The monkey on Nigeria’s back

Kenechukwu Obiezu

Kenechukwu Obiezu

When it rains in Nigeria, it definitely pours. The strength of a country`s health care is often directly related to how healthy and happy its people are. In Nigeria, with the health infastructure crumbling in the places where they are at all, the country has all but got used to raking in many avoidable deaths over the years.

It is not just the figures telling about infant and maternal mortality that are   damning, that every year, many children, especially in the rural areas die of treatable diseases continues to indict Nigeria`s commitment to the health of its people.

Health is wealth as the saying goes, however, the experience in Nigeria has been of a country that puts other things before health and consequently remains impoverished as a result.

Every other year, while Nigeria spends about 500 billion naira on medical tourism, health personnel and practitioners redefine and refine desperation in their haste to leave the country for greener pastures. Amidst its grapples with COVID-19, the Nigeria Center for   Disease Control (NCDC) recently confirmed the outbreak of monkeypox in the country with 558 cases and eight deaths so far in 32 states of the federation.

Monkeypox is a rare viral infection, which kills one in every ten patients but does not spread swiftly. An epidemiological summary recently published on the ailment by the NCDC pointed out that since 2017 Nigeria has continued to report sporadic cases of the disease with the National Technical Working Group (TWG) monitoring infection and strengthening capacity.

The NCDC said that between January I 2022 and April 30 2022 46 suspected infections were reported in addition to 15 confirmed cases from seven states – Adamawa (three), Lagos (three), Cross River(two), Abuja(two),Kano(two),Delta(two) and  Imo(one) – but no death had been recorded.

The NCDC also said that 10 new suspected cases in April were reported from seven states – Bayelsa(three), Lagos(two), Kano(one) FCT (one), Delta(one), Edo(one) and Ogun(one).

The five new positive cases in the month were confirmed from four states – Lagos(two), FCT (one), Kano(one) and Delta(one). The NCDC noted that from September 2017 to April 30,2022, a total of 558 suspected cases were reported from 32 states.

Monkeypox is usually a mild self-limiting illness and most people recover within a few weeks, but severe illness could occur in some individuals. When in 2020, the novel corona virus swept through Nigeria, the country was obviously caught flatfooted by the virus as was much of the rest of the world. Amidst the gloomy predictions of scientists and experts about the number of infections and mortalities that would result in Africa as a whole, including Nigeria, the question on many lips bordered on how Nigeria was going to cope.

If countries with far more robust health infrastructure were wilting under the force of the virus, what hope could Nigeria, a country where children die from the most treatable of illnesses hold out with its creaking health. Somehow fortuitously, the   virus did not take as many lives as it took in some European and South American countries, or even closer home in South Africa.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic served as a jarring reminder to many African countries including Nigeria that it was time to fix healthcare, make it more inclusive and be ready for the outbreak of similar diseases even as the battle against less infectious diseases were also being waged.

It remains to be seen whether enough lessons were learnt. It also remains to be seen whether the government can summon the necessary willpower to put in place structures that will check these killer viral diseases before they arise or contain them when they arise. Until this is done, children and their families will remain in danger from totally avoidable killer diseases.

Kene Obiezu,

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