What a year: 2011

This guest post by Chima Onoka….brings the year to an end for NHW
What a year it was…..2011 seemed to be one of those years when it started, but it turned out a significant year in many respects to history bookmakers. The events are numerous – End of an era in many countries – people who have been national leaders since I was in primary school – from Libya (Ghaddafi) to Egypt (Mubarak), Tunisia, North Korea (Kim Jong il), Ivory Coast etc (though Mugabe seems to be the oldest last man standing, and perhaps the Cameroonian and Ugandan presidents). There were uprisings that changed the face of the Arab world in a direction yet to unfold, exchange of 1 Israeli life for over 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, declaration of interest for statehood by Palestine at the UN, death of Bin Laden, a Nuclear disaster in Japan to remind us of what we live with, a new global economic crisis, suspension of a funding round for HIV/AIDS by Global fund, slash of funding for UNICEF and other organizations, death of Steve Jobs of Apple, break-up of Sudan into two nations, 2 royal British weddings mixed with riots, and protests in the USA.
There were also Cancer hits – from Venezuelan and Argentine presidents (which Chavez says US is giving them), unbelievable protests in Russia, threatened Euro zone, some hope for a malaria vaccine, breast implant recall, downing of a Drone in Iran for inspection, memorable election in Nigeria and Liberia, Barcelona winning all football competitions it participated in, 3 joint female Nobel peace prize winners, and the world hitting a population of 7 billion despite all the deaths inflicted on others by evil hearted people, conflicts and numerous natural disasters.
In Nigeria, where do we start? Recurrent massacres of innocent, ordinary Nigerians by an ill-defined sect called Boko Haram has left the country and its people bewildered. …Christmas day saw 43 killed in the Madalla Church and still counting. But there were other deaths too…. some of those who influenced the path of Nigeria – gold medallist Sunday Bada, industrialist and publisher Alex Ibru, the Dim, Odumegwu Ojukwu, Admiral Aikhomu on the day his boss IBB clocked 70, banker Aderinokun of GTBank, singer Christy Essien-Igbokwe, many in the bombed UN house Abuja who are from nations around the world that helped shape health related policies, and so many uncountable people whose names are little known.
For many who face our health system, the challenges they go through navigating the system are just too painful to be ignored. The absence of accessible and quality health care especially in rural and peri-urban areas, the absence of emergency and referral services, absence of health insurance cover for over 150 million of Nigeria’s 160 million population, poor commitment to implementation of health policies by politicians, health facility managers, and professional associations, and unending strikes in hospitals. The situation is further compounded by problems with institutional and infrastructural promoters of health – poor roads and transportation, loss of accreditation by medical schools, insecurity and impoverishment, a health bill that is still waiting for the president’s signature, and the deficiency of labour and civil society organizations with sincere interests and political power to influence change.
As we enter the New Year, we could all determine to make a difference in our society. Let us determine in the New Year to show love to those who are products of conflicts…orphans, widows, homeless, and to those with difficult marriages, children and parents, and the poor. These all have underlying social determinants, precipitators and propagators of ill health. Let us also chose to Care for the poor, visit those who are unfortunate to be in hospital beds or who live in fear with health conditions that threaten their very existence. May we all spend more time thinking about solutions and praying for and about our leaders than we do criticizing them. Let us determine to help develop systems that will hold our political leaders and health managers to account. Let us also provide support in any way we can to the people who meet us daily in health facilities… while we hope that health will be taken more seriously in the political agenda in 2012.
Finally, let us pause a while and reflect on our blessings, God’s mercies, forgiveness, and love even when you did things that were inappropriate…or took risks… on the road, in the air, and in places that people go to and never return because of insecurity. We may have talked about what we ‘were passing through’… but really…we passed through them with God’s help… since we are still around. The gift of life we have as we enter the New Year is enough for us to determine to make the contribution necessary for people to be thankful that we existed. 
Happy New Year!


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 (www.epiafric.com), 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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