Sunday, 24 February 2008

Good news on HIV/AIDS?

I have had a few emails asking....Is there nothing good coming out of the health sector in Nigeria?

Well...there just might be!

The Guardian reports that NATIONAL Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) said at the weekend that there have been fewer new HIV infections in the country and the number of Nigerians who die due to the virus had reduced drastically.

Reduced from 3.9 to what you might ask?...yes....same thought here. Well...the final figures have not been announced...but we live in hope. To read a good summary of the situation in Nigeria, the UNAIDS country page is a good resource

This is an opportune time to highlight work done by individuals and organisations in this area.

So ...over the next few weeks...we will look all over the health scene in Nigeria for positive stories, especially in regard to the response to HIV/AIDS

If you have any stories that have positively affected the health of Nigerians...please send them in.

We'll start with a few stories on the individuals and organisations outside the public sector. I have always been interested in...what is that extra trigger that causes us to move from a great idea, strong will, determination, actually conceptualizing and doing.. This quote from Nduka Obaigbena in Thisday on Sunday jumped out on me... Dele Momodu's column in Thisday on Saturday.

“Let every individual pick his own sector and excel, with or without government. I have chosen mine.”

I have come to realise that this trigger is always different. Sometimes it is a personal tragedy, sometimes it is just a strong determination to do "good", sometimes it is a business opportunity...

There is no more appropriate place to start than the story of JAAIDS and Omololu Falobi

. My friend Ike describes meeting Omololu thus:

My first encounter with Omololu was via the internet. I was enrolled on a Master's degree programme at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and was doing research for a project on HIV. When I typed in the words "Nigeria AIDS" into the Google search engine, it took me straight to the website for an organization called Journalists Against AIDS. Once on it, I quickly signed up to join the electronic forum organized by the group and from there became immersed deeply in the Nigerian HIV world. I could not believe my good fortune in finding the site and wondered who had had the foresight and expertise to set up such a useful resource. Searching on the site, I soon found that the organization was the brainchild of a gentleman called Omololu Falobi. I became a regular contributor to the site and often recommended it to colleagues and friends who had questions about HIV in Nigeria.

To read the full story of our last encounter with here.

My story with Omololu is just as fascinating...In 2000, doing my MPH in Germany...I needed a list of NGOs working on HIV/AIDs in Nigeria. I did a search on the web, found Omololu, wrote him an email out of the blue. In a weeks time I got a parcel via DHL. He refused to accept that I pay for it. He said...I was the same age as him...and the more 'young' people like us got involved in the stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS...this was payment enough. This was a journalist speaking to a physician!

I learnt a lot from this man! He showed that you do not have to shout at the top of your voice to be heard. He never sort the podium. He walked the walk. He showed that while we sit, argue and moan...about all that is bad with our country, one person sometimes CAN change small step at a time.

Whenever the history of the response to HIV/AIDS is written in Nigeria, it will always be associated with Omololu.

I first met Omololu at the 2000 Durban AIDS Conference...where the theme was "Break the Silence". I last met him in the at the 2006 conference in Toronto...themed "Time to Deliver" (picture below)

Sadly...the "Best of Nigeria" lost "Worst of Nigeria" he was shot for still unknown reasons on the streets of Lagos. His is always remembered. Even in death...I can hear Omololu's voice seeking out how we can use his life as a motivation for others to do more and talk less.

Maybe...just maybe we are beginning to see some of the fruits of his labour. Time will tell.

The strenght of any organisation/ngo/npo etc etc formed in these days of NGO proliferation is the survival of that organisation beyond the availability of the founder. Journalists Against AIDS in Nigeria (JAAIDS) is an excelent example of this.

For those who did not know him find some details below

Omololu is the founder/executive director of Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS), Nigeria. He was features editor of Nigeria's largest-selling weekly, the Sunday Punch, from where he resigned in 2000 to run JAAIDS full-time. Omololu is a holder of a Bachelor in Dramatic Arts and a Masters in Political Science. At the 15th International AIDS conference in 2000, he won the International AIDS Society's Young Investigator Award. The same year, he was named the winner of the Highway Africa Award for Innovative Use of New Media, an award that recognises outstanding and innovative use of the Internet in African journalism.

