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The True Story of Why 25 Children Died in Otodo Gbame, Lekki, Lagos

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Tragedy struck in the Otodo Gbame community, Lekki of Eti-Osa Local Government last week when 25 children of the community died of a mysterious disease. What kind of disease could claim as much life within the short period of time? Kemi Busari reports…

The epidemic which is suspected to be Febrile Rash Illnesses (FRI) started in January and has since ravaged the community, robbing them of 25 lives of children between the ages of one and three years.

line of wooden shelters at the community
Line of wooden shelters at the community

Confirming the death of the children, Lagos State Commissioner of Health, Mr. Jide Idris said that ‘there were 34 cases of sick children with FRI’ and added that ‘the graves of 20 children have been identified by their parents.’

But what could be the cause of this disease and its epidemic?

The source of the infection is uncertain and still under investigation according to medical experts but the residents of the community believe it is measles which is rampant in the area during the dry season and usually within their control.

Heap of dirt at the shore in the community
Heap of dirt at the shore in the community

Investigations by CSBS News revealed that the community does not have any government health centre and subsequently lack access to immunization vaccine.

The nearest health centre where vaccination could be received is a ‘restricted zone’ for residents of Otodo Gbame due to the long-existing conflict between the community and the Ikate.

The Head of the community, Chief Dansu Hunpe, Baale Otodo of Otodo Gbame shed more light on this.

Fish sellers at the community
Fish sellers at the community

“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. The attitude of the workers of these private hospitals is not even encouraging. On the day the medical personnel came from the state ministry of health, a particular child died in their presence in the private hospital and this was due to their negligence.” He stated bitterly.

Chief Dansu said that the state government has deployed health workers who have been coming to the area to vaccinate children since last week. He called on them to be more active and establish an health centre for the community.

“Before, we use to have health workers come here to vaccinate our children but they don’t go into the community. They will just sit in a place and ask people to bring their children but a few still get the immunization. We were still managing with that until they stopped coming totally.”

Recounting the losses, Celestine Aiyeko, the youth leader of Otodo Gbame community said the epidemic has been contained while calling on residents to seek help when needed.

“The peculiar symptom of the disease is boil which develop on the body of the children and they die within three to four days of contraction. Many didn’t go for medical checkup due to the conflict between the two communities so they resigned to the household and herbal treatment. They thought it’s the usual way but it later blew up and before we knew it, 25 children had died.”

“The epidemic has been contained although we still have about 17 children under treatment. We have sensitised our people on immunization, hygiene and several ways to prevent the disease and whenever the health officials are around for immunisation, we usually call them out to get their children immmunised.”

When contacted, the Medical Officer for Health (MOD), Eti Osa Local Government Dr. Ayeola was busy and had his phone switched off as at the time of filing this report

Meanwhile, a medical personnel of one of the private hospitals visited who spoke on condition of anonymity disclosed that illiteracy and over confidence in traditional medication aggravated the situation.

“Throughout the period of epidemic, none of the children was brought to our hospital. The people have a long standing belief in self herbal medication so they prefer to leave these children at home even when they have medical attention close by.”

The commissioner for Health last week disclosed in a press conference that the disease is still under investigation.

“Blood samples and throat swabs from the patients and water samples from the community have been taken to the Virology Reference Laboratory.

“This is at Lagos University Teaching Hospital and Lagos State Drug Quality Control Laboratory and Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja respectively.” He, however, urged the citizenry to continue to practice health promotion and disease prevention measures.”

There are no new reported cases illnesses or death in the community as at press time.

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