Of stolen lives and unvarnished truth
In Switzerland, for every 100,000 births, six women die at childbirth or just right after. In Nigeria, for every 10 minutes, one woman dies on account of pregnancy or childbirth.
No spiritual forces in Nigeria can be accused of such deaths as much us our failed health system. Rather, it would be hard to find a statistic that more accurately reflects the injustices of a world where whether you live or die depends on an accident of geography: on where you reside when you are pregnant or giving birth.
I am no stranger to the mercies and healing power of God, having had an agnostic father who went into coma when I was five years old. I remember clinging to the metal rails of his bed at the University Teaching Hospital (UCH) Ibadan, staring into his yellow jaundiced face and the smell… the smell I would later recognise as the smell of death. He regained consciousness 21 days later and he told a strange story. My proud, intelligent, and cynical father was reduced to utter childlike wonder. Did I also mention that he is a medical doctor?
You will please pardon the unusual tone of this letter. I have no wish to rail against a belief that let me and my siblings still have our father today. It is in fact an undying faith in this belief that makes me bold to speak and write. Perhaps like the Christian’s Apostle Paul, I am also an ambassador in chains, bound by deaths fostered by unimplemented and poor health policies.
When the missionaries first came to Africa to preach the gospel, they built schools. They also built hospitals, brought in medicine that improved infant mortality, and performed immunisations which saved millions of lives. The message of Christianity has not changed since then. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever. These missionaries were aware of the healing power of God then as we are today. They, after all, taught it to us. So why did they not insist on miracles to save the lives of our forefathers? Why did they use injections and pills to prevent infant deaths and polio? Why did they,
when encountered with such preventable death, not pray for miracles, and when it did not happen, declare the death as the will of God?Men of God (and those not of Him) mount the pulpit and decry the efforts of medicine and doctors to heal. By this very act, they have alienated a huge percentile of Nigerians who can join their voices and cry out for improved health system in Nigeria.
Pills are everyday miracles of God. Is it because they are so common place that we fail to see them as such?
No religious community can stand alone. It is an intricate part of society and is not immune to social conditions. There are members in your churches who have died or who have lost loved ones due to poorly funded health facilities. They don’t understand when you say it is the will of God; that God could have prevented it if he did not want it to happen.
The truth is that not all deaths are the will of God. Most are the will of man. There is no difference between the woman in Switzerland and the one in Nigeria. No special love or divine happenstance. Just a full oxygen tank when a patient passes out and electricity to perform an urgent surgery when it arises. Do these require faith? We can ask Mr. Ausbeth Udebu, husband to the late Mrs. Ngozi Udebu who died unnecessarily at LUTH; or we could ask Ms. Adepoju Jaiyeoba, founder of Mother’s Kit, who lost a friend under such avoidable circumstances too. We could also ask you.
Faith does not foreclose on other options of healing. Hospitals are not places where people who lack faith go to. Hospitals are an extension of God’s healing hand. It is not right to make congregants feel ashamed when they go. It is as much a constitutional right as it is a heavenly right. Let them join their voices to the cry in the streets for well-funded health facilities that would not cut short their youth; that would not stifle the breath of mother and child; that will not make them widows or widowers.
We cannot fold our hands and teach our members to “it is well” their way to good health. God is a God of order and he understands the structure of society and that society must be ruled by elected men for all men. If these elected men have made a law or declaration, it is on us to ensure that they obey and implement them. But most importantly, so that we see a reduction in these tragic statistics.
Spiritual Fathers, please, know the laws. Use your pulpits to insist on Article 26 of the Abuja Declaration 2001 OAU/SPS/ABUJA/3:
“WE COMMIT OURSELVES to take all necessary measures to ensure that the needed resources are made available from all sources and that they are efficiently and effectively utilised. In addition, WE PLEDGE to set a target of allocating at least 15% of our annual budget to the improvement of the health sector.
‘‘WE ALSO PLEDGE to make available the necessary resources for the improvement of the comprehensive multi-sectorial response, and that an appropriate and adequate portion of this amount is put at the disposal of the National Commissions/Councils for the fight against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Other Related Infectious Diseases.”
Also, please call for the implementation of Section 11 of the National Health Act, 2014 which establishes the Basic Health Care Provision Fund and provides that it shall be funded by the Federal Government Annual Grant of not less than1% of its Consolidated Revenue Fund, grants by international donor partners and other sources. The funds shall be managed by three national entities as follows:
– The National Health Care Development Agency which will manage 45% of the fund to be disbursed through each state and the FCT Primary Health Care Development Board for the provision of essential drugs, vaccines and consummates;
– The National Health Insurance Scheme which will manage 50% of the fund for the of basic minimum package of health facilities;
– The Federal Ministry of Health will manage 5% of the fund for the provision of basic minimum package of health facilities. The Act also provides that the NHIS would provide health coverage which will cover pregnant women, children who are under five years, the elderly and the physically challenged persons. The
Act also provides that part of the funds would be used to train nurses and midwives.As Galileo Galilei wrote in his “Letter to the Duchess” “there is no need to extend such spirituality even in physical matters where faith is not involved.”
We should not manage a social wrong. We end it. To achieve this, we need you, our spiritual fathers to join in the effort to ensure government implements these laws and policies to ensure the health for the good people of Nigeria.