Abandoned health centres: Imo communities battle needless diseases, pains

For residents of Ikpeze and Ndianiche Uno communities in the Ideato federal constituency of Imo State, their anticipated dividends of democracy has been turned into a forlorn hope.

Two primary health care centres which ought to alleviate the health crisis in both communities by providing a basic, affordable and accessible health care are in a state of disrepair.

The development has led to anguish for members of the community, who often have to go as far as Orlu and Owerri to access medical care. The trip is a burden to the less privileged and pregnant women in both communities.  Many people have died from travelling long distances for medical care, The Nation learnt.

“The situation is hard for pregnant women. Many deliver babies on the road and they end up with complications. We have recorded cases of pregnant women who died while trying to birth babies because they didn’t get medical attention on time. We have a serious problem here, our people are suffering”,  Mrs. Alice Okafor, the woman leader of the community lamented.


Overtaken by weeds and thistles


In Ndianiche Uno, weeds and thistles have taken over the bungalow supposedly commissioned to be the site of a model primary health centre.  Conceived as a constituency project attracted by Bar Patricia Udogu, a former house of rep member who represented the Ideato federal constituency from 2003 to 2007, the building is in a colossal state of abandonment.  Giant grasses have overgrown the site so much that one would need to stand on a pedestal to peep into the shattered state of the bungalow.

Abandoned since 2008, the modest structure has faded into an unpleasant sight of taxpayers money put to waste. The wood used to support the roofing of the house is already falling apart. The abandoned Ndianiche Uno health centre in its present state has been turned into a habitation for rodents and reptiles.

The sponsor of the project, Hon Patricia Ndogu who spoke with The Nation from London, where she is now based, said the project, which she started, was expected to have been completed by her successor.

“As at 2008 when I was out of the national assembly, I made efforts and got it to the point it was but since the person that came after me was from another local government, he was not interested in following it up until the project was stopped by the national assembly.”

Dismissing the claim that the project was not completed because the contractor handling the construction was not paid, she held that the contractors were not supposed to be paid up front.

“If I was there, I would have moved for it to be finished but if you are not there (in power), your interest is no longer protected. By the time we are talking about, I was in England doing my masters project,” the ex-PDP lawmaker intoned.

Asked for the amount which completed the project, Udogu, who also represented Nigeria in the Pan African parliament in South Africa, added that it was not in her jurisdiction to follow up with the contractor.

“I just got it as my constituency project and that was the way to go about it then. You don’t know what the budget is; you don’t even follow up with who the contractor is. The most important thing is to have it in the budget and the appropriate ministry would take care of it. All the projects I attracted, I didn’t know the contractor that handled them, I only went for the commissioning,” she said.


Ikpeze: Completed but not functional


In Ikpeze, another community in Ideato, a N20 million constituency project is about to go down the drain.

The project, a primary health centre completed in 2016, has not been open to access by residents of the community.  The contractor who handled the execution of the projected was alleged to have locked the facility up due to outstanding accumulated debts.   The modest size building painted in cream and green stands solitary in an expense of land surrounded by weeds and bushes. The signage showed the project was constructed in 2010.  As at the time of going to press, the structure has not been functional, thereby depriving members of the community access to a needed lifeline.

When reached on phone about the non-functional state of the health centre, Hon Mbadiwe  Dr Eddie Mbadiwe, the  former law maker who attracted the project heaped the blame of the non-functional state of the health centre on  the Primary Health Care Development Agency.

“When I was in the National Assembly, I tried to get them to furnish the building but they did not come.  I am trying to get MTN Foundation to take it as one of their projects. I even wrote a letter to the chairman of the senate committee on health asking him to put it as one of his projects because it so sad when you finish a project and people are not using it. The most unfortunate part is that the current rep member is not interested.”

Asked if he had reached out to the present house rep member, he said: “He knows the project is there. People should put pressure on him; I don’t want to appear to be forcing him.  Many people never did their projects but at least we got this one finished. All it requires now is furnishing.”

On the actual amount the project gulped, Mbadiwe feigned ignorance, saying the contract for the health centre was awarded by the Primary Health Board Development Agency. However, BudgIT, a civic organization, under its Tracka  project, an initiative which enable people to track and give feedback on public projects in their communities, stated in a tweet that  the construction of the health centre in Ikpeze in Ideato north federal constituency  cost tax payers N20 million. The Tracka team also visited the site on the 27 June this year to examine the health facility but observed that it was under lock and key.


Citizens react…


The traditional ruler of the community, HRH Dr Eze Kanu, also bemoaned the state of the uncompleted health centres, blaming government for not failing to alleviate the plight of his people.

“The one at Ikpeze has been completed but it is not functional. Functional in the sense that it is just the building and then the contractor locked the place up and has gone away with the keys.  That of Ndianiche is completely abandoned. It has grown with bush. Incidentally, those that attracted the projects have served their terms.   The present person has not been of any help. He has not done anything as far as the community he represents is concerned”, the monarch intoned bitterly.

Reacting to how the non- implementation of the project has affected the health of people in the community, the monarch explained; “We have recorded deaths of many people who died in the course of travelling many miles for health care.  Most times, when they travel far for health care, they pay through their nose. If these two health centres are functional, then we would be relieved”.

Also, the chairman of the ward development committee for Ideato north local government area, Mr Nwakanma Azubuike, told The Nation that both projects may have been suspended owing to non-completion of payment to the contractors. He also spoke of the effort made to reach the Primary Health Care Development Agency which has not yielded fruit.

“When I called the agency, I was told the model health centre in Ikpeze was in the making.  When I called at another time, they said the minister of health was changed so they are looking at the new minister to know what they can do.  As for the one at Ndianiche Uno, I cannot say specifically, the reason why the project has been abandoned.  We go as far as Orlu and Owerri to access healthcare. There is no health facility here and our people are suffering,” Azubuike explained.

On a yearly basis, law makers carry out interventionist projects in their respective communities. These constituency projects are often smeared in allegations of corruption. Many of these projects across the country lie in despair even after billions of naira have been appropriated for their completion. In the 2016 budget, N100 billion was voted for constituency projects for the 360 members of the House of Representatives and 109 senators.  As is the case with the health centres at Ikpeze and Ndianiche Uno, many often do not see the light of the day.

Earlier this year, President Muhammadu Buhari flagged off the revitalization of 10, 000 Primary Health Care (PHC) Centres nationwide. The president emphasized that the programme would focus on the poor, especially women and children under 5 years in the rural areas of the country. For children and women in Ikpeze and Ndianiche Uno, a revitalised health care system in their communities is a miracle waiting to happen. It will no doubt be of great relief to their aching hearts and empty pockets.

  • Reporting done as part of the 2017 BudgIT Media Fellowship

The post Abandoned health centres: Imo communities battle needless diseases, pains appeared first on The Nation Nigeria.

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Author: Hannah Ojo