We often sit in the big cities and talk and write about health issues. We attend conferences and seminars, dissemination events and policy dialogues. We debate about health policy reform and the national health agenda, we analyse the budget and ask policy makers hard questions. Sometimes, we sit back and wonder how much they care. Sometimes, we increasingly sit back and reflect; how much do we care?
It’s important to get out of the office, get out of the city, to see how the majority of Nigerians, those whom these policies are meant to touch, live. The following photos were taken by Nigeria Health Watch team members on the field. They remind us that we have a long way to go. They tell us that the work we do, as advocates, is incomplete until it brings change into the lives of those who need it most.
These five pictures offer a glimpse into the Nigeria that most of us reading this article will rarely see.
- Delivery room, Kuje PHC
The photo above is a delivery room in a Primary Health Centre in Kuje, on the outskirts of Abuja. This is where mothers give birth to the new generation of Nigerians. Lack of equipment, poor infrastructure and inadequate human resources at the primary health care level has been a long recurring problem in Nigeria. Like many Ministers before him, the new Minister of Health has promised to make primary health care the focus of his tenure. We hope that unlike many of his predecessors, he will fulfill his promise.
- Water Source, Nagane Community, Langtang South, Plateau State
This is the only source of water the people of Nagane in Langtang South LGA, Plateau State, have. The connection between clean, potable drinking water and good health does not need further clarification. It is difficult to see how any health intervention in this community can succeed when this is what they are drinking.
- A young mother and her baby, Logo LGA, Benue State
Nigeria’s maternal health indicators are improving, but are still some of the worst in the world. Too many Nigerian women are still dying during pregnancy and childbirth. Ensuring that women stay healthy throughout their pregnancy and delivery is extremely important. Some States like Ondo have made good progress and we will be visiting soon.
- A trio of boys take a stroll, Agatu LGA, Benue State
Childhood is a time of wonder and adventure… but not if you are sick. Children under five years old in communities around the country are often susceptible to various illnesses that may be harmful to their development, including diarrhea, worms, and nutritional deficiencies. We have a rapidly expanding population; most of them are growing up poor, malnourished and uneducated. We are glad that the Dangote and Gates Foundations are now focusing on nutrition. Nigeria cannot afford not to engage on this.
- Transportation across the Katsina Ala River on a canoe “ferry”
There have been a number of ferry accidents leading to deaths in Lagos. Imagine the level of risk in this picture, then think of their access to emergency health services. There is barely a reliable emergency medical service anywhere in Nigeria. Nigerian roads are notorious for the lack of enforcement of any speed limits. Nigeria consistently ranks as one of the countries with the highest road accident deaths in the world.
These pictures are the reasons we cannot sit idly by and watch the Nigerian health sector deteriorate. They affirm the importance of the work that you do as health workers… and remind us all of the need to never forget those whom we are meant to serve. We will #keeppushing.
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