When we read the below quote in our Honourable Minister of Health’s speech to the recent World Health Assembly, we were worried, uncertain whether this was naivety or ignorance of the complexity of the health problems on hand in Nigeria. But, we were also worried that he might have simply read a script given to him by colleagues at the Federal Ministry of Health, without being aware of all the facts.
This is the direct quote from the Minister of Health’s speech which you can read in detail here.
…on the issue of the outbreak of epidemics in Nigeria in the recent past. We have effectively contained these outbreaks and put measures in place to ensure prevention of future outbreaks.
Then, just in the last week immediately after his speech at the WHA.
Daily Trust reports an outbreak of cholera in Abuja – Yes cholera! Yes Abuja!. But wait, read on for the Local Government Chairman’s response – he immediately sent additional drugs to the affected community in order to control the epidemic. Drugs? for Cholera?
Leadership reports an outbreak of Meningitis in Kaduna. The response? – The commissioner said that 130,000 doses of vaccines donated by the Federal Government and other donor agencies were being used to contain the situation.
Thisday reports that three people died from food poisoning in Ekiti. The Oluyin of Iyin-Ekiti, Oba Ademola Ajakaiye is quoted to have advised his people as follows: “I want to advise our people to be mindful of what they eat”!
Then by the end of the week, several media bodies including the BBC carried the story that more than 100 children had died of lead poisoning in Nigeria in recent weeks. The number had been rising since March, when residents started digging illegally for gold in areas with high concentrations of lead. The deaths were discovered during the country’s annual immunisation programme when officials realised that there were virtually no children in several remote villages!
Dear Professor Chukwu. This is our reality! It might not have been obvious to you while working at the Ebonyi State University Teaching Hospital in Abakiliki – but in our Nigeria, outbreaks caused by all sorts of infectious and non-infectious agents are an on-going challenge. They have not been “contained” (despite what your colleagues in our Federal Ministry of Health might tell you). Sir, we propose you consider the idea of a National Centre for Disease Control that will concentrate the expertise scattered around the country to prevent, manage and control outbreaks. There are models around the world but we recommend you look at the website of the National Institute of Communicable Disease of South Africa – or maybe arrange a visit.
We look forward to a better week and your next speech Sir…. Welcome to Nigeria!
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