From Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
The people of Umuikwu Anam, one of the communities in Anambra West Local Government Area of Anambra State heaved a sigh of relief recently, when a humanitarian group, Global Evangelical Outreach, brought free medicals and gospel to their place.
The community, rich in crude oil and natural gas, is rated to have the highest oil reserves in Nigeria with large amounts of untapped natural gas and oil at Mmiata Anam, Umuikwu, Umudora and Igbedor. But ironically, poverty and underdevelopment have remained the lot of the people.
The communities seem to be cut off from the rest of the state in terms of infrastructural development as they have no road, hospital, electricity or pipe borne water. Infant and maternal mortality rates are very high in the area owing to the fact that access to hospitals in the neighbouring state of Delta or coming to Onitsha is very tasking.
It was based on a report by Daily Sun in 2015 that one of the organisers in the outreach, Dr. Uzoma Igwe, saw the pitiable condition of the people of the area. He was moved to reach out to the Anglican Bishop of Mbamili, Rt. Rev. Henry Okeke, for them to lend a helping hand.
After sending a delegation for area mapping, the group went back to strategise and get prepared for the arduous and tortuous journey to Umuikwu Anam. And for four days when they finally embarked on the journey, the people witnessed a physical and spiritual revival, yearning that it would not come to an end.
While the medical needs of the people were taken care of in the daytime, praises, worships, prayers, counseling and evangelism took over in the evening hours.
At the Cathedral premises of the Mbamili Diocese, thousands of the villagers were seen being attended to by the team of doctors, nurses, laboratory scientists and para-medicals. At the Umuikwu Anam Health Centre, four men were in the theatre being operated upon for hernia while others wait for their turn.
Dr. Chukwu Michael Onu said the Global Evangelical Outreach started in 2010 while they were in the service of preaching the gospel alongside free medical services. He disclosed that the group composed of lawyers, doctors, artisans, businessmen and farmers, made up of old and young people and prayer team of widows.
While thanking The Sun for highlighting the plight of the people of the area, he said they were alarmed to discover from the newspaper report that such a community doesn’t have a single hospital but managed with only health centres.
He said they contacted the bishop and informed him that they would be visiting the community purely on humanitarian grounds and the bishop was so excited. Onu said they pooled their resources together to embark on such missionary work at an interval of every two months:
“We do free surgeries, counseling section, pharmacy, consulting, laboratory etc; while we buy the drugs with our money. We also go to secondary schools to teach them in what we called Youth Empowerment Summit (YES). We multiply in the work by our actions and people ask questions about us and join as volunteers without any coercion. We are from different church denominations that have been united with the zeal of making a difference in the lives of the commoners.”
Asked about the treatment so far, he said that as a riverine area, many of the patients presented signs of malaria attack, eye problems, lots of hernia and arthritis because of their farming nature.
He regretted that many of the residents have lived with many years of hernia pain because of the inconveniences of going to hospitals in Onitsha or Asaba with high cost of treatment in the midst of biting poverty.
Rev. Okeke after assisting in administering some prescribed drugs to the beneficiaries said: “Anambra West is one of the local governments in this country that has gone through thorns and thistles in terms of wanting to make life what it ought to be.
“Since 2008 when we came into this community, it has been rough and it’s not as if the people don’t have men in government, but this community has continued to suffer in terms of roads, health facilities and other infrastructure.
“This was actually why we are excited to have this outreach group in our midst. We don’t have hospitals or doctors here while the women deliver in their homes as the health centres run skeletal services while the people continue to suffer.
“We need hospitals, you can see the roads people go through. Between the months of June and November, this road becomes impassable and we have to park our vehicles and revert to trekking or canoe.
“We were rejoicing when the Federal Government began the construction of Otuocha-Ibaji road in 2010, but the road was abandoned in 2012 and since then, nothing is going on. This is an agrarian community that produces enormous food for the nation, but they don’t have access roads.
“They get through the water, sometimes they drown, sometimes their goods perish and that’s why we call upon the government, both at the federal and state levels, to show commitment in changing our story here.
“These people should be made to feel that they are part of Anambra State and Nigeria because their suffering is too much. It is unimaginable what people go through here. We thank this team for this great assistance and this is awesome.”
The wife of the bishop, Julie, shared her thoughts thus: “It is actually heartbreaking seeing what the women in the community go through particularly those of childbearing age. Because of lack of social amenities, the people here live like the stone-age era.
“They don’t know what it means to visit the doctor for antenatal care. After teaching them all that and they realizing what it will take them to go to Onitsha or Asaba to see the doctor, they would rather prefer to stay at home instead of passing through such stress.
“They deliver in their bathroom made of raffia palms and when complication sets in, it is only God that can see them through. We do hope that this condition will change in no distant time.”
Two of the beneficiaries, Esther Moya and Ikem Augustine, expressed gratitude to the group for giving them a new lease of life while re-echoeing the appeal for the government to take up their developmental challenges seriously.
They said their expectations when Governor Willie Obiano who incidentally is from the Anambra North took over the reins of government are gradually fading away because they have not felt the difference in their condition in the last three years.