Despite Katsina State government’s spirited effort, a lot more still needs to be done to scale back the state’s huge health problems, writes AUGUSTINE OKEZIE
The picture is grim. Katsina State has a high illiterate population, and is classified among the rural states in the country. Given this scenario, surmounting the state’s health care challenges requires political will and communal support.
The state has peculiar challenges. It has a large rural setting, but its health facilities are mostly in the cities such as Katsina, Danmusa, Daura, Mani, Musawa, Malumfashi, Baure, Babbar Ruga, Rimi, Jibia, Kurfi, and Ingawa, among others.
Given its importance, whatever fund deployed for health cannot be said to be a waste, especially for a government that has in the last three years prioritised that sector.
A cursory look at the dominant health challenges in the state, especially in 2018, reveals that meningitis, cholera, malnutrition, malaria scourge, whooping cough and other endemic diseases abound in the state.
Deaths from meningitis outbreak have remained a recurring decimal. No month passes without a reported case occurring in one locality or the other. Some of the deaths occurred at Ganga and Jaje villages, in Jibia Local Council Area of the state, coming on the heels of the deaths of seven students of the Federal University, Dutsinma due to overcrowded hostels.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Dr. Kabir Mustapha, who confirmed the outbreak of the disease in Jibia, said the state government had mobilised resources and personnel to the affected communities, adding that the government swung into action immediately.
Some people have blamed the Jibia deaths on extreme change of weather across the state. Already the state government said it has acquired N35m worth of vaccines to tackle the scourge.
More than 100 cases of whooping cough were reported in three villages including Dambawa, Anguwan Kuka and Kashemu.
Investigation byThe Nationrevealed that many people, mostly children between the ages of four and 12, have died as a result of outbreak of suspected cholera in Dan Iyau, Karaje, Dutsinma villages in the state. About 10 people also died in Dan Iyau village, eight in Karaje village, both of Batarawa local government area, and seven in Dutsinma College of Education.
Most of the deceased had complained of severe fever, headache and vomiting before their deaths.
A parent, Aminu Suleiman who lost his 12-year-old daughter, Hasiya, said she had returned from a trip and came down with a severe leg pain, fever and stomach ache before she died.
He said, “We lost close to eight children in this town. My neighbour also lost a child just as another friend of mine in downtown lost a boy.”
The village head of Dan Iyau, Suleiman Abdullahi, confirmed that 10 people had so far died within a week in his domain.
Also in the education sector: Isa Kaita College of Education, Dutsinma, was shut after the death of seven students. The decision to close down the school for two weeks was reached after an emergency meeting of the school’s academic board, a source confided to the paper.
The spokesman of the college, Malam Muntari Bala, admitted that four of the students had died within a month but that the causes were different. “One died from accident, one fell sick and went home and died and two died within the school,” he said, adding, “We used to have all those rumours that over 20 students of the college have died. This is not so.”
It could be recalled that eight students of Science Secondary School Kurfi died from related causes. Also, eight deaths were recorded at Jaja village of Ganagarawa ward in Jibia Local Government Area.
About 5 local government areas in Katsina state, namely Sandamu, Daura, Dankama, Mashi, Mani and Charanci are presently ravaged by sporadic cases of Mal-Nutrition, which the Community Health Officer for Sandamu Health Center, Nafiu Bala admitted is caused by acute poverty and cerebral malaria
Confirming the outbreak during a chat with The Nation, the state Director of Public Health, Dr. Sani Suleiman, said the situation is best described as ’’endemic’’ since, according to him, it has not reached epidemic level as there are no relevant statistics to draw comparisons.
Dr. Suleiman further listed measures taken by government to address the situation to include partnership with local and international health agencies such as NFP, UNICEF, NGOs like Save the Children Initiative, Primary health care development agencies, establishment of rehabilitation centers at strategic locations in the state and so on
He further assured that the state government has embarked on several policy measures that could boost food security through increased food production and reduce poverty index, empowering the women and sensitizing the rural population through health education and other awareness programs.
The Health officer also called on the citizens of the state to join hands with the government to address the current health challenges by embracing key household health practices like eating balance diets and avoiding starvation as well as adhering to medical instructions and counseling.
Further investigations revealed that about 800 patients with malnutrition cases, drawn from the five local government areas were gathered at Sandamu Community Health Rehabilitation center and attended to by a team of Doctors from Greece under an NGO called Heart of Doctors of Greece, who were on a 5-day medical outreach in the state.
The deaf and hearing impaired patients
In Danmusa Local Government Area 350 deaf and hearing impaired patients were given free medical treatments
The Flagging off of the free medical services which was privately sponsored by the Secretary to the state Government, Mustapha Muhammad Inuwa at the General Hospital Danmusa, was chaired by the District Head of Danmusa, Alhaji Darda’u Muazu Abubakar.
Addressing the patients before the flag-off, the SGS who was represented by the Director Press SGS office, Abdullahi Aliyu Yar’adua said the exercise was aimed at assisting people with hearing problems especially the less privileged in the rural areas
Alhaji Inuwa further disclosed that ENT specialists were engaged to attend to people with different hearing ailments across the LGA. He added that all patients under the programme irrespective of party affiliation would be treated free of charge and therefore charged them to cooperate with the medical team and coordinators of the programme.
The SGS seized the opportunity to caution people to avoid sleeping in unventilated rooms during the current hot climatic condition in the area.
Flagging off the exercise, the District Head of Danmusa, Alhaji Darda’u Muazu Abubakar thanked Mustapha Muhammad Inuwa for the gesture. He recalled that similar exercise to eye patients was also sponsored by the SGS as a result of which, many patients regained their sight.
Alhaji Aminu explained that the patients who were coming from all the 11 wards of the LGA were grouped into three and each would see the doctors on a separate date already set aside.
In his remarks, the leader of the medical team, Dr Suleiman Abdulmajid said that those patients with minor cases would be treated at once and be given drugs, but there were others who would have to undergo some surgical operations which will take stages, under the Mustapha Muhammad Inuwa Free Medicare programme
In an exclusive chat with The Nation, the state Director for Public Health, Dr. Abubakar Suleiman, argued that the challenges that continued to confront health care delivery in the state is not want of government’s intervention and commitment but the absence of the much needed critical support expected from the populace especially in the area of complementing government’s effort and participating actively in the enabling environment that has been provided
Not a few stakeholders in the health sector agree that what is urgently needed at the moment to compliment state government’s efforts is public enlightenment and awareness campaign to sensitize especially the rural populace and the common man on the streets ,the basic hygiene and sanitary practices needed to improve both personal and community health
Providing health infrastructure and drugs without backing it with and informed population that are willing to support government and imbibing the needed health culture will turn out to no effect.
(Culled from The Nation)