11 February 2013

Nigeria: Urgent Need To Provide Increased Security Protection for Health Workers

Photo: Gates Foundation
A local health worker carries polio vaccines in Nigeria (file photo).


Abuja — I am saddened by the devastating news of the three Korean doctors that were killed by unknown assailants in the late hours of Saturday evening at their rented quarters in Yobe State and the nine female health workers shot dead by unknown gunmen on tricycle on Friday morning in Kano.

I join well meaning Nigerian's to condemn this dastardly act and we must ensure the perpetrators are brought to book to face the full wrath of the law. This is one attack too many that has further exposed our society as one where our security apparatus and strategy are being put to question.

It is an ignominious act on the lives of these Korean doctors who were recently posted to the Potiskum General Hospital barely a week to offer technical expertise in various medical fields.  The ungodly act also carried out against the Nine female health workers murdered under gruesome circumstances while peacefully practising their profession to reduce polio incidents in the state and improve the well being of the society at large is uncalled for.

As a medical doctor, I understand the implication of the absence of or lack of adequate security measure to protect both international and local health workers embarking on a national assignment such as the training of local medical personnel for preventive measures and effectiveness on the latest health practices and immunisation exercise towards eradication of Polio in the Northern part of the country and Nigeria at large.

The latest in the series of attacks on health workers no doubt will throw more caution in the air and as a result, leads to major setback in the fight against polio and other health related issues which will affect the the  current generation and those yet unborn.  This latest incident could affect  the Nation to further have the support of medically related NGOs and International Organizations from helping our preventive and eradication drive against some life threatening diseases.

I recall during my tenure as the Chairman of Nigeria Governor's Forum, we ensured that the case of Polio stigmatization against the Country were removed due to collective efforts of all concerned. Further to  this, the Forum signed a memorandum of understanding with expatriate workers and the security agencies were notified to provide security for the workers, likewise the ward-to-ward zero tolerance of the Wild Polio Virus (WPV) with adequate protection and an enabling environment for the health workers to thrive, thereby we achieved a polio-free status despite high prevalence of polio virus.

The cases of helpless children in need of urgent medical attention and vaccines across the. Country, particularly the continuous incident of lead poisoning in Bagega, Zamfara State also call for urgent security attention. The protection of lives and property of International and local health workers working tirelessly in various communities in order  to safeguard the lives of over one thousand children who are under life threatening  cases should be stepped up immediately by the security agencies.

The separate attacks at Filin Cashew in Anguwa Uku and Hotoron Hayi health centres in Kano and Potiskum suburb of Yobe should serve as a wake up call to all stakeholders not to treat the issue of security and threat to lives with kids glove.
This attitude of no regards for lives and property by strange elements in our society is horrendous and a lasting solution must be proffered if we are to live in peaceful coexistence and attract foreign investors, International health Agencies.  Public health workers should be given adequate protection to reduce their work hazards.

It is  worthy of note that no one has been apprehended and or prosecuted out of all these nefarious criminal activities. I urge all Nigerians to unite and cooperate with the security agencies to fish out the bad eggs bent on drawing us against our resolute as a Nation to have an healthy living and clean environment.  As law abiding citizens, we must report any suspicious movements and activities within our community to assist the security agencies in combating this menace threatening our Nation.

Also, security agencies must immediately put together a special security team to provide adequate security for all medical practitioners especially the foreign NGOs health workers so such barbaric occurrences doesn't repeat itself.

My heart and prayers are with the entire family(s) of the deceased as we join you in this moment of shock and grief. I pray that Allah comforts the families left behind and grant them the fortitude to bear this irreplaceable loss.

Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki represents Kwara State in the Nigerian Senate.

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