Sunday, 16 March 2008

Blogging on health in Nigeria..."a waste of time"?

by chikwe ihekweazu

Since Ike Anya and I started this blog after attending TEDGlobal in Arusha Tanzania last year, many friends, colleagues and strangers have been extremely complimentary, but there have also been a hand full of cynics, asking what difference does it make?


Generally, many of us have become pessimistic, skeptical, disinterested and disengaged from our country and live in some vague hope that we will become re-engaged when "things get better". Until then...na siddon look we deh. Maybe rightly so....

Others have challenged us in subtle innuendo on our justification in blogging about health issues in Nigeria when we both live and work outside the country. Maybe rightly so...

Some have accused us of being too critical of the Nigerian health sector ....and being insensitive to "how things are done in Nigeria".
again...maybe rightly so....maybe...

How do we get our stories?...many have asked. Mostly from the popular press, many from our network of colleagues, etc. But our goal is not to take over the work of journalists, but to give a public health perspective to the reports and events...contextualising to Nigeria and Health.

But for what? ...a question we are often asked and we increasingly ask ourselves when we realise that 3-4 days have gone by and we should actually update our blog :)

Reading this week's edition of TIME International...we found a statement that gave us that nudge to go on... Written by Jeffrey Sachs, author of The End of Poverty who we had recently quoted on this blog in another context.

Great social transformations—the end of slavery, the women's and civil rights movements, the end of colonial rule, the birth of environmentalism—all began with public awareness and engagement. Our political leaders followed rather than led. It was scientists, engineers, church-goers and young people who truly led the way. If as citizens we vote for war, then war it will be. If instead we support a global commitment to sustainable development, then our leaders will follow, and we will find a way to peace.
.

OK...our aims can hardly be grouped into "Great social transformations". But YES we do want to push the "HEALTH" agenda in Nigeria. We are remain eternal optimists.
We believe that the Nigerian society is undergoing profound but subtle change. Some sectors that have been blessed with rare thinkers, ahead of their time like the banking sector with Charles Soludo, the Governor of The Nigerian Central Bank and the the financial sector with erstwhile Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala . We pray history will judge current Minister of Health in similar terms. We need to build on the legacy of Prof. Olikoye Ransom Kuti...who is still fondly remembered with nostalgia for his revolutionisation of the Nigerian health sector by placing great emphasis on preventive medicine, particularly concentrating on preventable childhood diseases and encouraging continuous nationwide vaccination programmes.

We are convinced that growth and development in any country is an effort in futility if sectors like education and health are not prioritised. These sectors are obviously less attractive to the much sort after "investor". These sectors rely almost entirely on visionary leadership and an informed citizenry. While we have no influence on the former...we try to play our part in the later. In showing that there is a public demand for better health and health care, we believe we make it easier for the minister of health and heads of health parastatals to demand the requisite resources from our leaders.

Therefore we chose to ask the sometimes difficult questions no one else is asking. Why is Nigeria still one of the biggest threats to the eradication of polio? Why are outbreaks of measles still common, why do hospitals built with public funds lie unused for years and end up burnt and why Pfizer will not settle.

We also highlight the positives. The gradual maturation of health insurance, the stabilising of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and the efforts of individuals and groups (like the Kanu Heart Foundation) play their role.

We still hope it is worth your time...and ours :)

P/s We are happy to welcome Ndubuisi Edeoga on our team. ND is an alumni of the College of Medicine of the University of Nigeria, and the MPH programme of Northern Illinois University, USA. He has already created significant interest with his series "Back to the Basics.

7 comments:

Pierre Elliott Trudeau said...

Just discovered this blog - how can anyone call this a waste of time. This is the most informative project on the Nigerian health care system I have seen anywhere. Kudos!

As I am trying to catch up on your older posts, I wonder if you've done anything on current accreditation standards of Nigerian medical schools? Or even on how the "Nigerian" factor might be affecting the quality of graduates produced, compared to medical school elsewhere?

Yemi said...

Hi there,
I also love your blog. It's the best that I have seen on this topic anywhere. I am curious to know what is the state of the Nigerian Public Health Network?

Joachim said...

There will always be cynics amongst Nigerians. Can you blame them? They have been reduced to a defeated people. It just looks like there is no solution anymore.

But that is not to say, people should not keep trying. Which is the mistake with most of us Africans. We love to take the lazy man's route; suffering, smiling, watching things deterriorate and praying that a miracle would happen. The only miracle that happens in such circumstances is that things get even worse.

And as we suffer and smile, some foreign consultants carry out a survey and see us fold our arms in the face of such despicable conditions and they conclude that Nigerians are the happiest in the world. And some Nigerians smile gleefully from their overseas bases and concede that we are indeed the happiest in the world.

Keep up the good work you guys. It can only get better with this kind of effort.

Yemi said...

Hi there,
I am interested in knowing if the Nigerian Public Health Network is an organization and if it is I wanted to know if you would like to make it into a trans Atlantic effort with Nigerians located in the U.S. as well? There is alot that should be happening in the health and public health sector in Nigeria and it is up to all of us, Nigerians inside and outside the country, to make our country, Nigeria, great.

Philip Laverson said...

Chikwe,

Thank you for sharing

Best

Phil

Ike Anya said...

http://www.nphnet.org/membership.html

Abigail Iyua said...

keep the good work up!