Exactly 15 minutes past 10pm, pregnant Mrs Elizabeth Akinoosa started feeling severe pain. It was her first pregnancy, but she knew her expected date delivery had come. She recalled the day with mixed feelings.
“Being pregnant in this community is akin to a dangerous venture,” she told our correspondent during a visit to the community. “Beyond the pain we go through to attend antenatal sessions, delivery can be worse, especially at night. The trauma I faced on the day I had my twins was something I wouldn’t pray for anyone to experience.”
In the community, our correspondent gathered that the available means of transportation is motorcycles and when pregnant women are in labour, the only way to get to hospital is to endure a bumpy ride.
She added, “Thankfully, one of the women who regularly came to pray with me was still around when I went into labour. In the community, the major means of transportation is motorcycle. The roads are bad, so tricycles and buses avoid the place.
“When I went into labour, the only means of taking me to the hospital was through a motorcycle. Before they could get a motorcycle, I was trekking because it’s a long journey. My husband and the woman met me on the way and I mounted the bike with my husband.
“We hadn’t gone half-way when labour pain gripped me hard. My husband begged me to endure till we got to a safe place but I couldn’t. He stopped the motorcycle and in that darkness, the first baby came.
“As they ran to a nearby village to get help, the second baby came out before they came back. We eventually went to the hospital. But it didn’t change the fact that I gave birth on the way to the hospital. That wouldn’t have happened if we had a hospital close to the village.”
Akinoosa said she wouldn’t forget what she went through during the pregnancy. She stated, “I fell sick several times and the closest hospital was at Atan Ota, which is about six miles away. I could have lost the babies because there were a few complications with the second baby, but the doctors intervened. Lack of a functional hospital and bad roads made life tough for pregnant women in Oko Mi community,”
Oko Mi (marshy land) is a community in the Ado Odo-Ota Local Government Area of Ogun State.
High risk of maternal mortality
Nigeria records nearly 20 percent of global maternal deaths. Between 2005 and 2015, it was estimated that over 600,000 maternal deaths and not less than 900,000 maternal near-miss cases occurred in the country.
In 2015, Nigeria’s estimated maternal mortality ratio was over 800 per 100,000 live births, with approximately 58,000 maternal deaths during that year. In comparison, the total number of maternal deaths in 2015 in the 46 most developed countries was 1,700, resulting in a maternal mortality ratio of 12 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births.
The World Health Organisation noted that a Nigerian woman has a one in 22 lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy, childbirth or postpartum/post-abortion; whereas in developed countries, the lifetime risk is one in 4,900.
The WHO added that poor women in remote regions were the least likely to receive adequate health care, especially in regions with low numbers of skilled health workers, such as Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Globally, in 2015, births in the richest 20 per cent of households were more than twice as likely to be attended to by skilled health personnel unlike those in the poorest 20 per cent of households (89 per cent versus 43 per cent). This indicates that millions of births are not assisted by a midwife, a doctor or a trained nurse.
Women in rural communities like the Oko Mi community and its environs are prone to maternal mortality due to lack of access to primary health care centres, maternal clinics and medical experts.
Residents of Oko Mi and its neighbouring areas battle poor amenities and infrastructure that should make life easy for them. No one is spared from pregnant women, schoolchildren, women, the old to the young.
Akinoosa and other mothers in the community lamented the health risk they endured, adding that there were others who did not attend antenatal sessions because of the distance and cost of transportation.
She added, “Pregnancy for women in the community is usually a risk; it’s a period of uncertainties for us especially because of the problems we are faced with. Due to the lack of access to health care facilities, many of our pregnant women now patronise local drug sellers who offer antenatal care, while some abandon antenatal sessions and only wait for delivery day.
“When I was attending antenatal sessions, I spent between N1,200 and N1,500 on transportation every week. In a place like ours, the money is much. Government should build a functional hospital for us and fix our roads for us to have access to good medical care.”
Experts have linked maternal and neonatal mortality in Nigeria to delay in seeking health care, locating and arriving at a medical facility early and in receiving pregnancy care.
Esther Matthew is another resident of the community who was recently delivered of a baby boy. It was exactly the day of the baby’s christening when our correspondent visited the community.
