Government has been urged not to trivialize the inadequacies of the nation’s health sector as it places the country at risk of the dearth of qualified (health sector) manpower, economic retardation and eventual loss of public confidence.

This assertion was unanimously endorsed at the 1-day public hearing of major  stakeholders in Gusau, Zamfara state, where expert view were dissected on the question of the need for improved maternal and child health in the grassroot communities.

The event which was organized by the ‘White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria’ in conjunction with’ Save the Children’, ‘Education as a Vaccine’ under the auspices of the Federal Medical Center, Gusau, had in attendance medical practitioners from the public and private sectors, Representatives of the Zamfara State Government, notable mother and child health advocacy groups and over one hundred women from different parts of the state as respondents and active participants in the talks.

White Ribbon Alliance and her collaborators designed as part of a series of nationwide event focusing on social mobilization with the aim of empowering grassroot women with information about safe motherhood and child survival, and providing a platform for them to express themselves by advocating on mother and child health ((MNCH) issues that affected their communities.

“the cost of getting treatment is so alarming that sometimes I have to either consult with the traditional healthcare givers or simply sit it out because it(cost) drains the family’s savings” Mariam Mainasara, 29-year old mother. “Government should give health loans to people like us who can’t afford the cost of drugs, injections and other essential medication needed in our case.” She suggested.

Blessing Sunday 30-year old nursing mother said” the nurses often tell you there are no beds and even at that they are so rude and intolerant of pregnant cases. They should learn to be courteous its always reassuring when you have friendly people around you when you are in labor.”

Another participant, Rabila Aminu dan Kano, 30, admonished her mates to encourage female education “even when it’s obvious that enrolling children into nursing schools means a huge financial commitment I still want to implore our mothers to try and perhaps government can also grant scholarships for the female child.”

Also, Binta Mayana Midwife at the ante-natal unit of the FMC sited series of cases where some of the patients after receiving ante-natal care they stay away during labor, opting for the traditional care givers. “Many of them don’t administer the routine measures prescribed to them so they end up in the emergency unit afterwards” she said.

Meanwhile, panelists decried government’s neglect and relegation of the primary health care sector with gay abandon, denying the rural population; the nation’s economic strength, the right to qualitative health care services.

”this has inadvertently resulted in the uncontrollable surge of patients into the tertiary health care system with very little resources or materials to alleviate their suffering” quipped Dr.Onaze, Head of the Department Pediatrics (FMC), Gusau.

The panelist argued that many pregnant mothers throng to the hospital often without realizing how hapless the situation really is even at the doctors’ best capacities.

Another panelist, Dr.Raymond Mieke, Chief Medical Director, Duala hospital, Gusau argued that the rising cost of obtaining quality health care and the disproportionate investments by government should perhaps be considered as an integral factor of the surging cases of mother and child mortality in the north.

He explained that the shortcomings of the public health institutions drive people to cost-driven private practitioners leaving the common man little or no choice. Dr. Raymond posited that poverty likely claims more victims even faster than our dysfunctional health sector.

Statistics from the Save the Children advocacy group states that the Nigerian government spends less on healthcare per person than almost any other  government in Africa and the report argues that it is even worst in the rural Northern parts of the country. The report further reveals even more shocking health revelations, positing that “1 out of every 5 Nigerian child dies before reaching age 5”.

There are also irrefutable reports of the bad state of clinics and many lack even basic equipments and drugs. The massive shortages of qualified staff to work in emergency units and that in some districts less than 1% of children are immunized.

These gory facts have led to the urgent call by many among the participants for government to take drastic measures to improve the quality of the sector.

In her address, Representative of the Save the Children an internationally reputed Non Governmental Organization, Hadiza Aminu called on government to increase spending in the areas of facility uplifts for the FMC, Gusau  and other such institutions.

Similarly, she encouraged parents to invest in the education of their wards particularly in the medical profession as a likely panacea for checking the shortage of available qualified hands in the sector.

Although, as worrisome as some of the statistics prove, the panel is also hopeful that perhaps government may be heading in the right direction when the proposed health bill is eventually accented by President Goodluck Jonathan.

The bill provides for the Federal government to set aside 2% from the National budget besides the annual estimated spending in the sector. The Consolidation fund will afford government increased investments in the hitherto abandoned critical areas of the sector; revamping the primary healthcare services, as part of government’s drive to meet its Millennium Development Goal (MDG) targets before 2015.

When passed into law, the bill equally ensures a reliable regulatory framework for both health service providers and the health service workers; the latter according to the bill will benefit from further training to better prepare them for the challenges in contemporary healthcare service delivery.

However, the women have called for immediate responses to the present issues plaguing the sector as it was critical to the lives of the many rural dwellers that have been cut-off from such health benefits by government’s poor health policies, prompting the patronage of local health care givers.

Hadiza Aliu Matawale, Mainasara Maimuna Muhammadiya, Blessing Sunday, Zaynab Imran among other women all lend their voices to call for the expansion of the ante-natal sections of the FMC, Gusau. Health workers were also charged to display professionalism in their duties.

26-year old mother Saratu Bello though called on the state government to replicate the mobile healthcare emergency provider services likened to the police response squad and the fire service. She said that such services will ameliorate the sufferings of the mothers in the rugged terrains of the rural areas.

The ’Everyone Campaign’ is organizing similar hearings in 4 states and the FCT between July and August tagged “the Voice of Mothers in Public Hearing For Improved Maternal and Child Health in Grassroot Communities”, say the key outputs of the events are to create awareness by sensitizing over 5000 women with the knowledge that maternal and child mortality is a preventable problem, their roles to stem deaths of mothers an children under 5.

It also aims at prompt policy makers into taking actions by making them realize the social implication of the scourge thereby collecting testimonies as part of the country’s “annual hand raising actions showing high demand for improved health system in grassroot communities.

 

This article was written by Adebanjo Ogunseye. He is a freelance writer and he blogs at http://adebanjo-ogunseye.blogspot.com/

 

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