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MWAN urges govt to bring succour to IDPs



Dr. Iyabode Tijani

AS part of its effort to improve the health status of displaced families in the country, the Medical Women Association of Nigeria (MWAN) of Lagos chapter under the aegis of Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and Medical Women International Association (MWIA) at the weekend converged on Lagos for its 19th Biennial Conference and Annual General Meeting (AGM).

The philanthropic, professional and non-governmental organisation had its theme focused on ‘Internally -Displaced Persons: Health and Socio-Economic Impact’.

It is basically looking after deprived people that have been affected by natural phenomenon and provide support for them as well as handing over the baton of leadership.

According to United Nations report on Internally displacement, Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) are people or groups of people, who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular, as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalised violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border.

The outgoing president, MWAN, Dr. Iyabode Tijani explained: “We have named it after one of our past presidents, Board of Trustees, Dr. Irene Thomas. That is why we named it 19th Dr. Irene Thomas conference. Of course, she is late. She was one of the founding members. She was the pillar. Over the years, we bring topical issues such as the ones we have just heard, the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).

Any body in Nigeria at this very moment can have no better knowledge of the topic. That is what we have been doing over the years and as medical doctors, we are supposed to continually and continuously update our knowledge.

Aside from topical issues, our conferences, it can also be our biennial conference; we have other topics that serve as continued medical education for our members. We had all of that yesterday. Most importantly also, at the end of today, there will be change of baton. I will be handing over to the new president. That is what the occasion is about. It is a tradition.

We have national, Lagos State branch. This is Lagos State branch; we have about thirty branches now that have continued to grow. Even in the north now, we have many of the states that are active. So what they do, once the national changes baton, states are supposed to go back within the short time, and hand over to each other too. We were in Awka in Anambra state to do the national one about two weeks ago and this for Lagos State.

Speaking on the association impact on the government and health sector, she added: “We have always been at the forefront on health issues. We are always there, for example, internationally, nationally and the state, cancer screening are permanent features of medical. If we go into histories, all these NGOs that are springing out, talking about cancers, we are the professionals that started it. We are at the forefront, we understand it better. Even in Lagos state at our secretariat in Market Street, it is a continuous programme. People go there to be screened cervical cancer.

We are also concerned about the health of children. We always do programmme. In my tenure, we started the MWAN PT FORUM; it is to focus on our children and getting the teachers and children under one umbrella. So we do it on Parents’ Teachers’ Association (PTA) meeting days to join them together, we educate parents to always be there to monitor their children and what they do not know and what they should know”.

“During this biennium, we also screen scholars. We do some screening for primary school.
“Actually, the international motto means ‘Healing with the love of a Mother’. So, we are very particular about children and women and of course we are not leaving out the men but our focus is more on that and over the years, we have been working to pay attention to the girl child and I think it is improving; the level of awareness is improving. We have always been at the forefront of health issues and it is a way of doctors giving back to the society.”

However, Tijani who advised the government to show more concern on the IDPs added: “It has been said all over and you know our practice, we do not just look at symptoms, you cannot manage your patients when you just look at symptoms and signs, you must find the cause because that is when you can treat properly.

So, firstly, is to deal with the cause. It is also in medical issue because the medical problem that will arise from it will continue and it is overwhelming. It will continue until the country and the world at large deal with the causes of terrorism that we are able to contain and then that will bring us to the fallout of terrorism.
“These IDPs need to be more organized; government is trying, we know but it is overwhelming and that shows that we must continually be on our toes and plan for such emergencies and in fact, this is now living with us and we cannot call it an emergency.

And from our own point of view, we expect that the government should be able to provide more adequate medical services. And when we talk of services, first on the list is the medical person. Yes, we must be able to attract medical personnel to decide to be able to take care of these people, provide what is needed and one of it even if their commendations are made, they can be more comfortable so that there would not be disease outbreak.

In my report, the MWAN started their project, we call it the Projector. It is all the states that are funding it. One of the things we did was to construct boreholes in these IDPs camps because we understand and we know that when we have disease outbreaks, it is too overwhelming. It is better we prevent it.
“So when we visited at the national level and found out that there is no water, we took it upon our selves and of course it is small compared to what is needed.
“So government should do more, yes, organization will come in but we trickle in bits and there is a little more to what government can do, so it must be a policy issue.”

Meanwhile the outgoing president highlighted the other health programmes implemented by the association during the biennium; Breast and Cervical cancer screening at Market street, Ebute-metta, Lagos, Interactive sessions with parents and teachers in secondary schools, Ebola awareness/hand washing campaigns, Health screening for primary school children, Reaching out to the deaf Women Association in Lagos and others.

Also speaking at the event, Assistant Zonal Co-ordinator, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), Southwest, Adebiyi Babatunde explained that irrespective of the cause of displacement, the phenomenon always leaves negative health and socio-economic footprints on millions of people nationwide.
He further enumerated the effects and other impacts of displacement as psychosocial effect like trauma, deficiency in quality of life, vulnerability to health hazards, local competition for resources and loss of lives and properties.

He added that those mostly affected are the women and children, the aged and disabled.
“However, some of these women and children may have experience sexual violence during the course of displacement, maybe due to insurgency”, he added.

He further said that some studies indicates that from 60 per cent upward of IDP women in the northern part of Nigeria has been victims of rape and sexual abuse, thereby leaving them exposed and prone to sexually transmitted diseases.
Babatunde urged the government to address the root cause of the issue.

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