The new mum lamented that the time of her pregnancy was not a smooth one.
Matthew said, “On the day of the delivery, I was earlier at the hospital but was told that it wasn’t time yet after I was examined. My husband had to seek the help of his friend in town for everything to go smoothly.
“The period of the pregnancy wasn’t easy. Sometimes, I would have trekked for over an hour or an hour before I could get a bike to take me to Iju where I would board a bus or tricycle to a clinic at Atan.
“Whenever it rained, I wouldn’t bother going to the clinic because the road would not be motorable and the fare would increase. One of the toughest things is to be pregnant in the community but I am glad I was able to put to bed safely.”
Other women gave birth within five to six miles away from the community. But in the case of Silifat Usman, she journeyed for about 10 miles from her abode to give birth. It was the same story of discomfort during child delivery. She stated that she registered for antenatal at the clinic at Onipanu area in Sango Ota where they previously lived.
Usman said the day she gave birth was a traumatic experience for her. She said, “We moved for about four hours to Onipanu, Sango-Ota to be delivered of my first child. I went into labour at midnight and there was no other means of transportation than to trek. There were no motorcycles as we have now. I was tired and crying as we trekked. When I could no longer continue, one of the men went to look for a bicycle. I was on the bicycle with my wife when we saw a lorry driver returning from a farm. He drove me to the hospital. Anything untoward could have happened but I thank God I gave birth in peace.”
She noted that if she were to use the clinic in Iju, the journey would be longer.
Usman added, “When I was to give birth to my second child, I told them I couldn’t go to Onipanu again, so I registered for antenatal at Iju. But that didn’t make the journey easier; we would trek a long distance to visit the clinic. Pregnancy period is usually stressful for women in the community. Labour isn’t an easy task, so compounding it with the trauma of looking for a hospital is not what anyone should go through.”
She noted sadly that some women couldn’t deliver safely because of the challenge, saying it was the reason some families relocated from the community. “There were instances that some mothers lost their babies; some pregnant women also died and there were situations where both died,” she added.
No health centre, secondary school
The community also has no secondary school. Our correspondent observed that there were two primary schools in the area; one an L-shape building and the other a dilapidated structure with three classrooms but no secondary school. The closest one to the community is the one in Iju, which is about five miles from the community.
A 2018 UNICEF survey showed that the population of out-of-school children in Nigeria had risen from 10.5 million to 13.2 million, the highest in the world. Of the world’s 63 million out-of-school children of primary school age, 34 million, more than one-half, live in sub-Saharan Africa.
Usman told our correspondent that their children do not have access to secondary school in the community. Once they complete primary school education, it takes extra effort to make them continue their education.
She said, “Nothing is available to us in this community. Our children trek for about five miles to go to school. The suffering is too much. They wake up as early as 4am so they can leave the house early because there is no excuse for coming late to school.
“They leave home by 6am so that they can be in school by 8am resumption time. Many of them have to sweep their classrooms before classes begin. They trek for close to two hours. We are not buoyant enough to give them transport fare of N1, 000 daily. When you see them going in groups to school in the morning, you’d pity them. It’s worse when they are returning. They would be dirty because of the dusty road.’’
Usman, who said she had been living in the community for some years, said she was unhappy that the community had not experienced any meaningful developments.
“I sell farm produce but the bulk of my profit goes into transportation. It’s better in the dry season because when it rains, drivers dread coming to the community. We work hard but we have little or nothing to show for it,’’ She stated.
Also, another resident, Hafsat Okedeyi, lamented that since she moved to the community, it has been one suffering to another.
She said, “Our children are really suffering. They trek to and from Iju which is where the closest secondary school is. Some even go as far as Atan. To drink water is trouble, when they return from school, they are tired. They want to wash their school uniforms, they have assignments to do. It’s tough for them, the same way it is for parents. Many of the children have even stopped going to school.”
Twelve-year-old Opeyemi who is a Junior Secondary School one pupil was returning from school a few minutes past four in the evening when our correspondent met with her. She looked worn-out. She told Sunday PUNCH that she left school at 2pm and trekked for two hours to get home.
