Nigeria: Abandoned Abuja Community to Finally Get Health Centre

Frina Joe, like many other women of reproductive age around her, has suffered from the absence of healthcare facilities and potable water supply in Kpaduma, a rural community in Asokoro district of Abuja.

"After two children, my husband and I decided to stop childbearing because of the stress of accessing healthcare," she said. "Many women in this community have died due to pregnancy-related complications of which they would have survived if we have a health facility."

Kpaduma chiefdom, which comprises seven communities and has over 5,000 residents, has been abandoned by the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Administration, the residents complained.

The chief of the community recently passed on and some residents said he might have survived his ailment if he had received timely medical care.

The number of deaths in the community was said to have increased during the recent lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than half a million people globally.

Access

According to Mrs Joe, most pregnant women in Kpaduma do not register for antenatal care at the Asokoro General Hospital, due to the distance of the facility - even though it is the closest - and their limited resources.

Unfortunately, when such women develop complications, getting care becomes difficult, sometimes leading to preventable deaths.

"Sometimes before we get to Asokoro, either the child, the mother or both may have died. Also, a lot of women are rejected at Asokoro because they didn't register for antenatal with the hospital.

"Majority of the women do not have money for transport so they carry on at the chemists we have around," she said.

Although it will cost N200 to access the Asokoro or Karu General hospital on a motorcycle taxi, it costs as high as N2,000 to convey emergency cases to the same hospitals in a vehicle.

Primary healthcare

The World Health Organisation (WHO) considers the primary healthcare system the first line of defence during pandemic outbreaks.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how pregnant women in Nigeria suffer as the world battles to contain the COVID-19 pandemic.

PACaH@Scale, a leading health advocacy group, believes primary health systems have an important role to play in the fight against the pandemic.

"While infectious disease control requires highly specialised interventions with facilities removed from communities, there is still an important role for PHCs in infectious disease prevention," the group said.

The group lamented the multiple challenges with Nigeria's PHC system.

"Primary Health Care centres in Nigeria, even if equipped poorly, are the hub for healthcare in the community and well-positioned as the primary point of care under the Primary Health Care Under One Roof (PHCUOR) National Policy.

"The fight against COVID-19 should not be one which trades off PHCs against a specialised and central command system of service delivery," the group said in a statement.

Hope for Kpaduma

Fortunately, the narrative is about to change in Kpaduma as Rotary Club of Abuja, District 9125, recently commenced the construction of a primary healthcare centre, strategically located at Kpaduma 3 for easy access by the seven communities in the chiefdom.

Rotary is one of Nigeria's development partners in the health sector.

The Rotary District Governor, Jumoke Bamigboye, describes this development as a life-changing project.

She noted that the intervention falls within Rotary's area of focus on disease treatment and prevention.

According to Mrs Bamigboye, the PHC would bring succour, better health and employment opportunities to the community whose cries have gone unheard for decades.

"They don't have any medical facility and need to travel. I'm also worried about women who have to travel that far to Asokoro to deliver. We are seeing how we can give them water to go along with this.

"This health facility we are bringing to them will reduce high cases of maternal and child mortality here and also impact meaningfully on the community by way of employment; we will engage the people around here for the nonprofessional jobs," she said.

Mrs Bamigboye said an MoU has been signed to ensure smooth running of the project after its completion.

"When a community accepts ownership of a project, it is easy to sustain. We won't have to look for external people to maintain the place. When we are done, we will hand over the project to them and they are willing to take it as their own."

Women in the community could not hide their excitement as they count the number of days when they can begin to enjoy access to quality health care services.

But they may have to wait a little longer, as the President, Rotary Club of Abuja Federal, Patrick Ezie, said the project would take at least a year to be completed.

He said providing care to about 10,000 persons is a great choice as it means a lot to Rotary whose focus on humanity.

"Each community in Abuja has its peculiar issues. However, during the pandemic lockdown, we reached out to all communities under our jurisdiction.

"Kpaduma has a population of over 5,000. However, during the lockdown they couldn't access any health care facility and so, there were lots of maternal mortality and other deaths within that period.

"Also, the women and community members were complaining, we were seeing a lot of children without access to immunisation vaccines because there was no PHC to store the vaccines. Due to all of these, the club decided to put a PHC at the minimum to provide some form of health care.

"People here need help, they are the most abandoned in society. Its a one year project, we will ensure people in this community get the care that they need," he said.

More efforts

Although one of the many prayers of Kpaduma may be answered through Rotary Club, the government still has a huge role to play by making necessary consumables especially vaccinations available for children.

Following the completion of documentation for the free status, Nigeria is already close to being declared free of wild polio.

Mrs Bamigboye warned against reduced focus on routine immunisation, to avoid a possible reemergence of polio in Nigeria.

"Its not over yet, for as long as any part of this world is polio-endemic, it is a risk. What we need to do is to consciously monitor to ensure immunisation programmes are being followed and every child is vaccinated

"As long as we are going to be having children, we must make sure they receive vaccinations; that is the only way to maintain this status. But if we go to sleep or become complacent because we have been certified polio-free, it will hit us when we least expect."

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