Kaduna — "I lost my wife while trying to cross the river with her when she was in labour," said Malam Shamsudeen Abdulmutallib, a resident of Hayin Kogi-Mishigi village. "My friends helped me carry her in the boat while she was bleeding but she was pronounced dead when we got to the hospital."
Many women in Hayin Kogi-Mishigi, a village in Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State lament that they face hardships while some die while trying to cross the river in canoes to access medical facilities, particularly women in labour.
Our correspondent observed a significant number of widowers who have become 'mothers' to the children left behind by women who died because they couldn't access care and while trying to access it in a canoe.
Most of the villagers, including the women, are farmers, businessmen and fishermen who mostly conduct commercial activities by the river bank.
They said shortage of medical facilities was contributing to the death of women and children in the area, as most of them depend 100 per cent on using canoes as a mean of transportation, including transportation of all farm produce to Kaduna market.
Malam Shamsudeen Abdulmutallib, who lost his wife during labour said, "Many husbands have lost their wives in this village because sometimes, women begin their labour in the middle of the night, and on arrival at the river and at times, the commercial canoe paddlers might have gone home, leaving us with no option than to pray to God for morning to break with our patients still alive."
Shamsudeen added that, "the rainy season is one of the most difficult times for us to move freely due to the nature of the soil here and this is one of the most difficult period for pregnant women and our little children to move from their villages to the town in search of medical facilities."
He said that women living in Kurmin Mishigi, another village in the area, have to trek long distances before entering the boat to cross the river in order to go for their anti-natal and other medical check-up.
"Many women living in the area always suffer whenever it comes to the issue of delivering their babies due to lack of facilities and hence they risk their lives to cross the river in canoes despite the danger," he said.
Another resident in the area, Sani Danauta, who was seen trying to transport his pregnant wife to the hospital in a canoe, said he was doing so because he did not want her to die due to healthcare service.
"As you can see, I am going to hospital with my wife right now and let me tell you, no serious man will allow his wife to die in this abandoned community. I am taking my wife where there are doctors and qualified nurses, where she will be delivered of her child safely," he said.
Danauta added that the community has for long been appealing to the state government to construct a hospital and a bridge for them to reduce the rate of maternal death in the area, but there has been no response by both the state and federal governments.
A woman in the community who gave her name as Laure said, "Since the return of democratic governance in Nigeria, there has not been any progress in the community because the local, state and federal governments, I believe, have forgotten about our existence."
She added, "Our children's primary school is in a bad state, there is no roof, no chairs and tables; there are no health facilities, no social amenities; there is no development because the government has abandoned us. We need help."
When contacted, Commissioner for Health, Kaduna State, Dr Paul Dogo said that his ministry would look into the plight of residents of Hayin Kogi-Mishigi community to bring health services closer to them.
He said the state government was upgrading 255 Primary Health Care (PHC) centers in each ward in the state, adding that three more Primary Health Centres will be built because some wards were very big like Rigasa and will need more than one PHC.
Dr Dogo said the government would provide 255 Health Clinics by 2018 to feed the primary health centres as well as health posts that would feed the health clinics to ensure that every resident access health care.