Opeyemi said, “I am hungry, trekking home from school is stressful. I usually leave the house by 6am and we get to school between 7.45am and 8am. We usually don’t want our teachers to flog us for late coming, so we leave early and walk together.
“Most times, I do assignments early in the morning in school. Because there is no light, I use a candle to do homework at home. But if I am too tired, I do it early in the day at school,” she added.
Fifteen-year-old Samuel who is a JSS3 pupil stated that he always treks for three hours to get to school because he lives in Ore Akinde, one of the communities in the community. Samuel said he now has a bicycle which he rides with his younger brother on the deplorable road.
He said, “Some people came to our community and gave us bicycles. I was lucky to be among those who got, but my brother didn’t get. We usually ride together in the morning. Whenever we return home, we are always tired and our uniforms dirty. We want the government to build a secondary school for us. There are times we don’t go to school because we fall sick from time to time.”
Cooking with firewood, lack of water, electricity
A woman in the community identified only as Mrs Titilayo who sells fish, also complained that most households had no access to gas thus firewood use became an option.
She said, “You see that our eyes are red. It’s as a result of the smoke from cooking with firewood. The smoke and heat from the fire has really affected us.’’
The International Centre for Energy, Environment, and Development said 93,000 Nigerians die annually due to smoke inhaled while cooking with firewood, identifying women and children as the most affected persons. This means that at least 450,000 Nigeria women will die from cooking with firewood or charcoal in five years if an alternative method of cooking is not introduced at an affordable rate.
Titilayo said, “I feel pain from my chest, sometimes cough, many times, headaches but I can’t leave the business because it’s my major source of livelihood. Even if I stop commercial cooking, it’s still the same method of cooking at home.
Usman also said that since many of them couldn’t afford Liquefied Petroleum Gas they opted for firewood.
She added, “We can’t afford gas so we still use firewood. Our eyes are usually affected because of smoke and the heat from the fire.’’
ICEED noted that about three billion people use open fires or simple stoves fuelled by kerosene, biomass (wood, animal dung and crop waste) and coal. It further said that each year, close to four million people die prematurely from illness linked to household air pollution from inefficient cooking practices using polluting stoves paired with solid fuels and kerosene.
Household air pollution causes non-communicable diseases including stroke, ischaemic heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer. Close to half of deaths due to pneumonia among children less than five years of age are caused by particulate matter inhaled from household air pollution, the ICEED stated.
In 2015, ex-President Goodluck Jonathan initiated a project on “Clean Stove for Rural Women scheme” contract of about N9.287 bn.
However, a report by The PUNCH in 2016 stated that over three trailer loads of gas stoves allegedly purchased as election gifts by Jonathan’s campaign team were abandoned and locked up in the velodrome of the National Stadium, Abuja, for about two years.
If the project was transparently executed, women in rural areas such as Oko Mi would be saved from the stress and health challenges associated with cooking with firewood.
Statistics show that an estimated 100 million Nigerians still lack basic sanitation facilities and 63 million do not have access to an improved source of drinking water. Open defecation is still practised by about a third of the rural population. Some 12 per cent of the urban population also practice open defecation.
In rural areas, only about 42 per cent of households have access to safe water. Oko Mi community, like many others, has no access to potable water.
According to the WHO and UNICEF, women and girls are responsible for collecting water in eight out of every 10 households with water-off premises. This is the case with Oko Mi and neighbouring communities and many other females who live in communities without potable water.
Usman said, “The government has abandoned us because we have nothing in this community. No good road, water, electricity, school and health centre. Life here is really terrible.
“We have no water in the community except for a few people who now have boreholes and they are usually not around. The river from where we fetch water is far and hilly.’’
Titilayo also lamented the tough life they go through daily in the community. She said, “There is no electricity in the community. I travel to Iju to buy the fish. I can’t count how many times I have fallen off bikes.’’
Also, UNICEF has attributed poor access to improved water and sanitation in Nigeria as a major contributing factor to high morbidity and mortality rates among children under five. It added that the use of contaminated drinking water and poor sanitary conditions result in increased vulnerability to water-borne diseases, including diarrhoea leading to deaths of more than 70,000 children under five annually.
