Rural communities rarely get attention in Nigeria, but Kaffe, a small rustic village in Sokoto, Northwest Nigeria, made a blockbuster debut on Twitter when pictures of its only Primary Healthcare Centre trended online for many days.
Not some Grammy award trend. Nigerians would be enraged by harrowing pictures of patients – mostly pregnant women – whose hands were hung to tree branches (used as drip stands) with connecting tubes, as they receive treatment under trees, despite N34m government budget for the hospital renovation and supply of equipment, as exposed by Tracka.
“Recently in March 2019, a woman in labour was referred to another hospital in Gada, the nearest town and main local government area, for emergency treatment. Unfortunately, she passed away, just a few steps of her struggle to make it out of the compound,” Haruna Mustapha, senior health worker at Kaffe PHC, recounts the ordeal faced by the community. And in case you’re wondering, Gada is 17-kilometre far from Kaffe.
Mustapha was transferred January 2019 to head the PHC. According to him, this tragic situation often occurs for many reasons chiefly the tumbledown condition of the facility, lack of health equipment not to mention the absence of medical doctors. Meanwhile, the PHC was supposed to serve a community of 4,000 rural dwellers.
“The hospital was like an open playground. No fence. No toilet. No bathroom. As a matter of fact, you can easily hear the groaning voice from the labour room,” he speaks with dismay.
The story: from the horse’s mouth
Although our visit in July 2019 was to inspect the renovated hospital and gather feedback, it was still palpable that Kaffe community is far from getting over the trauma of the past — even though the people are upbeat.
Hadiza Aminu, a 25-year old pregnant mother of two, gives a firsthand account:
“In the afternoons, we lay on mattresses (but mostly mats) under the tree out there. And even at night, we had no other choice than to accept the same condition. I mean the medical treatment continues under the tree. And since there were no toilet facilities, we relieved ourselves anywhere convenient in the bush around.”
How the story changed
Even when the need to provide basic needs dawns on the government, execution can sometimes take forever. It doesn’t matter if that’s a primary healthcare centre or an ordinary borehole that local authorities cannot fix but the federal government. That released funds do not end in private pockets is another bunch of concern.
These are the reasons why Tracka took “the fight” online to trigger government action so as to relieve the plight of the vulnerable people by ensuring access to quality healthcare.
“The situation in Kaffe was pathetic for several reasons,” notes Head of Tracka, Uadamen Ilevbaoje. “First, the quality of care being received is questionable, as already sick patients may be exposed to other infections. Second, the PHC is without perimeter fencing, exposing even neighbouring residents of the hospital to diseases, should there be an outbreak of communicable infections,” he said.
In April 2018, Tracka Officer Grace Godwin organized a community sensitization programme on the provision of N34M for the upgrade and equipping of the PHC in federal government’s 2017 budget, nominated by Musa Sarkin Adar – legislator representing Gado/Goronyo Federal Constituency.
“I was not shocked to realise that the community had no idea about the project since 2017 meanwhile they suffer from epidemics and die of trivial diseases. That is how the government propose and execute projects only on papers,” Grace told me straight-facedly.
Government listens when advocacy is persistent, loud
Tracka advocacy would start to pay off when the first response came from the state government with action words to fix the hospital.
Thank you for bringing this to our attention @TrackaNG, H.E Governor @AWTambuwal has directed the Director of health to visit the PHC in Kaffe Community and report to him as soon as possible. https://t.co/CGCUV5Xuon— Sokoto Government House (@SokotoGovtHouse) April 28, 2018
But is it that simple to galvanize authorities into action? Not at all. The reaction was made possible by consistent days of advocacy plus demand.
Dear Nigerians,— Chimezie 💙Anajama (@MsChimezie) April 25, 2018
This is a powerful image to describe the consequence of apathy & lack of commitment to leadership and governance.
As seen in Kaffe Gada LGA, Sokoto state.
The story is that the Primary Health Care (PHC) is being upgraded, thus, this 👇👇 😢
📷: @TrackaNG pic.twitter.com/Z8BmXrC0mu
Be that as it may, the renovation work began almost immediately, with the project completed in 2019 for immediate use by the people.
Based on our evaluation, however, the completed project does not reflect the amount allocated to it. “One would expect that a 34 million naira refurbishing project should do more,” Uadamen frowns.
Although it now boasts of using solar energy and having wards, toilets perimeter fence and some equipment, Kaffe PHC still lacks electricity.
“We need the government to help with stable power supply so that medical activities can go on smoothly. The increasing number of patients – caused by the rapid population growth – is another reason why the PHC needs medical doctors plus enough drugs. In short, Kaffe needs roads, drinkable water, schools and every other social amenity,” Mustapha submits.
Story by Shakir Akorede, BudgIT Communications Associate