The tragic ineptitude of some "leaders" in our health sector

Find below an article that appeared in the Champion Newspaper on the 2nd of February. I have highlighted some issues I find really tragic in the public utterances of some of our leaders in the health sector.These highlight a complete lack of insight….and my worry is…if our leaders do not see the folly in their own can they lead us out of the mess in which we find ourselves in?

Bayelsa: Measles  Epidemic Death Toll Now 25
(remember – vaccines have been available for ~ 50 years and cost less than a bottle of coke)

The State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Azipabu Godbless Eruani while speaking to newsmen during a briefing at his office on Thursday [28 Jan 2010] confirmed the incident, but could not give the exact casualty figure. He said doctors with Medecins Sans Frontieres have moved in to help rescue the situation from escalating.

Eruani explained that in order to check the epidemic from spreading, his ministry has sent Vitamin A and other relief materials to boost the immune system of the villagers, just as he expressed dismay that some villagers refuse to bring out their children to be immunised when some health workers visited the area.

“As we speak the situation is under control, the Medecins Sans Frontieres staff have also visited the community, but we have a setback. Some people do not want to bring out their children to be immunised when our health workers went there to stop the problem from spreading,” he added. The health boss however pointed out that the government would mobilize staff to carry out an aggressive enlightenment campaign in the area and other parts of the state to ensure that people of the state understand the importance of immunization.

Describing the measles outbreak as an international problem, the Commissioner noted that more health workers have been deployed to neighbouring communities so that the scourge does not spread to
neighbouring areas. He called on people of the state not to panic, as the situation is under control.

“When this government came on board, a major focus was to improve health care, which underscores why the Chief Timipre Sylva-led administration is building new primary health centres and renovating existing ones so as to bring them to standard,” Dr. Eruani said. The Daily Champion learnt that the situation is made worse as the only government health centre in the community has been overstretched by the influx of patients there, while the belief of the people has precluded parents from bringing out their children, hence the increase in death; as they believe in supernatural healing.

Close sources in the Oweikurogha community said if the health centre there is upgraded into a full-fledged hospital with doctors and nurses, such scourges would be readily controlled. They feared that more people could contract diseases, hence some people sought refuge in nearby communities.

No further comment required. Maybe as the saying goes…every society gets the leaders they deserve!

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

Chikwe Ihekweazu is an epidemiologist and consultant public health physician. He is the Editor of Nigeria Health Watch, and the Managing Partner of EpiAfric (, which provides expertise in public health research and advisory services, health communication and professional development. He previously held leadership roles at the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the UK's Health Protection Agency. Chikwe has undertaken several short term consultancies for the World Health Organisation, mainly in response to major outbreaks. He is a TED Fellow and co-curator of TEDxEuston.

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