Monday, May 24, 2010

The soundtrack of my childhood was heavily saturated my Nico Mbarga’s Sweet mother. I loved this song so much and my own often sweet mother tells me how I would dance and dance to this song with abandon. I was a precocious child and was mostly curious about music. I forgot about this gem of a song until recently, while cleaning up some parental personal effects, I rediscovered it and was flooded with nostalgic  joy.

"Sweet Mother, I no go forget you, for the suffer way you suffer for me," Nico sang.

While dancing and reminiscing about this long forgotten period, I remembered one of the more horrifying experience of my life. This last summer I was fortunate enough to spend my summer touring Nigeria and learning about it's health care system. I travelled from Abuja to Kano and made my way to some villages in Jigawa and Kano. I was also able to spend a week in Enugu and another week in Ibadan, the biggest city in west Africa located in the southwest of Nigeria. My goal was to get a complete snapshot of the health status of Nigerians and I am glad that I did. 

Many are familiar with the country's decayed Primary Health Centers, the incompetence of the Secondary health centers and the overcrowded tertiary teaching hospitals where customer service is something foreign. And long waits and cash is the rule of the day. I was obviously sad and a little discouraged by the health status of the everyday Nigerian that obviously cannot afford to travel abroad for the simplest health checkup not to talk of comprehensive care. While sad and discouraged, I was not ready or equipped to deal with one of the worst situational examples of the complete corrosion of the Nigerian health system.

It was in a nondescript hut in a very small village in Northern Kano. I did not know, at the time, that this visit to this village would change my life. The sight was ghastly and I will never forget how I felt afterwards.

There was a woman, in labor, and she had been in labour for three days, the child was a breach birth, with one of its hand sticking out, and the hand had apparently turned green.

I remember how unsweet this situation was. How completely terrible it is that the most vulnerable members of our society are left in huts to rot while bringing into the world a new life.  It is distressful that the Nigerian society is quite fine with a baby decaying inside its mother.

52,900 women die, annually, in childbirth EVERY YEAR. EVERY SINGLE YEAR, 52,900. That is 50,000 plus another 2,000, and add 900 on top of that; DIE every year during childbirth. This is the verdict of our health system.

Even human resources are lacking in the healthcare sector. Each year, millions of African health workers leave the continent to look for opportunities elsewhere. The Nigerian Government spent only 4.8% on the health of her citizen in 2005 according to the World Health Organization. And the most affected sector of the society are the most vulnerable to this incompetence. The mothers, the newborns, and the very young are the one being punished. These are the people who need our protection and they are the one being left to rot by you and I and, of course, the Nigerian government.

This is not just an article to complain about the dire state of health in the country. I am not exactly equipped to pass judgement, since I do not reside in the country presently.

However, I have decided that the sole reason why I was born is to correct this horror. I know the problem, I have studied it, I understand it very well and I have also decided to do something about it and well.

If you have ever been a Mother, or you were born by a woman, or you have sisters, or aunts or friends that are female, I need your help.

Lets help make Motherhood sweet again. 

Much thanks to Temie Giwa for contributing to Nigerian Curiosity as an Honorary Guest Writer of May 2010. Ms. Giwa has an MPA in International Development. She is creating a website to collect the health stories and concerns of Nigerian women in order to eventually lobby the government and other actors so as to change the current state of healthcare. Please contact her with suggestions and stories at temie.giwa@gmail.com.

If you would like to be a Guest Writer for Nigerian Curiosity, please use the 'Contact' button above to reach SolomonSydelle, the blog administrator. 
Please read other contributions from previous Nigerian Curiosity Guest Writers -
- Dr. Joseph Okpaku's Barack Obama & America: Who Needs Who More 
- Osize's 'Economics of Nollywood: Price'
- Aloofar's 'When Will Nigerians Have Enough?'
- Tosin's 'Fantasy Federal Executive Council Team'
- Temie's 'Sweetening Motherhood'

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I feel I can comment on this as I did not write it, so here goes.

I read this twice and cannot get the image of that green little hand out of mind's eye. You make a good point that it is sad Nigeria allows this to happen. Prenatal and childcare should be free for all women and kids in Nigeria. Fact is, the country can afford it. In fact, it just might have to given the challenges Nigeria's expanding population, environmental issues and other matters present.

I hope you will get the website you mentioned started. More mouths are needed to advocate for women's and child health care not just in Nigeria but around the world. better healthcare for all, regardless of wealth, is crucial. Thank you so much for your contribution.

Beauty said...

There was a woman, in labor, and she had been in labour for three days, the child was a breach birth, with one of its hand sticking out, and the hand had apparently turned green. Yet people would have us believe corruption is not Nigeria´s problem. Its education, stupid! The initial condition where the case file for N7.5 billion bank fraud goes missing is a case in point. Never mind Ibori, OBJ, Tafa Balogun and others, health care cost X but in a country that is able to earn $1Billion per day, we could easily afford a universal free health care system. Corruption begins with chieftancy titles and those obsure obas and ends with Jeffrey Sachs. Go figure.

Back to women, may I share a little from a huge little woman that I love very much,
Women are 51 percent of humankind. Empowering them will change everything -- more than technology and design and entertainment. I can promise you that women working together -- linked, informed and educated -- can bring peace and prosperity to this forsaken planet. In any war today, most of the casualties are civilians, mainly women and children. They are collateral damage. Men run the world, and look at the mess we have.

I think that the time is ripe to make fundamental changes in our civilization. But for real change, we need feminine energy in the management of the world. We need a critical number of women in positions of power, and we need to nurture the feminine energy in men. I'm talking about men with young minds, of course. Old guys are hopeless, we have to wait for them to die off.

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