Radio, bucket, and a bicycle – improving healthcare provision in Nigeria


by ndubuisi edeoga

I have been reading through Sonia Shah’s book “The Fever: How Malaria Has Ruled Humankind for 500,000 Years”. She discussed a survey that was designed to collect data about the use of insecticide impregnated nets, and about what most people would want if given the choice in a rural setting (one of their options was insecticide impregnated nets). People’s top choices were a radio, bucket and bicycle. Most people just need the simple things in life to be happy; the irony of Nigeria is that the funds for these simple things are allocated to complex things that end up not benefiting anyone.

Take for example the multiple cholera outbreaks in different parts of Nigeria, in Bauchi, Adamawa and Rivers States, and so many other mini outbreaks that we do not read about in the papers. The causes of these outbreaks which occur mostly in the rainy seasons can be traced directly to poor or non-existent portable clean water provision. We would rather spend billions on the independence celebration rather than spend the money on providing portable clean water for local communities in Nigeria.

Next year we would still have multiple cholera outbreaks, and we will still allocate billions to another independence celebration.

How do we break this cycle? I suggest that we as a society have to do a “root-cause-analysis”, some people already know the answer, but to satisfy everyone we should still go ahead and do one. We should ask: what caused the cholera epidemic? poor hygiene?, lack of portable clean water?, water source too close to the sewer? Then we should ask: How can we stop it from happening again and again? We should then insist that our leaders make these changes as a condition for voting them into office. Water …its that simple!

Most people just need a bucket!!!

Recently, 50 doctors and some consultants were said to have resigned their appointments with the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital (OOUTH), Sagamu, Ogun State due to alleged poor remuneration, as well as their  non-conducive working environment. Well, who cares when the people that make the health care decisions can afford to travel out to the UK or wherever else they may chose for their health needs.

Then we should ask again ; how do we break this cycle of unending strikes, year in year out? Another root-cause-analysis!. We should ask: is the strike about  too many doctors?, or too few doctors?, is it really about the non – conducive work environment?, or poor remuneration?. Then we should ask: how can we stop these strikes?, (next year). Then, we should insist that our leaders make these changes or else……

The next elections are around the corner, hhmm…. maybe the money that would have been used to make the doctors work environment better and pay them better salaries are serving other needs, maybe the money meant for our boreholes/taps are serving other  needs, making posters, t-shirts, campaign buses, bullet proof election vehicles for the people that make the health care decisions….for us!

As the elections come closer, if our votes will count this time around, we hope to make changes in the people that make our health care decisions. Then….maybe we would be closer to getting our radios, buckets and even a bicycle.

Taking it a step further, a Lagos based lawyer Femi Falana sued the Nigerian government for its failure to adequately equip our hospitals. He went as far as requesting an injunction to stop government officials from using our resources to get personal medical care in other countries, while they have not worked hard enough to provide basic health care for their masses. I think the Nigeria masses should be joined in this suit, even if only for the significance to the international community.

The next time your neighbour, or loved ones dies from cholera, other forms of diarrheal diseases or any other preventable diseases that still kill only Nigerians, we know who to blame. The next time you go to hospital or you are admitted into a hospital and the doctors do not provide an adequate level of care, we know who to blame. Our president, governors, senators, representatives, councillors, local government chairmen or any other “elected” government official. We should make our voices heard. We have to engage with the political process.

Then, and only then we would be sure of getting our radios, buckets and who knows even a bicycle!

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead

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