Among the 30 people who had to pass the night on the bare floor at the
Mercy with volunteers
Others who passed the night in the dark, open field in the semi-dense forest where the
Every year now since 2004, Mercy Foundation, MF, an NGO based in the US, has collaborated with Pro Health International, PHI, based in Jos, Nigeria to bring local and international professionals together to provide free health care to rural dwellers, who most of the time lacked them. ‘’I’m doing this because I know that my people in Uromi are in dire need of medical attention’’, said Mercy Obeime, president of the Mercy Foundation. ‘’I saw some other people from other countries channel the vast resources that their immediate surrounding provide, for their people back home and I just wanted to do the same’’, Obeime said. She said she raises funds to carry out free medical projects through a number of ways: one of them is that she organises walks in the
Cases like this that seem to be very well known in the US where Obeime works attracted Jim Simmons,54, who volunteered to come back to Uromi after his first trip last year. Out of a bit of curiosity, but more from a desire to contribute his bit, he said he abandoned his love for calling the shots behind the camera as a film producer, to help with supervising ordinary folk. He bought a ticket for $1,900, hopped on a plane with 15 of his compatriots like Ann Gray, Jennifer Kerner, Courtney Gourman, Cynthia Renee, Jackson Solway and flew to Uromi, Edo State, home to some of Nigeria’s most influential and wealthy politicians like Augustus Aikhomu, second in command to former military president Ibrahim Babangida, Tony Anenih, former board of trustees chairman for the PDP; Tom Ikimi, former external affairs minister, Adams Oshiomhole, former Nigeria Labour Congress president and Anthony Enahoro, elder statesman. ‘’I want to make sense of it all whenever I come here, but it just refuses to add up’’, said a perplexed looking Simmons. ‘’In one of my trips down here, I saw a 90-year old man who had waited one full year to see a doctor for his arthritis. Does that make any sense to you?’’. This year too, he met another one man, and a woman in similar circumstances. Greg Udohowo, 70, had waited one full year to see Femi Obazee, an eye surgeon with PHI.
Iniobong Ettete, 38, one of the Nigerian surgeons who handled several cases of fibroid, hernia, appendicitis, asthma in young people and abdominal problems is worried. ‘’How do you operate on patients who are already anaemic, with very little blood?’’, he asked. A lot of these people hardly feed well. There were many patients here who needed to be operated upon but we discovered that they were also HIV positive. Well, what we did was that we had to counsel the HIV positive patients first by sending them to ‘’heart to heart’’ (another NGO)’’, he said. Eventually however, they were operated upon. But the Mercy Foundation and ProHealth International staff says they faced a problem of getting the drugs across from the
In the course of five days, the medical team handed out 1,124 peadiatric, antibiotic, anti-diabetes drugs, screened 167 for HIV, gave out 310 glasses to patients that were treated with cataract cases, and carried out over 60 successful cases of general and eye surgeries. John Abode, chief medical officer at the UCH, Uromi, said that his hospital manages to handle only 70 cases daily. ‘’We have no equipment and the manpower to cope with such numbers. The local and international medical teams you see here imported their own equipment and manpower’’. He hoped that the government would do something about the vacuum that MF and PHI would create when they leave.
A lot of the patients like Margaret Okoafuda, 35, who received free treatment for her frequent urinary condition or had one form of surgery, like Clifford Ibhaihe, 20, or received drugs from MF and PHI, like Okwosi Vincent, 42, say they could never have been able to afford the cost of surgery for either fibroid, hernia or known their HIV status. Like Vincent and Ojezele, Cecelia Okosun, a trader, was among the hundreds treated for chest, waist and body pains. Anthony Ibhaghalobor, 32, who is self employed told me that even though he likes what MF and PHI did for him, the whole objective of the free treatment project will be meaningless if there are no structures in place to sustain the tempo introduced by both NGOs.
Goitre patient examined
Nearly all the volunteers like Jennifer Kerner, 22 Courtney Gorman, 32, Ann Gray, 63, Jackson Solway 23, Cynthia Renee, and Jim Simmons say that it is always a sad thing for them to leave because of the huge number of people who keep coming but could not be attended to. According to Ebodaghe, on the last they day they closed the project last year, they still had thousands of people to see. ‘’But if we stayed, there’s not much we could do, because we had to leave. It’s so painful that as you drive out of that gate, you realise there’s not much you can do, especially as they keep asking us, ‘when are you people coming back?’ According to the doctor, it is a shame that other people would have to come from across the oceans to treat simple ailments which could easily be handled if there was a sense of belonging by those on ground in