From Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
The people of Amaigbo Edda in Afikpo South Local Government Area of Ebonyi State, especially the sick among them, got a lifeline recently, when a non-for-profit organization, Healthcare Educational Liaison Project (HELP), based in the United States of America (USA) visited the community to offer them free medical treatment.
The group came with some medical officers who included five medical doctors, two pharmacists and others.
They also came with different types of drugs for common diseases usually suffered by rural dwellers.
Founder of the organization, Dr John Kalu Ijem, a cardiologist and Internal Medicine expert, who is based in the USA told Oriental News that he was moved to embark on the free medical exercise because of his knowledge of the sufferings of his people.
“I hail from this community, but I relocated to the USA in 1980 for medical school. I started this organization in 2007. It is a non-profit organization which I formed through USA internal revenue.
“The reason for this is that when I graduated from medical school I went to Kenya for medical mission and I saw what the people passed through before they could access medical treatment. After my ugly experience, I said there is a need in my own village to provide free medical services to my people. There and then, I decided to form HELP organization. Since I formed the organization I have been offering free medical services to my people.
“From time to time I come back here to my village to offer free medical services to my own people. Because of the hectic logistics that is involved, I tried to see at least 200 patients and once I am done with them as we are doing today, whatever is left I refer them to local clinics to continue and whatever drugs left, I give to them,” he said.
On how he sourced the finance for the free medical outreach, he said: “Primarily, in a year plus, I spend $30,000 to organize this. The drugs are very expensive and all the drugs I give to the patients are from the USA and the cost of transportation is usually high to bring the drugs to Nigeria.
“Mostly elderly, middle aged and infants benefit from this medical service. We don’t do any testing such as drawing blood. What we run is a dry clinic whereby we know the majority of the indigent patients. They mostly complained of arthritis, pains, among others.
“So, we try to give them drugs to relief them from pains. They also complain of malaria and I brought enough malaria drugs for 200 patients and also multivitamins because sometimes malnutrition is a big issue here. So, I also brought multivitamins and other drugs.
“I have individuals who donate $5, $10, but the principal funding comes from my personal donation to the tune of about $20-$25 per year. Since 2007, we have been doing it. We started in this community about five years ago.
“We did it in Abakaliki where we had a pioneer clinic. Because of the logistics in organizing it, we only lasted for one year there. We have some local physicians who help me in these medical services.”
Speaking on behalf of others, one of the beneficiaries, Ms Gloria Onu, from Ndiba Edda community, expressed delight on the free medical treatment they received.
She said that the people of the area often found it very difficult to access medical care given the nature of the remote area they are living.
“I have waist pains always. I later sustained injury on my leg as I stepped on broken bottle. I don’t always sleep as a result of the severe pains from the injury. I also experience eye problems; and as a result I can’t see clearly.
“We are very happy for these treatments offered to us by the doctors through our own son, Dr. Kalu, I am very much glad. Let me go and take the drugs and know if there will be difference in what I am suffering,” she said.