Environment & Health

Still on Susan Wenger

The last paragraph of ‘Susan Wenger’s tribute revisited’ [The Guardian, April 15, 2009] took my breath away. It seems as if Doctor Bayo Jinmi finds nothing wrong with women feeding their months old babies water from the polluted river Osun simply because like Hindus they have faith. What he did not say is that Nigeria has one of the highest rates of infant mortality on earth. 13th actually, while India is 72nd. Kindly permit me to refer you to my article ‘The next Einstein and the expressway churches’ [The Guardian, May 22, 2008] wherein I examined the conflicts between faith and science and why in the interest of social progress, science must always triumph. My own doctor told me about the lady who discovered she had a lump in her breast that turned out to be a young cancer which chemotherapy would have solved. The cancer was discovered because she took to heart the daily self-examination of breasts public awareness campaigns sponsored by Educare Trust, Ministry Of Health, and USAID. Note: The cancer was not discovered from her daily morning prayers but from science-oriented self-examination. But for cure, she listened to the family prophet whom her mum had taken her. She is now dead. When my cousin’s wife with her one-week due pregnancy developed some complications and was rushed to hospital, it was not the doctor that discharged her, it was her pastor. He prayed and asked if she had faith. Who would not answer yes? Like Jesus, he said pack up your mat and go. She too is died.

When women are feeding their babies polluted river to drink, we expect medical practitioners of Dr Jinmi’s calibre to push Osun State Health Ministry to act quickly because they know the correct score of such heinous practices in the name of faith. Just like how the north swells the streets of south with polio beggars because they refuse childhood vaccinations. in Ibadan decades ago, civil defence force and wolewoles moved against the elehas on the orders of the Oyo state ministry of health because their hijab was preventing the children strapped on their backs from getting sunshine which is a vital source of vitamin D. To the ministry, the health of children was more important than any Islamic injunction. On these pages, a doctor once wrote he secretly carried out a blood transfusion that a child needed to save his life. His parents had refused because they were staunched Jehovah Witness. The heroic doctor couldn’t bear to watch the child die in the name of faith so carried out the transfusion overnight. The following day the parents were in the ward, jubilating, thanking Jehovah for doing it again. Dear doctor Jinmi, if a healthy sperm is too shy and would not seize the initiative of cuddling and kissing a healthy ovum amidst several suitors and both elope down the fallopian tube to get implanted, no amount of fasting and prayers or kneeling before Wenger’s Osun, a mere piece of carved wood, or drinking from the river would give a woman a child. To believe otherwise is primitive superstition.

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