Lamentations about Malaria

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Continuing the story of an African community battle with this disease

We keep buying anti-malarial drugs from the chemist shop in our community. We don’t know how genuine these drugs are, whether they are real, fake, sub-standard or adulterated. We say so because one week after you use them for treatment, the malaria fever returns. Fake drugs make up a big problem in my community despite government’s war to check it.  Now you are getting the message on why we are losing the war against malaria. We face so many challenges, some domestic, others beyond our control such as bad roads and failing infrastructure. They combine to weaken our defense against mosquito attacks. Our case is also worsened by the fake drugs we use to treat this disease.

I have gone several times to challenge the shop boy in our community who sells these fake drugs. We all know he is not a Pharmacist. But we still go to his shop because it is the only medicine store in our community. Occasionally when we have money, we do malaria and typhoid tests. But I suspect the man who does these tests in our community is not a qualified lab technologist. So who can help us?

The Doctor comes to our community health centre once every week. He is not resident here.  community. He lives in the city. If you go to the health centre and see the crowd of patients there on consultation days,, you will faint. You will spend a whole day there just to see a doctor and be treated  for malaria. Life is hard for us in this community. Even after seeing the Doctor, the health worker or nurse will write on your out-patient card, O/S, which means the drug is out-of-stock.

We hear of government’s Roll Back Malaria programme on radio and television. Officials say we should go to the local government or community health centres and collect free insecticide treated nets. We have gone there several times but many of our people have not been able to get nets. Health officials say they got insufficient quantity for our community which they have distributed. They advised us to go and buy these supposed free nets in the market. Who diverted these nest to the market? A facility that government said Nigerians should get for free.

We think that corruption has infiltrated this roll -back malaria programme. It is not working at full strength. Our conditions are made worse because many of our people do not have the money to buy these nets, no money to go to private clinics, no money to do lab tests. This programme  is now ultimately for the middle class and the rich. How can the poor masses benefit from this  from this public programme set up against malaria attacks.

The same story of shortage is what we also hear about getting genuine malaria drugs at our Community  Health  Centre. Health workers  tell us there are no drugs; that we should go and buy from chemist’s shop in the community. We suspect there is racket operating and those involved are all benefitting from it. This may explain why the business of the chemist shop is booming because it is the only alternative, for now, for us in this community. Life in our community is hard…no water, no light, no money, no genuine drugs, and no insecticide-treated mosquito nets. What is our Community Development Association (CDA) doing?

We took this matter up with the former Vice President of the CDA. He said the Association cannot do much now because there is no standing Executive Committee that is running the Association. Since the last executive was sacked for non-performance, nothing much is happening. And until the elders of the community meet to elect a new executive, we shall continue to suffer here. The VP wants’ to contest for the office of the President of the CDA. He says if he wins, life in the community will change for better.

But some of us do not support him. He was the VP of the sacked executive, always opposing the former President. Their quarrels polarized the former Executive Committee. They were always at each others throat and eventually the Committee was dissolved. Other communities are well organized with functional CDA’s who have gone to their local governments to press for improved welfare facilities and they are getting results. Our former VP is playing politics, going round canvassing for vote, instead of working to develop our community.

I met an elder, a retired soldier and discussed the CDA tangle with him. He agreed with my observation but insisted that the Association needs a functional Executive Committee that will go to work immediately and move the community forward. They need to work on the health centre and electric power supply. The only transformer serving our community has since broken down. The water tanker that supplies water to us, three times a week, has since stopped coming. He said that is why the Chief who operates a borehole in the community is reporting increased business, while sales in his pepper soup joint has dropped.

He observed that some elders in this community are benefiting when things don’t work. He suspects that Chief Davies is a shareholder of Chidi’s chemist shop. He overheard the store boy Chidi, telling a friend that his sales have tripled in recent times and anti-malarial tabs account for half of his profits. “We must fight these greedy elders,” I told him. “This exploitation must stop. Our people are suffering.”

(13 June 2012)


Eric Okeke is a storyteller, editor, business writer, motivational speaker and author of the best selling book: I Want a Husband. He is one of Nigeria’s most experienced financial journalists. He has published several articles in local and foreign publications and in websites such as http://www.ezinearticles.com, www.ezinearticles.com and www.writingcareer.com. He is currently running Infomedia Company, a media consulting and information marketing company. Visit his blog at http://sallywantsahusband.blogspot.com

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