By KATO P. LADAN, Kaduna
A renewed call has gone to the International Oil Companies (IOCs), Governments, NGOs and spirited individuals to pull resources together towards funding quality healthcare services and provision of potable drinking water to communities in Ekeremo Local Government Area of Bayelsa State to curb preventable deaths.
The call became imperative following the pollution of water ways in the area due to activities of oil companies that had destroyed acquatic life and agricultural activities of the people, leading to poverty and increased crime rate in the state.
Medical expert and son of the land, Dr. Opuama Seibokuro made the call during a three-day free medical-surgical mission organized by the Helping Team International (HTI) and the Odumehaje Christian Medical Mission (OCMM) at Egbemo-Angalabiri community in Ekeremo LGA, Bayelsa State, Nigeria.
The medical expert decried lack of functional healthcare facility in the area which has resulted to avoidable deaths due to lack of access to available and affordable healthcare services for the people.
Dr. Opuama said about ten different communities within the local government area depend on the cottage hospital, which he noted was a partnership between NNPC, Shell, Elf and Agip oil companies situated at Egbemo, the venue where the free medical outreach took place.
According to him, the hospital that was established in 1998 is in the state of disrepair as it is hampered by lack of adequate staff and equipment to serve the health needs of people in the area, saying the resultant effect has always been increased morbidity and mortality, especially of mothers, infants and children, as well as adults.
Dr. Opuama said the numerous health challenges faced in the area such as: malaria, typhoid fever, skin infections, anemia, cholera, hookworm infestations, schistosomiasis, gastritis, peptic ulcer diseases, chronic liver diseases, hypertension, cataracts, pterygium, HIV and teenage pregnancies, among others, could be attributed to environment, lifestyles and poverty among others.
The medical professional said the pollution of their waterways by oil companies led to the destruction of their acquatic life and farmlands meant for agriculture, leading to hunger and starvation due to low productivity.
He noted that, the scenario has also predisposed the youth into crime, hence they cannot productively engage themselves in a challenging environment for economic prosperity.
“Our only source of water is being destroyed by the activities of international oil companies.
“This water that we bath, wash and even excrete in, is the same water we drink and is the same water that is polluted by the oil companies, and that explains the so many water borne diseases that we have here.
“I want to announce to the whole world that there are people that need help here, that are dying from preventable diseases on a daily basis.
“Let the government bring in more health personnel, let the oil companies fund and renovate this hospital and in that way, the quality of life of the people here will improve.
“If you have an emergency here, you first of all consider the cost and time to get to the closest functional hospital to this place, and it is a private hospital in Tuurugbene, Delta State which is over an hour ride on water from Egbemo-Angalabiri.
“You need to hire a boat and buy petrol at an estimated cost of not less than 20 thousand Naira ($52 USD) treatment cost not included, since most people cannot afford it, they prefer to stay and die”.
Also speaking, a Christian missionary and evangelist in one of the communities, Pastor Bartholomew Ogenyi said Ekeremo Local Government Area is one of the richest in the country with over one hundred oil wells, but lacks functional infrastructure and basic amenities of life such as healthcare among others, towaryd improving the living standards of the people in the area.
According to the clergyman, a lot of children have died in that community due to malaria and typhoid fever, which could have been easily treated by primary healthcare services.
He called for concerted efforts by government, individuals and oil companies to ensure adequate healthcare coverage for the people in the state, in view of the critical role of health in promoting growth and development.
Two medical staff of the cottage hospital, Mr. Asaba Perez, a laboratory technician and nurse-midwife, Mrs. Angela who were part of the medical team during the outreach, lamented that the hospital is in dire need of attention to address the deteriorating health condition of the people in the area.
They sressed the need for government to recruit and deploy more health workers to the hospital and called on the four oil companies, shell, NNPC, Elf and Agip to upgrade the facility with modern equipment for it to function to standard and reduce mortality rates thereby promoting growth and development.
The CEO, OCMM, HTI and Team Lead of the free medical mission, Dr. Paul Odumu who identified environment and unhealthy water source as major factors associated with the people’s health condition, stressed the need for an alternative source of drinking water for the people.
The Consultant Family Physician expressed commitment to revisit the community in the near future in view of the advanced health challenges discovered during the medical exercise.
According to Dr. Paul, the three-day activity followed the report of lack of a functional health facility in the area and the unscientific way the community handles health matters, especially of children, leading to high rates of child and infant mortality, which he opined was unacceptable and became a source of worries to him.