Residents of Ruga community in Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) are facing challenge of sound healthcare delivery as they bastrange disease affecting member of the community, especially children. DAVID ADUGE-ANI writes on this disease and efforts beingmade towards ameliorating it.
Ruga community is located close to the Abuja City Gate, along the Airport Road. It is lying directly behind the National Park. This is a community with about 3,000 residents, who are living in an informal and unorganized squatter settlement. LEADERSHIP gathered that most of the residents of this community are victims of Boko Haram insurgency in Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states.
These are people, who have escaped the activities of insurgency in their states and have found a new settlement in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). Our investigation also revealed the Ruga settlement is less than 10 years old, so it is believed to be one of the emerging squatter settlements in the nation’s capital. In this community there are no permanent buildings, as most of the structures are temporary and makeshift structures, put up by residents for the purpose of temporary living. There is also no single provision for any infrastructure for the area, since the area is not captured in the Abuja master plan as residential area. However in July, 2018, a nongovernmental organisation (NGO), Vaccine Network, which has adopted the community in the areas of medication, healthcare, women empowerment and children health, discovered that a 2-year-old boy of the community had problem with his eyes. The child was taken to the Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Jabi-Abuja, by the NGO and was told that one of the boy’s eye has totally gone badly and they were referred to Kaduna for further checks. At Kaduna, doctors confirmed that the boy has totally lost the two eyes to the strange disease in the community.
Founder of the nongovernmental organisation (NGO), Vaccine Network, Chika Offor, told LEADERSHIP, “So, it was when members of the community realized that we had taken one of their children to Kaduna that almost everybody in the community came out to complain of eye problems. It was then that we came to know that a lot of children and even adults in the area were having the same eye problem.” Worried by the incident, a team of doctors from public health department of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) visited the community on August 3 and 8, to carry out some medical interventions. According to the director of public health department, Dr Humphrey Okoroukwu, “When we alerted by Vaccine Network in August this year, about many people in this community were having eye problems, we quickly came here, precisely on the August 3, 2018 and again on August 08 and we carried out some medical interventions. Our experts on eye diseases said they are having allergies. But in the course of screening we identified other people with other health challenges, such as cataract, trachoma, and others.
Of course, those we could manage, we managed by giving them eye glasses, and medications, while those with cataracts and trachoma were referred to secondary health facilities for further assessment and management.” During a visit by the health team to the community, last week, Okoroukwu explained that they were in the community to find out the interventions it had carried in August, whether it is achieving the desired objectives. According to him “The minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Malam Muhammad Musa Bello, has directed that w e should come here today to find from those whom we attended to in August and to know if they are recovering and of course, if there are new cases. And also to identify other health challenges that may be affecting residents of this community. We have here represented are the WHO, Vaccine Network, FCT Health and Human Services Secretariat (HHSS) and others.”
He maintained that the administration was not taking anything for granted, concerning the health of residents of the community. He continued: The minister has also asked us to come and identify other health challenges in the community, then come back to him so that he can tackle, especially providing potable water in this community. We know that water is a very essential commodity anywhere you are. So the immediate action, which we are doing now, is screening them, conducting community diagnoses and identifying other health challenges they may have and of course we will take this message of lack of potable water back to the minister, who sent us. Certainly, I have no doubt in my mind that he would respond promptly.”
In an interview, the secretary of the community, Usman Abubakar, told LEADERSHIP that there about 35 children initially affected by this strange eye sickness, adding that the NGO has been able to reduce the number to about 20, while one boy has been confirmed blind by the sickness. Usman explained that victims of the diseases often begins by experiencing itching of the eyes and having red eyes and from there the victims would stop seeing.
“We had about 35 children affected initially by this strange sickness, but some NGOs, such as the Vaccine Network, have helped us to reduce the number of children affected by the disease. So, today we have about 20 children suffering from this disease. We have a 2-year-old child, called Buhari Suleiman, who is already blind from the sickness.” He disclosed that some of the children in the community have stopped going to school because of the problem, adding that the community also lacks potable water. The village head of the community, Dauda Dogo, noted that both children and even adults are suffering from eye problems. Dogo called for government’s assistance in providing potable water and borehole for the community and also to provide permanent place for them. Briefing newsmen on the incident, acting secretary of FCT-HHSS, Dr. Mohammed Mai, stated that the issue of providing potable water for the community is under consideration, so that it would go a long way in ameliorating the challenge. Mai disclosed that the Optometric Society of Nigeria in collaboration with department of public health would be conducting this year’s World Health Day celebration in the community, to address the issue. “Both the public health department and the FCT Primary Health Care Board (FCT-PHCB) would be conducting routine immunisation in the community and they have equally marked their activities up to the middle of next year, the same thing with the public health department,” he added.