In Sokoto today, the Society of Gynecology and Obstetrics of Nigeria (SOGON), which is holding its 51st annual general meeting and scientific conference there, will confer an award on Governor Ibrahim Gaidam for the progress that Yobe has made in maternal, newborn and child care.
This award is significant for many reasons. First, although data has shown a global decrease in the ratio of maternal deaths from 380 per 1, 000 livebirths to 210 per 1, 000 livebirths from 1990 to 2013, maternal and child health is still a concern, especially in northern Nigeria, which had some of the most dismal statistics. Cultural factors may have something to do with this but across the region, healthcare infrastructure and investments have still yet to measure up.
Second, in the North-east, where Yobe state is located, years of Boko Haram’s ruthless insurgency has hit women and children with particular ferocity. They are often the worst affected when tragedy struck, and they are likelier than most to shoulder the burden when a Boko Haram attack displaces a community, say, or when family heads were killed.
These and other factors have made it harder to rein in those disturbing maternal and child health statistics. And although it is difficult to quantify, the costs to lives and livelihoods are better imagined.
But thanks to the effort of the Gaidam administration, a better picture is emerging across Yobe state. Incentives and investments now ensure that more women and children are reporting in hospitals and clinics for medical care and routine checkups. Government’s free drug policy for pregnant women and children from zero to five years is helping many families and improved childbirth survival rates.
More women are now better poised to contribute to the economies of their individual families and children to enroll and remain in school because of improved health statuses.
The Gaidam administration has also made significant leaps in immunization and the effort to roll back vaccine-preventable diseases, such as polio, measles, tuberculosis, tetanus, diphtheria, etc. Working with local and international partner organizations, the Yobe State Government has improved overall vaccine coverage in communities across the state. For more than three years because of these efforts, there is not a single case of polio reported anywhere in the state.
In video conference meetings held in Damaturu and Kano during the year, both co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates and Chairman of Dangote Foundation, Aliko Dangote, who are some of Yobe’s partners in immunization and child health, have commended the Gaidam government for their commitment to rooting out polio and other child killer diseases.
When he starts to enjoy the rest that he so richly deserves after an eventful two terms in office by May 2019, Governor Gaidam can look back to the accomplishments of his administration with great pride.
The governor’s effort has led to the largest healthcare investments in Yobe’s 26-year-old history. The state now boasts of one of the best teaching hospitals in the country. With some of the best medical equipment of any government hospital and hundreds of well trained professionals, the Yobe University Teaching Hospital (YSUTH) is on course to curb medical tourism and make Yobe the healthcare hub of the North-east.
Across the state, too, Gaidam is making healthcare more accessible to the people by the reconstruction and expansion of at least six general hospitals in Damagum, Potiskum, Jakusko, Gashu’a, Gaidam and Dapchi. Some of these hospitals had never been renovated since their establishment in the 1970s.
In addition to the ones already provided with new medical equipment, the Gaidam administration has approved hundreds of millions of naira to equip the three major hospitals in Gashu’a, Gaidam and Potiskum as reconstruction, renovation and expansion works are completed. Already, the three hospitals have started taking deliveries of state-of-the-art equipment.
The governor has also upgraded the State Specialists Hospital, Damaturu from 150-bed capacity to 400-bed capacity hospital. The significant uptick in outpatient visits to around 28, 000 per month since January 2017 at the specialist hospital is indicative of the progress in patient care.
Governor Gaidam has also recorded a first by establishing a College of Medical Sciences at the Yobe State University. While some had greeted the idea of the medical college with some skepticism when it was mooted over three years ago, the governor has convinced the Doubting Thomases and Tanimus that he meant business.
As construction of the medical college complex is completed and equipment and furniture ordered, Yobe is set to begin the training of its own indigenous corps of medical doctors and professionals. There is no question that returns on this investment will be significant and far reaching.
In the medium to long term, for instance, Yobe will have no need to recruit expatriate medical personnel. Presently, as part of the governor’s effort to ensure that all major hospitals have doctors, nurses and other professionals available to patients, about 18 doctors were recruited from Egypt. Over 400 other doctors and professionals from across the country were recruited recently as YSUTH rolled out clinical services.
All told, Governor Gaidam will go down in history as the leader who has modernized and prioritized Yobe’s healthcare sector above anyone else and directly impacted the lives of the people for many years to come. It is also fitting that the governor can achieve this while doing remarkably well in other areas.
Under Gaidam’s watch, for example, the Yobe State Government has always paid the salaries of its workers and pensions and gratuities of its retirees without fail. It has built nearly 1, 200 kilometers of road. It has rebuilt and rehabilitated many primary and secondary schools, after many of them were razed or vandalized by Boko Haram insurgents. It has set up new irrigation schemes in the Nguru Lake area and in Boloram and Mugura Garin Gada, and it has improved access to clean, potable water across the state.
These and other interventions of the Gaidam administration are clear markers of progress and are certainly the reason that SOGON is logging in from the Seat of the Caliphate today to give credit where credit is deserved.
Bego is Governor Gaidam’s spokesman and writes from Damaturu