Meningitis: Immunization in FCT, medicine after death
As early as 7 am last Tuesday, they began to stroll into the compound of the Chief of Durumi 1 community in the Apo district of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The community shares neighbourhood with the headquarters of the Living Faith Church and the famous Apo legislative quarters, but like most of other shanties around the seat of power, Durumi 1 does not share the kind of affluence associated with areas around it.
With tattered, dusty road plied by commercial motorcyclists, Durumi1 is surrounded by dirty gutters that force one to breath intermittently. The palace of the chief recorded unprecedented visitors on that day, the people have not come to pay him homage or for some heritage day celebration. The adults among them wore long faces, while children mostly in in school uniforms tag along and the little babies were either on the arms of their mothers or strapped on their backs.
Some of the children jumped, as they walk beside their mothers oblivious of the happenings around them. It was a day of mourning for the entire community. A family in the community had just lost one of their children; Adayilo Sunday.
Adayilo had woken up on Thursday, 23rd March 2017 without any sign of ailment. With excitement, he had dressed up to go to school at the Solite Academy centre, where he was in primary one until his death. His mother popularly referred to as ‘Mama Precious’ by neighbours had
got the six-year old ready, packed his launch box, which comprised of rice and water, and off he left for school in company of his elder ones and those sharing compound with them.
But in a twist of fate at about 10 am, his eldest sibling came running back home that his kid brother was sick. Adayilo was brought home and that disrupted other activities for the day. The first suspect was malaria, so like the practice among Nigerians, some off the shelf malaria drugs were procured and administered, but there was no improvement. Later he complained about stomach upset and another drug administered, but there was no improvement. Later it graduated into sore throat associated with neck pain. As his situation grew worse, measles was suspected and some drugs were administered. Few minutes past mid-day, Adayilo was dead.
Mama Precious, a pap seller was soaked in tears when she made an attempt to share her experience. In an interview with The Guardian, the father of the boy, Sunday Chezhiwo said another pupil was affected in the same school with his son and some in other schools in the community. This raised the question if the deaths can really be said to have been caused by meningitis or there was need for further medical probes to ascertain the true cause of the death of the young boy.
He said his son’s neck was not stiff as it is accustomed with meningitis. The bereaved father urged close monitoring of schools in the FCT and a probe into the death of the innocent children. He, however, declined to take The Guardian to the house of the other bereaved family, as the father of the child was not in the right frame of mind to talk like he did.
His words, “The schools should be asked questions, why children who left home healthy came back sick and died within few hours. Government should be alive to its responsibilities, the Chief had been calling health officials since this terrible heat began for them to come and give us the immunization they now gave, but no one answered. Now that two children are dead, they now came.
“I remember we used to be given all these immunizations in primary and secondary schools back then. Now that we have advanced technologically, why are we going backward instead of forward.”
When asked if he is aware that overcrowded environment and lack of cross ventilation are major causes of the condition, he maintained that they have been living in the community, as far as he could remember and ask rhetorically if it is now meningitis has just discovered their community.
Dirty gutters surround his compound like all others in the community. The entrance door to the sitting room is the only opening, there were no windows, but he insisted that the fan in the 10×12 sitting room is sufficient for them and besides they usually open the door at night for air.
The bacteria, Neisseria meningitides are a major cause of Cerebral Spinal Meningitis (CSM). Symptoms of the disease include stiff neck, high fever, rash, vomiting headache and confusion.
The Chief of the community, Yohana Shando claimed he is not aware of any death as a result of CSM in the community.
He told The Guardian that it is only health officials that can say if the cause of death of the affected children was
meningitis or not.
Attempt to speak with health workers too proved abortive as each of them insisted that they are not permitted to speak to the press. The heat in the FCT in the last few weeks has been unprecedented. Residents had complained that they have not witnessed such harsh weather in their years in the city. Abuja is yet to experience rain this year and the power supply in the area has become epileptic.
One of the health workers said they began the immunization process on Sunday and have been to Durumi 2 and Durumi 3, communities that share same features as
Durumi 1. The workers were given less than 1,400 dosages of injection and with the densely populated Durumi 1; it is yet to be ascertained how the few injection provided would go round the people.
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