The recent epidemic which claimed scores of lives in Kwara and Kogi states paints a very bad picture of our overall healthcare delivery system. The loss of so many people to what is suspected to be gastro-enteritis suggests that we are not doing enough on healthcare for the citizenry. This gloomy scenario is more noticeable at the primary care level which, medical experts say, carries 70 percent of the nation’s disease burden.
vice to the nation.
Unofficial sources have put the number of those killed by the epidemic at over 70 in Kwara, and 63 in Kogi, but the government denied the high fatality figures. Eyewitnesses say that the victims of the disease initially vomited blood and some black substances. The disease broke out on July 23, 2017 in Oro-Ago community in Ifelodun Local Government Area of Kwara State and later spread to neigbouring Okunran, Okoloke and Isanlu-Esa communities in Yagba West Local Government Area in Kogi State.
Health experts say other symptoms of the ailment include intermittent headaches and serious stomach pain. The Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is assisting the two states to control the epidemic and stop it from spreading to other states. Although the ailment was later identified as gastroenteritis and malaria, the NCDC says that tests are still ongoing in its collaborating laboratories to ascertain the actual disease.
We decry the loss of so many lives to this epidemic, even though officials of the states’ ministries of health have dismissed the unofficial figures reported in the media. The government’s belated response to the ailment is regrettable. We task the NCDC and the health authorities in both affected states to unravel the actual cause of the epidemic so that it can be prevented in future.
The NCDC and the health authorities in Kwara and Kogi states must work in concert to contain the epidemic. It is sad that so many people lost their lives to it. The outbreak of the epidemic and the initial poor response to it reflects our unpreparedness for health challenges of this nature.
We urge the Federal Government, through the NCDC, to examine the source of drinking water in the stricken areas. The agency and the health officials of the affected states must work together to determine the source of the epidemic and advise the people accordingly. The agency should have presence in all states and work closely with health authorities in all local governments to ensure prompt reporting and monitoring of disease outbreaks. That is, perhaps, the only way they can be effective in their operations. States should be fast in reporting epidemics to the NCDC so that it can swing into action and contact collaborating global agencies where their services are needed.
It is important that government pays more attention to the primary healthcare level of our health system. Taking adequate care of this level of healthcare could go a long way in addressing our general healthcare problems. At the same time, the secondary and tertiary care levels should be accorded their due attention. The government at all levels should stop paying lip service to healthcare.
They should prioritise health issues and ensure that public hygiene is given adequate attention. State governments should engage the services of sanitary inspectors to ensure that the environment is clean and conducive to healthy living. Let all tiers of government work in unison to revitalise our healthcare delivery system so that it can function optimally.