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Our children wouldn’t have died if they got medical attention- parents of Otodo-Gbame community share experience

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Kemi Busari

Last week, 25 children died of yet to be confirmed disease in Otodo-Gbame community of Lekki, Lagos state. Grievious though it is, the parents of the children believe that the deaths could have been averted had their children got medical attention. Kemi Busari who visited the community writes.

As the community dwellers explore the evening breeze after the day’s work, the families of Kpose, Paul and Peter were confined to the shells of their shelter in grief of their losses. The families had lost their wards to a disease they believe to be measles.

They would probably never set eyes on their children again but they got more irked by the fact that they were left without medical attention in the fight against the disease.

The children of the community according to investigations by CSBS News have not been immunized for a very long time due to the non-existence of medical centre in their economic situation which renders them unable to pay in the private hospitals.

Immunization in private hospital in the community comes up every Friday but the exercise is always greeted by low turnout. The hospital charges N250 for each child which most of the families couldn’t afford.

The first stop of CSBS News is the French family of Kpose where 3 children were lost to ‘measles’ in the space of a week. The family trades and survive on the fish business. Peter Kpose, the head of the family hunts the fish while his wife processes and sells. This routine source of livelihood has sustained the family of five children until the cold hands of death took three away.

Peter recounts his experience; “I have five children and three of them died in the space of a week due to the measles that attacked our area. Two of them are twins, 5 years old and the youngest of them is a female.

“When the children started to develop high temperature, we gave them herbal medicine. There was no close hospital so we treated them at home. At first it worked but later the situation continued to worsen. The twins died the same day and their sister died two days after.”

Kpose noted that he would have taken the children to hospital if there was one in the area though he doesn’t ‘totally believe’ in the efficacy of modern medicine.

“I don’t trust the modern medication, I prefer our local herbs. Even if we want to go there, there is none around us here; we don’t have enough money to patronize the private hospitals.” He lamented.

Michael, Deborah and Emmanuel are siblings who explore together the innocence of childhood and the natural environment of the community. The one room plank-built apartment which houses the family of five is situated near the shore of the sea.

The family who also thrives on the business of fishing lost Emmanuel after several attempts of reviving him through herbal medicine.

Recounting her horrific experience, Stella Paul, 24, the mother of the children said that there was no way they could contain the disease because there was no help from anywhere.

“My son started developing rashes and before three days it has developed to boils. We had the same case in the compound next to us so we didn’t take it too serious. We used many herbal medicines just like we do of other ailments.

“We have people selling them here, so I bought and use it for him but it didn’t work, he died five days after developing the symptoms.”

Asked why she did not take him to hospital, a pregnant Stella said that the family could not afford it. She wants the government to build medical centre in the area.

Pregnant Stella with her children Michael and  Deborah
Pregnant Stella with her children Michael and Deborah

“We don’t want our children to die again. The measles will have been curtailed if we have drugs and doctors around. The government should build hospital for us especially because of our children.” She pleaded.

Mrs Ige Peter is the grandmother of the Peter family who lost one of their twins to the disease. She said that even though they took the children outside the community for treatment, none of the drugs given to them worked.

“This is the third week that I lost my Taiwo. There are three children in the family; a male which is the first child and the twins who are barely two years old.

“He started with temperature and after three days, he developed a swollen mouth and refused to eat, by this time, Kehinde the twin had started his own too. We took them to the hospital but unfortunately none of the drugs they gave us worked. We keep feeding them drugs with no improvement. I still have many of the  drugs here which I can show you.

“When we realized this, we stopped going to the hospital and treated them at home. The treatment worked for Kehinde but Taiwo didn’t live up to a week.”

Mrs Ige in tears said that the death of Taiwo has affected the twin brother who neither plays nor eat like before.

“The twins are always together but he has refused to play like before since the brother died. He also developed the symptoms but God saved him.”

Grandmother Ige with surviving Kehinde
Grandmother Ige with surviving Kehinde

The Head of the community, Chief Dansu Hunpe, Baale Otodo of Otodo Gbame had earlier stated in an interview that the community needed a health centre to cater for the over 10,000 population of Otodo Gbame.

“Measles is not peculiar to our community but we have the severe case due to the harsh dry season and the non-availability of vaccination for our children.

“The nearest hospital to get our children vaccinated is at Ikate but we can’t go there. The hostility between our community and theirs has made it difficult for us to go there so we don’t have anywhere else to vaccinate our children.

“The only option left to us is to seek medication at the the few private hospitals around but most of us can’t afford the bill. We are fishermen, we hunt the fishes and our wives sell them. That’s how we eke out a living.

In corroboration, the residents who spoke with CSBS News called on the Lagos State Government to come to their aid.

One of them who identified himself as Jonathan pleaded with the governor Akinwumi Ambode-led government to provide the community with the basic amenities of life.

“We are really suffering in this community. We don’t have a government hospital, no school, no electricity, no water supply and other amenities. We want the government to visit and help us.”

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