From April 5th to 10, 2019, the Dagomo Foundation a Not-for-Profit Organisations partnered with the Association of Nigerian Physicians in America (ANPA) to carry out free medical mission in parts of Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. At the end of the six-day exercise which included free surgical operations, various types of tests and diagnosis, dispensary, training of health officers from across the country and public health enlightenment, more than 3500 patients benefited directly. Kelechi Okoronkwo writes.
Programmes Officer, Dagomo Foundation and former Executive Chairman, FIRS, Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui-Okaru (L) speaking to a volunteer from ANPA on the last day of free medical outreach in Jiwa, Abuja while other volunteers attend to beneficiaries.
Each time we have the reason to visit the hospital or get involved in a medical outreach like the Dagomo Foundation and the Association of Nigerian Physicians in America (ANPA) did a little over a week ago, we would always come to the realisation that Nigeria and Nigerians should do more in the health sector. There are many sick people. And it is unfortunate that most of these people are not getting appropriate medical interventions.
People have lost their lives for the lack of medical attention that could as little as a thousand naira (N1000) or mere health advisory. The realisation of this imbalance should be a matter of concern to both Nigeria and Nigerians.
It is against this background that the Dagomo Foundation has had up to seven free medical interventions in parts of Nigeria. The Association of Nigerian Physicians in America (ANPA)— an association of American physicians of Nigerian origin has also been doing annual medical missions in Nigeria to help save lives.
A pregnant woman goes into labour at the venue of Jiwa free medical outreach. She is being led into a waiting car to take her to Kubwa General Hospital for proper attention by Dagomo and ANPA team
In their 2019 medical missions and the Dagomo Foundation and ANPA partnered with other individuals and organisations to take free medical services to less privileged people in some rural areas in Abuja. Their target was to reach at most 1, 800 patients within a space of 6 days (from April 5th to April 10th, 2019) but at the end of the programme, more than 3, 500 patients benefited directly from the exercise.
The exercise took place Jiwa and Tudun Gwaso communities in the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC). Surgical cases were referred to Kubwa General Hospital in Bwari Area Council where the Gagomo and ANPA medical teams were also stationed.
There was a train-the-trainer programme on how to Help Babies Breath (HBB) at the National Hospital in Abuja and also a health enlightenment campaign at the Barcelona Hotel in Wuse 2 Abuja.
About 100 medical personnel drawn from states across the country received practical training on HBB. It is expected that the master trainees will go back to their locations and help train others to curb the high rate of infant mortality arising from difficulty in breathing at the Golden Minute of birth. Health practitioners at the training agreed that infant mortality due to difficulty in breathing at the Golden Minute of birth is high in Nigeria and expressed hope that the training would help tackle the situation.
Coordinator of the HBB section, Dr. Chinyere Anyaogu of ANPA said that Dagomo Foundation, ANPA and the Business and Professional Women in Nigeria believed that training health officers on HBB provides an invaluable opportunity to curb infant and maternal mortality in Nigeria.
“It is important to let the health officers know that when a baby comes out and it is not breathing that it is within their powers, with the knowledge in their hands with very few equipment, to help the baby to breath and to be able to survive possibly.
“We have registered about a 100 health officers (for the training). But those who did not complete the two-day programme will be trained as providers only. You can only be the trainer if you complete the two-day programme and you underwent the skills-check.
“ANPA has up to 4000 American physicians, all of Nigerian origin. We come to Nigeria every year on medical mission. For this year’s mission, we are focusing on infants and maternal healthcare. The partners we have which are the Business and Professional Women in Nigeria and the Dagomo Foundation and other individuals all helped to put the word out there”, Anyaogu said.
One of the trainers, a professor of Paediatrics in Michigan, United States of America, Ajovi Scott-Emuakpor said about 80 to 90 percent of births in Nigeria could be at a high risk setting and 25 to 50 percent of them could need various forms of assistance including HBB at the Golden Minute.
One of the volunteers from ANPA and Professor of Paediatrics in Michigan, United States of America, Ajovi Scott-Emuakpor, gives practical lessons to health officers on how to help babies breath at the golden minute.
“It is difficult to give you the accurate figure of infant mortality from difficulty to breath at the Golden Minute in Nigeria. But let me give you a scenario. All over the world, there are about 130 million births a year. Out of that 130 million births a year, at least 10 percent of them will need some form of assistance to breath, this is world-wide. In Nigeria, I don’t know if we have accurate statistics of the number of children that are born every year. But it could be anything between half-a million to 800, 000. Now, almost 80 to 90 percent of the babies are born in circumstances we regard as high risk. Meaning that they are not born in maternity ward in the hospital, they are born in private settings which are high risk settings. So, you can imagine how many of those children actually need help to breath. Maybe we are talking about 25 percent or 50 percent.