He was also a board member of The Black AIDS Institute (formerly the African American AIDS Policy & Training Institute), Los Angeles, USA; the Nigeria Youth AIDS Programme (NYAP); and the Positive Life Organisation (a support group for people living with HIV/AIDS). In 2001, he was appointed an Ashoka Fellow, joining an elite group of only 2000 'social entrepreneurs' worldwide recognised for their outstanding and innovative approaches to 're-engineering society'. Over the past five years, he has been a prominent advocate on HIV/AIDS in Africa. In recognition of this, he was selected as the African NGO representative on the board of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) for 2004 and 2005. More recently, he has helped in convening the African Civil Society Coalition on HIV and AIDS, which serves as an umbrella movement for organisations involved in HIV and AIDS advocacy and campaigns on the continent.

In recent years, Omololu has served in several capacities in the response to HIV/AIDS within and outside Nigeria: as media coordinator of the African Union Summit on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (2001); member, drafting committee of the Nigerian HIV Vaccine Plan, the National HIV Behaviour Change Communication Strategy and the 2005-2009 National HIV/AIDS Strategic Framework. He has contributed to several publications on HIV/AIDS, including the Communication Handbook on HIV Vaccine Trials in Developing Countries (UNAIDS, 2001), the Media Handbook on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (JAAIDS/DevComs/UNIC, 2003) and Scorecard of Media Reporting of HIV/AIDS in Nigeria (JAAIDS, 2005).

Omololu has been active in the vaccine and advocacy field for several years. In 2003, he co-founded the Nigeria HIV Vaccine and Microbicides Advocacy Group (NHVMAG), serving as its Co-Coordinator and a strong part of the group's backbone. He has led several media training programmes on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Zambia.

Omololu would be remembered as a dynamic, committed and resourceful AIDS activist whose contribution towards mitigating the impact of the epidemic would remain for a long time. He is survived by his wife, his two children, as well as siblings and an aged-mother

Friday, 15 February 2008

Continuing strike paralyses hospitals, brand new hospital burns and newly equipped hospitals not working...

Almost every week I promise myself to TRY HARD to blog about a posivite story in the Nigerian health scene...but somehow I hardly get there. I WILL TRY. But sadly, this week...again I dont have much good news.

It is most difficult for many of us to imagine the costs in human lives of all the public tertiary facilities in Nigeria being paralysed because of a strike by medical doctors under the auspices of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD).

To many that do undertand the issues, an Editorial of The Guardian titled: Doctors strike- Matters arrising throws some light on the issues.

To make this easy...I've tried to identify the issues as these are often "lost in translation"

1. A recent salary review of all health workers in tertiary institutions is said to have led to a reduction in the "take-home-pay of doctors".

2. A reduction in the call duty allowances of doctors.

3. Doctors want the introduction of a Medical Salary Scale (MSS) as the basis for the remuneration of medical and dental practitioners in the country.

4. Creation of the position of Surgeon-General of the Federation.

5. Establishment of a Medical Service Commission

Are these enough for a nationwide strike? You tell me...

To ponder that question, we need to think about the lives.
Thisday reports: Doctors’ Strike Takes Toll on Patients that eight patients on admission have died as a result of the current strike embarked upon by resident doctorsin the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital(UPTH).

BUT WHY DOES IT HAVE TO A STRIKE. The doctors say that they have been trying to get the agreement of Government on all these issues for months. The Government has been quiet (at least in the press) on its own side of the story. BUT other professions are waiting in the wings on how the Federal Government will respond. In this story in The Punch, phamarcists ask the FGN not to relent, threatening to mobilise other health workers for an indefinite strike action if the Federal Government acceded to the demand of doctors.


Last week VANGUARD reported: Fire guts ultra-modern Bulunkutu Hospital

The Governor Ali Modu Sheriff who was said to be visibly angry, said he suspected sabotage by the enemies of his administration! Fire brigade? you might ask....well they were not mentioned.

