Kazeem Ojo (not real name), 23, had a road accident in the Okegbe community of Ondo State in February 2022. He sustained several injuries, but he gave up the ghost before he could be rushed to the closest hospital, ten kilometres away.
Mr Ojo could have survived if only he had access to healthcare quick enough.
“We hired a car to rush him (Kazeem) to the hospital that’s ten kilometres away from us, but he couldn’t make it,” his brother, Akin Oguntuase, who prefers the deceased’s real name not be mentioned for family reasons, told this reporter
According to United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, in 2020, one million Nigerians under 24 died of healthcare and socio-economic problems. Mr Kazeem is one of the numbers.
Reports of people losing their lives due to lack of access to health care are increasing in the Okegbe community– an area with a population of 175,409 residents– due to a lack of hospitals.
But there’s a hospital that ought to serve the community.
Earlier in 2013, Ganny Dauda, the lawmaker representing Akoko North-East and North-West Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives under the Labour Party (LP) at the time, nominated the Construction of a primary healthcare centre (Type A) at Okegbe in Akoko North-East LGA, to be located in Tagbada community in Okegbe.
UDEME, a social accountability project of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development(CJID), reached out to National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) via calls and emails for the initial amount budgeted by Mr Dauda, but none was responded to. A Freedom of Information (FOI Act) request sent to the agency on 21st August 2022 was also not responded to after the seven-day window. Calls and messages to the agency’s website were also not answered or replied to.
However, information from the Accountant-General of the Federation indicated that all Zonal Intervention Projects (ZIP) up to the year 2020 have been fully funded.
In the 2019 general election, Mr Dauda lost his seat to Mr Stephen Olemija of the All Progressives Congress (APC), but the project continued. Mr Olemija adopted the project with the same title on an allocation of N25 million under the supervision of NPHCDA.
Hope sinks as fire guts building
Bayegun Lamidi, a middle-aged farmer in the Okegbe community, told UDEME how happy the inhabitants were when the construction started with a dream it would end their age-long health needs.
“I remember around 2013 when the project commenced, the people were so happy, hoping it would solve part of their health needs,’’ Mr Bayegun said.
Mr Bayegun was the man who secured accommodation for the contractors while some other residents turned to labourers to fast-track the completion of the project. But the project stopped in 2018.
While residents were still hoping something positive would happen, the building was razed by fire one Sunday afternoon in February 2021.
Another resident of the community, Mrs Olaitan Funmilayo, who runs a fashion designing shop beside the healthcare centre, said the building caught fire as a result of bushes around it.
“Perhaps it’s from hunters who burned bushes because of animals,” she said.
UDEME observed that the building is now being used for defecation while remains of the aluminium roofing sheet and other vital materials had been looted, despite the building having windows, wall sockets and doors fixed.
“The aluminium roofing sheet, wall sockets and some valuable items were looted by scavengers,” said Mr Bayegun.
Traditional birth attendants to the rescue
Narrating her experience with UDEME, Oderinde Folake, a mother of four, disclosed that the lack of hospitals in the area had led to the death of pregnant women.
“In case of emergency (when the women saw the birth sign) at night, their husbands use an available motorcycle or vehicle to take them to hospital, and there are cases of pregnant women dying trying to get to the hospital.”
Mrs Oderinde said this situation had forced pregnant women in the area to embrace traditional birth attendants.
According to the National Library of Medicine, in many countries, 60 to 80% of deliveries are assisted by traditional birth attendants (TBAs).
A traditional birth attendant (TBA), also known as a traditional midwife, community midwife or lay midwife, is a pregnancy and childbirth care provider who provides the majority of primary maternity care in many developing countries.
Several attempts yielded no result
Mr Rafiu Okunade, the Olona of Okegbe kingdom, said the community had written several letters to the concerned authority to revisit the project since they[community] couldn’t afford the reroofing, but all proved abortive.
“The project was roofed six years ago by Mr Stephen Olemija, who adopted it—our expectations were painting, installation of necessary facilities and commissioning of the project for use, not knowing it would be razed down,” said Mr Rafiu.
He said the closest hospital to the community, ten kilometres away, lacks basic facilities.
Lawmaker faults agency
Meanwhile, Mr Dauda, the then lawmaker that nominated the project, faulted the supervising agency for keeping the project execution details away from him.
“I nominated the project which was awarded and handled by the Primary Health Care Commission, the details of the award were not made known to me,” he said via a telephone conversation with UDEME.
Mr Dauda, who couldn’t recollect the amount he nominated the project or the contractor it was awarded to, said he lost the fight for the project when his wife died.
“The Primary Health Care Commission kept it away from me because they didn’t want me to know. I went to the site, and it was at the roofing level before I lost my wife. Ask the community; they’ll tell you what transpired then because the community was carried along.”
However, all attempts to reach Mr Stephen Olemija, who adopted the project, proved abortive. This reporter visited the lawmaker’s farm and home but was denied access.
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