“We don’t know that information because the information is not there. This training really is to train all of these individuals and they will be the ambassadors of this movement. We expect that they will be certified to train others. It is a very simple steps, keep the baby warm, make sure you stimulate the baby, do some necessary procedures, there is a bag if the baby is not breathing, know how to use the bag , know how to use the mask to suction mucus”, Prof. Scott-Emuakpor said.
For Ifueko Omoigui Okauru, the Chief Programme Officer of Dagomo Foundation and former Executive Chairman of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), the last medical intervention in Abuja is a dream come true. At the closing ceremony of the exercise at Jiwa Government Secondary School, Omoigui Okauru, who beamed with excitement said the whole exercise was fulfilling and that she was happy to be a part of the process that has put smile in the faces of so many people.
“I am extremely excited. I don’t think that there is a rating I can put to it. But it has been extremely fulfilling. All the hard work, all the dedicating all the pre-planning turned out excellently well. I am very proud to be part of several teams that have come together to make this a very successful outing. I am also particularly pleased with the emirs. From the beginning to the end, there is nothing like the community showing appreciation for what have been done.
For me, that is the payment really. And not just the community in the name of the emirs but also the individuals who have been impacted one way or the other. And we thank God for this opportunity. We thank God for giving us the grace, the wisdom and the energy to just do more and do more. We thank God for our partners who are not even named here, who have in one way or the other contributed to making this happen. We thank everyone for this”, she said.
The former FIRS Executive Chairman, a humanist and technocrat who left indelible marks on the history of taxation in Nigeria explained why she finds fulfilment in free medical missions to the less privileged.
“Yes, I am an accountant. I am a tax practitioner. I am a Management Consultant. But there is quest to build yourself, to develop yourself to build your wealth so to speak. But your wealth is not your wealth if there is no health. For me, health has been a major part of everything I have found important. I also believe, when we set up, as my siblings did, the Dagomo Foundation in honour of my parents when they were both alive, it was again to give back to the community. And I remember then it was launched when I was still in the Service. Since then, it has continued to grow from strength to strength. But then, heath has taken added significance.
“First of all, it has always been there. We have been doing medical missions, this is our seventh medical mission, this time in partnership with the Association of Nigerian Physicians in Americas (ANPA). It took added significance when my mother died. Before then, I spent three weeks in the hospital. Every single day, I was living in the hospital. I could relate to the frustrations the Doctors and Nurses face. I could relate to the frustrations patients face, I could relate to that there is a systemic breakdown in the healthcare system. And for me, when my mother died, the commitment I made to her, to myself and my family was that health was going to be a priority for what I do for others, that my mother’s death would not be in vain. It is important that from her death, a lot of people will live. And that is why it is taking quite a lot of my time. And I am so happy to be here today and to be given the opportunity to partner with so many fantastic partners to impact peoples lives. And the more lives we impact, the more awareness we create for not just curative but preventive, the more fulfilled I would become”, she said.
The Emir of Jiwa, Alhaji Idris Musa was particularly excited to have received such medical intervention in his chiefdom. In appreciation, he conferred chieftaincy titles on three of the ANPA members and encouraged them to more for humanity.
“We are happy for the good work you have done in our community. We are grateful. God will bless you the more and give you the wisdom to do more for humanity”, the emir said.
The emir said he was devoted to the programme and that was the reason he was at the venue of the medical mission.
“Look at me, I am here. I do not go out (of the palace) unless for important things like this. I am here because my people are here and I will remain here until the programme is over”, Emir, Musa added.
To show his appreciation, the Emir decorated three of the ANPA volunteers with Jiwa Chieftaincy titles.
Emir of Jiwa, Alhaji Idris Musa (Centre), Programmes Officer, Dagomo Foundation and former Executive Chairman, FIRS, Mrs. Ifueko Omoigui-Okaru (First from Left) with Volunteers from ANPA who were decorated by Jiwa emirate with chieftaincy titles for their selfless service to Jiwa people.
At the time the Dagomo Foundation and ANPA were drawing the curtain on the 2019 free medical mission in Abuja, a huge number of people, 3,500 of them, have directly received one form of medical assistance or the other, ranging from surgical cases to body examinations.
But the medical teams could not attend to all sick people who gathered at the mission ground in Jiwa. A number of patients outside needed some forms of intervention. But the Dagomo Foundation and ANPA in collaboration with other good spirited individuals and organisations have done their part for the year, believing that other Non-Governmental Organisations, agencies of government and good spirited individuals could elect to contribute their part to alleviate the suffering of the less privileged sick people.