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Posts Tagged ‘cholera’

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.

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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.

IBB;

Atiku;

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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