Then interestingly, the BBC gave a bit more insight into the fire. The General Hospital in Maiduguri was built in 2006 but the state government refused to open it until the president came to cut the ribbon. The governor had refused to open the hospital, which was ready for patients in June 2006, until former President Olusegun Obasanjo came to the state. His visit was postponed several times, the last being just two months before the election in 2007. His successor Umaru Yar'adua was due to visit later next month. ...the rest as they history.

Finally...The Guardian reports that Dr. Millicent Obajimi, of the Department of Radiology of the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, Nigeria's foremost University Teaching Hospital lamented that the state-of- the-art equipment including a Mammography machine supplied by Vamed Engineering as part of the upgrading exercise of the hospital are not worked since installation in 2004. he said this when members of the House of Representatives Committee on Health came visiting.

...any more questions on why the $100/barrel cost of oil is not benefitting the people?

One story that might (or not) be called good news is in the vanguard...which reports that Nnamdi Azikiwe University, a State Government owned institution has acquired 15 Percent Shares in proposed American Hospital. While there are some forseable benefits in this arrangements, it also shows the almost total abdication of responsibility of the public sector. But we will hold unto this story of hope..


Friday, 8 February 2008

Random health stories out of Nigeria

Thisday - Police Expel 26 Recruits with HIV/AIDS...Despite all the good work done by NACA,...all the advocacy by JAAIDS as well as ll the several other NGOs working in the HIV/AIDS arena...we still get stories like this...

Guardian - Expulsion Of HIV-positive Recruits From Police College Irks Activists :...but at least it has immediately drawn a strong response...."THE recent expulsion, by the police authorities, of 26 police recruits for testing positive to HIV/AIDS, had drawn the ire of human rights activists who described the act "as discriminatory and unlawful."

Leadership - Unsafe Blood in Circulation...and the solution being profferred is for legislation, compelling all the hospitals to source their blood needs from the National Blood Transfusion Service (NBTS).

Sun - Gov Orji sets Aba free - Rids the city of waste...following our blog about how bad our environment is good to read about more governors doing something about it. However "The Sun...reporting about Abia is always suspect as the paper is believed to be owned by Orji Uzor Kalu, ex governor of Abia State and "political god-father" of the present governor.

The following 2 stories need to be read to be what to believe depends on who you trust. The Nigerian Customs...or a Nigerian doctor based in the United Kingdom.

Thisday - Nigeria: Customs Impound Container Load of Expired

Thisday - Expired Drugs: Doctor Claims Ownership of Container

Thisday - Measles Outbreak Kills 7 in Sokoto...The measles outbreak that we have blogged on here, here and in Sokoto. . We have to understand the inherent transmissibility of this disease and come to the conclusion that unfortunately we cannot solve this by our usual fire brigade approach. Until we have a strong routine vaccination programme for new borns on an on-going basis (as babies (new susceptibles)) are born all year round..., unfortunately children will continue to die from measles.

Vanguard - Cholera epidemic hits Delta...Delta by many estimates the richest state in the country. It calls itself "The BIG Heart".
The cause of cholera outbreaks is not rocket science....its all about clean drinking water! That "simple"

Vanguard - Park operators protest ban on sale of alcohol. Have you ever wondered how much alcohol the driver of the bus you have just boarded had in the motor park? too! Guess who is complaining...yes you guessed right...the OPERATORS of parks...

E go better...

Have a good weekend!

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Our failed urbanisation...and the International Year of Sanitation

The year 2008 the International Year of Sanitation....

A good time to reflect again on our environment in Nigeria

We have previously blogged on the sad state of the environment in Nigeria's cities...and applauded the efforts of some governors that seem to be taking on the challenge....

Imo State Governor, Ikedim Ohakim...the most unlikely of all the 36 Governors has taken up the most unlikey challenge ....making of Owerri beautiful again.

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola wants to ensure that Lagos remains a beautiful city. (not sure what he means by "remains":))


In Nigeria...there is Abuja...

And there are cities like Onitsha...

Onitsha metropolis, with a population of close to two million people, has no running water and no solid or liquid waste management system. Flooding by a combination of storm water runoff and open sewerage is widespread.

The images below were sent to us by our friends at the World Igbo Environmental Foundation.

What hope is there for health if you live and work in this environment?