Experts alert to COVID-19 induced health crisis in Kano
Stakeholders have alerted to the neglect of other health care services and patients with chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, stroke, heart failure and kidney damage in most hospitals in Kano State due to the emergence of COVID-19.
They said although COVID-19 is receiving massive attention in the state, there is concern the massive war being deployed to clear out the pandemic in Nigeria is gradually reducing the focus on other peculiar healthcare challenges. The development, the stakeholders said, if not urgently addressed, may degenerate to another wave of outbreak, deadlier than COVID-19.
Founder, Women Reproductive Health Foundation, Barrister Aisha Ali Tijani, raised concern over the level of damage occasioned by COVID-19 pandemic on women especially those in the rural communities in Kano. Tijani lamented that government attention has completely shifted from the major predicament women regularly encounter during their reproductive period to the emergence of COVID-19, which incidentally worsen existing fragile conditions.
According to her, “Before the advent of COVID-19, our health facilities, especially the primary health centre which rural women attended more, lacked adequate needs like drugs, medical staff and enabling environment. Now with the battle against COVID-19 in the last six months, government attention has completely been diverted from other pressing health matters. This is not a welcome development and the people in the authority need to change the narrative in the interest of masses.
“Nobody is saying COVID-19 is not real but what we are saying is there are other health issues killing women and children, like malaria, maternal and child death, diabetes, hypertension and host of others on a daily basis in Kano. People with this ailment are not getting better care because of COVID-19. Government needs to improve the situation for better wellbeing of people.”
Secretary, Partnership with the Promotion of Maternal and Child Health, a non-governmental organisation, Salisu Yusuf, advocated equal funding and attention given to COVID-19 pandemic to the healthcare system in Kano. Salisu wants significant implementation of budget allocation on health to make an intended impact on the health architecture of the common man in the state.
Although Salisu applauded the increase in health allocation from 16.5 percent to 19.5 percent due to COVID-19 pandemic, he strongly hopes the said allocation would be released in good time for the intended purposes. According to him, COVID-19 shouldn’t have shifted government attention from other health matters, if the adequate provision was made for exigency needs on the health budget.
“We have seen a situation where many health matters suffered at the expense of COVID-19 in the state. The budget review in Kano has significantly improved funding on health from 16.5 percent to 19.5 percent. Incidentally, the upward increase is virtually meant to augment spending on COVID-19. While we commend the government for the increase, we hope they will look into the funding of other predicaments in the health system. What is more important again is the timely release of this fund.”
The Guardian investigation revealed rise in communicable and non-communicable diseases in Kano such as cholera and diabetes, infrastructural decay and acute shortage of health workers at both secondary and tertiary public health facilities. A visit to Murtala Muhammad Specialist Hospital Kano, one of the oldest public health facilities in Northern Nigeria, which was established over seven decades ago, showed overstretched facilities, limited bed space and old structures. The Hospital receives the highest inflow of patients on daily basis in Kano State.
Consultant Haematologist with Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano, Dr. Ibrahim Musa said that access and coverage of universal healthcare in the country have always suffered required attention regardless of the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic. Musa who believed no amount of dedicated management of COVID-19 would be too much-maintained management of pandemic globally required sufficient human and material resources.
He, however, raised concern on what he considered as perennial neglect and negligence of the government on the universal healthcare sector.
Musa explained: “People need to understand that COVID-19 is a pandemic and may not go any time soon. If the government reduces or shifts attention from COVID-19, the pandemic will eventually destroy other areas of health and economy. I don’t think shifting attention from COVID-19 is the solution. For me, I think the solution is to give equal attention to other health matters. Now, we have schools closed in the last seven months, where is the budget on education throughout this period? What do you use this reason for? Government can afford to allocate these resources to other areas of health to argue the deficiencies. So the problem is not COVID-19, rather it is our own perennial lack of investment in our health sector. You visit the hospital, you can’t even have a good laboratory system, you can’t do good X-ray, no quality care and that’s the problem. And the problem is not just emerging as a result of COVID-19; it has been around for a long period of no investment in health. What are they doing with the fund and how much was released.”
Efforts to speak with the Commissioner for Health in Kano, Dr. Aminu Ibrahim Tsanyawa, were not successful. The commissioner did not respond to several calls and text messages. A visit to the ministry for the same purpose also proved fruitless because of his absence. However, the commissioner during one of his public comments on COVID-19 at government houses disclosed that the state was adopting home base care management on COVID-19 patients. The major reason, according to the commissioner, was to reduce the burden on other equal pressing health challenges in the state. He said the paradigm shift would enable the health workers to concentrate on peculiar health matters in the public facilities.
Meanwhile, before the wave of COVID-19 in the country, for instance, a check by The Guardian indicated that maternal mortality remained a major risk for women of childbearing age in Kano. In 2018, Nigeria bore 14 percent of the global burden of maternal mortality with increasing ratio despite efforts to reduce the impact. Available records indicate that more than 50 percent cases of maternal and child mortality occur in Kano, despite the free antenatal and maternity care that the Kano state government operates.
Also, The Guardian investigation revealed malaria is another common enemy and public health burden in Kano. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Nigeria suffers the world’s greatest malaria burden, with approximately 57 million cases and 95,844 deaths reported annually, about 30 percent of the total malaria burden in Africa. Investigation showed malaria transmission is endemic in Kano with 32 percent prevalence of the national figure.
Also, The Guardian investigation revealed Kano is vulnerable to seasonal epidemics that mostly threaten several lives especially the teenagers. In 2019, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) placed Kano state with the highest number of local government areas classified as highly prone to Cholera outbreak. With the use of new geospatial mapping of cholera hotspots in Nigeria, Kano has 27 Local Government Areas (LGAs) on the chart.
The Guardian investigation also revealed the threat of malnutrition is another critical challenge in Kano. Presently, about two million children in Kano are prone to death as a result of acute malnutrition. According to Multiple Cluster Survey conducted by Civil Society-Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN), recently, in Kano, children between six to 23 months lack adequate and basic care to sustain their required nutrient in Kano.
Also, The Guardian investigation showed tuberculosis remains a major public health problem in Kano. Statistics have shown Nigeria with an estimated prevalence of 616 cases per 100,000 just as the country ranks first in Africa and fourth among the 22 high TB burden countries in the world. It is on record that 460,000 cases of TB are reported yearly in Nigeria. Investigation showed Kano ranks second among high burden states with TB in the country, next to Lagos.
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