Health is wealth. However in Nigeria, wealth, or the lack thereof, has kept a lot of people from having a healthy life.
The major causes of death in Nigeria are usually the common, curable illnesses like Malaria, Respiratory Tract Infection, Tetanus, Measles…, in the case of children. Among women, most deaths are as a result of childbirth complications, due to lack of proper care during pregnancy. This is according to Doctor Olusegun Bankole, a medical practitioner with the Alimosho General Hospital.
“When a woman is not properly taken care of before, during and after birth, complications easily arise and these usually lead to death of the woman and in some cases her child. There is also a high rate of mortality among children aged five and below, due to very common illnesses that can be easily cured, yet these are the same ones that cause the most deaths. One would expect that HIV and Cancer will be the major causes of death but on the contrary, it isn’t.”
He stated that Ignorance and poverty are the reasons why illnesses considered minor are the deadliest. A great number of Nigerians cannot afford to spend money in the hospital when they haven’t had enough to meet their basic needs, hence resort to spiritual and traditional help when sick, such that by the time these seemingly minor cases are brought to the hospitals it is usually too late.
“There is a preponderance of poverty among a large part of our population. We are still a developing country and if you look at the population pyramid, the largest numbers of people fall into the poorest category who cannot afford adequate healthcare. Some of them cannot even afford the basic healthcare, so that is why you have these seemingly simple diseases killing the largest number of people.”
He stated the reason why women and children are the demographics with the highest death rate is because they are the more vulnerable in society.
“The highest deaths are found among women and children. That’s why the World Health Organization focuses a lot on Infant and maternal mortality. It is not that men do not fall ill or die, but Infants and maternal health are a major measure of the health status or index of any society. You have to look at the most vulnerable part of the society and try to rate how that nation takes care of the most vulnerable among them.” Dr Bankole explained.
He further emphasized the need for the government to make accessible basic healthcare to all members of society, especially to the poorest, otherwise there will continue to be unnecessary loss of lives.
“In healthcare we talk about social justice. There is no society that develops if the government in that society does not consciously take care of the health of the people. It has to be a conscious effort. The people will take care of themselves – yes – but the government has to make primary health care a priority. Primary healthcare is the most basic form of healthcare that the population can afford and it has to be the priority of the government in that area. Part of primary healthcare includes educating the people about their hygiene, about getting immunized… Primary healthcare should be close to the people. Within a few streets there should be a health centre that is fully functional.”
He also warned against displaying the kind of ignorance that causes people to spend huge sums throwing parties, yet refuse to take care of themselves when ill and instead opt to self-medication. He encouraged people to pay more attention to their health irrespective of their financial status and advised that rather than resort to herbalists or religious leaders for help when ill, people should visit health centres, which are affordable, if they cannot afford private hospitals.