By Ndidi Chukwu
Political violence in Rivers State, one of the state considered the hub of politics in Nigeria is burdening the health system of Rivers, the state government said Tuesday. Health workers in two state-run hospitals alone have reported at least 41 gunshot injuries and 26 machete injuries in the last two months, exceeding the total cases the state has witness since the Ebola virus disease, avian flu and cholera combined. Rivers health commissioner Dr Samson Parker told the National Council on Health Meeting in Abuja that all the cases were “due to political activities and clashes.”
In a presentation to the council—the highest policymaking body for health in Nigeria—he said electoral violence is becoming an epidemic that needed a redefinition.
“There is an epidemic coming up—more than Ebola [virus disease], avian flu and cholera. In two months alone, we have had 41 gunshot injuries, not to talk about the mortality and unconfirmed reports,” he said. He later told journalists: “I am receiving too many people coming in trauma—due to gunshot injury, machete [injury], and when you take history, they will tell you they are coming from one political rally and somebody attacked them. It affects the system.”
“My target is to have a state that is able to offer quality health care services to all irrespective of the party they represent, be it APC or PDP, I don’t care, I am not a politician, this is just pre-election violence, tell me what will be the State of Hospitals during the election and post-election”
This is the first time the council, which convenes health commissioners, held after at least two emergency meetings last year in the wake of Ebola outbreak in the country.
But only half the number of commissioners around the country attended the meeting in Abuja, with nearly half of them delegating attendance to a permanent secretary or some other representative. But Parker said the poor attendance of some health commissioners could be due to the election campaigns where most of the commissioners are supporting their candidates for campaign. The council deliberated on the National Health Act, signed into law last December, alongside the Saving One Million Lives Initiate, redesigned action by paying for results rather than processes, according to health minister Khaliru Alhassan.
A memo before the council indicates the redesigned programme will be funded from a $500 Million international development assistance negotiated with the World Bank.
The council also evaluated national preparedness plan against Ebola, and new direction toward health insurance systems, said Alhassan. He added the meeting was “opportunity for us to respond to any new threats to our health system such as the current H5N1 epidemic and the challenge to the sustainability of the Midwives Service Scheme programme and to design the way forward.