebration”?

With cholera harassing Nigerians and claiming the lives of children and women in their thousands lately, Im afraid that we may just be giving a nincompoop the mandate to wipe us out for another four years. The children, men and women who died of cholera in all the affected states in the north did not know they would die this year, let alone of a preventable albeit curable disease like cholera.

For the dead children, would it be fair to say that their parents voted in a governor; men and women who gave them bread and bags of rice in exchange for their  votes  only to turn out to be the ones who caused their death? How do we tell the ghosts of these children(whenever they starts haunting us) that their parents voted men who lacked basic understanding of what to do about taking care of their people.

I’m bothered!

So, how do we avoid these anomalies? How do we guard against the grim picture that our health sector connotes? I really don’t want us to reproduce that frightening  albeit gory images that have come to represent the Nigerian health sector. We can write an endless volume  trying to do that. But let me illustrate that if you are a Nigerian, living in Nigeria, you are expected to die at the age of 46 or 47.And just in case  you are way past that age, you are doing extra time or simply spending “dying minutes.” It sounds distasteful, no doubt! But that’s the truth.



With incessant strikes by doctors as well as an untamable fake drug market, “the Nigerian health sector” in the words of former health minister, Professor Babatunde Osotimehin “is characterized by lack of effective stewardship role of government, fragmented health service delivery, inadequate and inefficient financing, weak health infrastructure, mal-distribution of health work force and poor coordination amongst key players.”

This is no doubt a recipe for continued drop in our life expectancy as any system so described can only create a big market for casket makers and undertakers.

So, how do we ensure that we use our votes to prolong our lives and live healthy lives? How do we ensure that we don’t vote for men and women who often escape sneak out of the country with our money to extract a tooth or change their glasses while leaving us at the  mercy of business centers masquerading as private hospitals or abattoirs presented as government hospitals? How can we end the feeling of knowing that sometimes you can die of a disease not necessary because the disease is terminal but because it infected you; a Nigerian living and trapped in Nigeria and there is no capacity or resources to treat the disease?

In May 2009,I woke up to a shocking reality and I’ve not recovered from its impact. It is an issue I know so well, but it has never been  so graphically presented the way Paul Thorn did .

I was at a satellite meeting organized by the Lilly MDR TB Partnership at the 62nd World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland. The meeting was organized to provide a platform to share experiences among countries battling with Multi-Drug Resistance TB(MDR-TB) and those who have not only conquered TB but have also contained MDR-TB.
Paul Thorn, a Briton living with HIV, who also describes himself as a MDR-TB survivor (having been successfully treated of multi-drug resistance TB he contracted while on admission)was one of the speakers at the session.

“I’m alive today because there is cure for MDR-TB”, he said. “But most importantly, I’m alive because of where I was born; because I’m Briton. The British government have made provisions to ensure that no one dies of TB or MDR-TB. But many people in poor countries infected with MDR-TB will die not because they have MDR-TB which is a treatable disease but because they have governments that cannot show leadership in tackling critical public health challenges”.

That statement got me thinking seriously about my nationality and the need to get involved in health debates in Nigeria by advocating for a health system  that works with the hope of increasing the life expectancy of Nigerians.
No doubt, Paul Thorn would have died if he were in Nigeria. Those who should know won’t debate the fact that we don’t have what it takes to correctly diagnose MDR-TB let alone treat it. Need I say God help you if you get infected with MDR-TB here.

But the focus of this discuss is not TB or MDR-TB. It is about using our votes wisely in the next election to  ensure we live healthier, longer lives and ensure that our health system works. For this to happen we need to ask intelligent questions and demand intelligent answers. Armed with these questions we need to start engaging those aspiring for political offices…those  whose posters are now creating eyesores in  several towns and cities; those whose boring radio and TV jingles are offering wish lists for which they cannot articulate how they intend to achieve the promises on the wish list. Some have carefully stayed away from selling a health agenda.  We need to be sure of what they want to accomplish within the health sector.

We can’t overstate that health wise, there are no sustainable plans for today’s children let alone those of tomorrow. The aspirants are coming at us lamenting what mess we’ve found ourselves in, but with no alternative visions, no ideologies and no programmes that offer the voters clear choices about their future. No political party in Nigeria can boast of a clear road map to improve the health of Nigerians except the fact that most of them have successfully branded themselves as the ultimate platform to grab power.

A situation where someone is running for public office and does not have an idea of what to do about the health sector is suicidal. A president, governor, law maker or local government chairman who is not bothered of health bill or cannot read the National Strategic Health Development Plan Framework(NSHDPF) for instance is a disaster about to happen and we must nip that with our votes.


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