12 January 2013

Nigeria: Left to Die


On January 3, 2013, one Mrs. Safiya Sani, 17, was delivered of a set of conjoined twins at the Mararaba Medical Centre in Nasarawa State. Safiya, a seamstress, is married to Ahmed Sani, a "Madarasatul-Islamiya" teacher.

The conjoined twins, baby girls, according to the doctor that delivered them, were promptly referred to the National Hospital, Abuja, as the first hospital lacked both personnel and facilities to handle the case. Unfortunately, the authorities of the National Hospital announced on Monday, January 7, that the conjoined twins had died.

What circumstance led to the death of these conjoined twins? What attempt was made by the hospital to carry out an operation to separate the conjoined twins? Does the hospital have the requisite personnel? Does the hospital have the necessary equipment to carry out the operation? Was the delay caused by the usual Nigerian official bureaucracy or that the indigent father of the conjoined twins was unable to raise the necessary deposit, as was demanded by the hospital authorities before the operation could be carried out?

The pleas for help by the mother of the conjoined twins from her hospital bed for the government and public-spirited compatriots to rally round and save the lives of her babies fell on deaf ears. Rather, the first lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, the first lady of Nasarawa State, Hajiya Al-Makura, in whose state the babies were delivered, and the wife of the FCT minister, Amina Bala Mohammed, were all jostling for the klieg lights to showcase the first babies of the year in their respective domains.

Even the spouses of the top parliamentarians led by Mrs. Helen David Mark ought to have seized the initiative. The minister of health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, by his actions or inactions has displayed outright nonchalance over the matter.

This is unfortunate. It is a confirmation that our government pays scant attention to human life. It is also a confirmation of the result of a recent research: that Nigeria is the worst place for a child to be born!

The death of these conjoined twins should not be swept under the carpet. The Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) should investigate the cause to determine, among other things, whether there was culpable negligence. This is necessary because the National Hospital, Abuja, is fast acquiring the reputation of a "national morgue". This investigation will also afford the NMA the opportunity to ascertain the competences of the personnel in that hospital and the quality of equipment available.

It is time the federal government stopped paying lip service to the provision of health for all. While we advocate for the proper equipping of the National Hospital, Abuja, it is also very necessary that at least one federal hospital in each of the six geopolitical zones in the country should be properly equipped to cater for emergencies.

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