The Otun-Kabiyesi of Oko Mi, Waliu Usman, said the community had been in existence for over 20 years with some other communities under it.
Usman said, “We are farmers in this community; it’s not merchandised farming. We use our cutlasses and hoes. Even when it is time to take the crops out to sell, transportation is usually a major challenge. Our road is terribly bad.
“The communities under the community are Ilogbo, Ore Akinde, Abule- Egun, Akinleye. In Oko mi, we have over 5,000 people in this community. We don’t have roads. We organised to grade the road. The primary school in the community is an intervention by a private company. We have no hospital, electricity and potable water.
“It is one of the gas companies with projects in our community that we approached to do a community project for us. They offered us money but we rejected it and told them to help us build a school and hospital. There is a new project; it’s a hospital project by the company.
“The stress our children go through is horrendous. We aren’t that educated but we don’t want the same situation for our children. That’s why we are pleading with the government to assist us with the basic amenities.’’
Besides, the Akinrogun of Oko Mi, Ismail Folarin, said that many of them were battling eye problems because of the constant use of firewood for cooking.
He stated, “Firewood is our only means of food preparation. Smoke disturbs our eyes. Thankfully, we use herbs to sustain ourselves.”
Folarin also complained that lack of water had been a major source of problem leading to ailments among the residents.
He added, “People are down with leg pain, hand pain and other ailments. During the rainy season, people usually come down with ailments. We have discovered that polluted water is responsible for most of the ailments.
“Also, Fulani herdsmen have messed up our water. They usually take cattle to drink from the same river. We are now usually scared of drinking the water. We sometimes try to get water from houses of one or two people with boreholes in the community.
“The government has abandoned us in this community. It’s a firm that is carrying out a hospital project in the area. We have asked the government to help us make arrangements for doctors but nothing has been done. They keep telling us to bring letters.’’
Govt, IBEDC react
When contacted, the state Commissioner for Community Development and Cooperatives, Ganiyu Hamzat, said he was neither aware of the existence of the community nor its challenges.
Hamzat said, “I don’t know the community. How do I know the community among the 9,000 community development areas in Ogun State? There are many CDAs in the state. What I can tell you is to write a letter listing the challenges in the community and address it to my office.’’
He thereafter said he was busy and hung up when our correspondent told him the call was to get his reaction on the community’s state.
Also, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Tomi Coker, had yet to reply to calls nor replied to a text message sent to his mobile as of press time.
Besides, the Special Adviser on Education, Science and Technology, Prof. Joseph Odemuyiwa, also said he was not aware of the community.
He requested our correspondent to send him a text message on the challenges facing the community. He had yet to respond as of press time.
On the power outage in the community, Spokesperson for Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company in charge of power distribution in the area, Angela Olanrewaju, said she was unaware of the community, noting that rural electrification was in charge of electricity in rural communities.
Olarenwaju said, “I don’t know the community and the way electricity happens is this, there is what we call rural electricity. It’s not that of the distribution companies. There is an agency under the ministry of power that handles rural electrification. There are certain things that will happen, then we will energise them.
“Every community that has electricity goes through what is known as rural electrification process. That is the first step before such a community will be connected to the grid. It is the one that connects communities and provides infrastructure before we now connect them to the grid. Such is not peculiar to that community.”
On her part, the Lead, Media Relations, IBEDC, Busolami Tunwase however said she was aware of the challenges of the community. She added that some representatives from the community recently visited the firm’s office to complain about the electricity problem in the community.
Tunwase said, “They are not connected to the national grid which is not in any way a fault of ours. It has been so before IBEDC came on board. The problem is not particular to that community. There are many communities not connected to the national grid. That was why the Federal Government introduced the Rural Electrification Agency to attend to such needs. It takes care of rural communities such as Oko-Mi.’’
She noted that the firm had plans to expand its network, adding, “For now, they can go through the Rural Electrification Agency to make the process faster.’’
All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from PUNCH.
The post One town, many troubles: Ogun community without health facilities, electricity, others appeared first on Healthwise.