In Kwara, residents abandon government clinics for herbalist, ‘mummy’ midwife
Kehinde Adebayo, as is his wont, speaks boastfully of his traditional medical practice. His pride is rooted in the curious fact that Egosi and Odo-owa families seeking care for their pregnant women prefer him to the community healthcentres. “Most times I take three deliveries in a night,” he told our correspondent. “I’ll handle one, my wife and eldest son will handle the two others.”
Mr Adebayo, aged and popularly called Baba Apiri, is described by residents as a ‘renowned herbalist” who specialises in child delivery.
Handling child delivery without any licence or any formal training in obstetrics, Mr Adebayo does not use hand gloves, he said, not even after attending a health seminar reportedly organised by the Oke-Ero Local Government Area of Kwara State in which Egosi and Odo-owa are located.
Justifying his not using hand gloves, the old herbalist said, “There are times one needs to recite some incantations on the bare palm before touching the pregnant women’s private parts.”
So, in his own way, he exposes himself, the mother and the foetus or baby to risks of possible blood contamination that could have been prevented by hand gloves.
Apart from exposing himself to health risks, he also endangers
This amounts to endangering his life alongside that of mother and the foetus as hand gloves are meant to prevent contamination of blood or body tissues.
Nevertheless, Mr Adebay remains popular and well-patronised by residents who described him as “a renowned herbalist”. This brings to fore the state of the community healthcentres in Egosi and Odo-owa. The facilities are in deplorable conditions, lacking both human and material working resources, thereby making Mr Adebayo popular.
But the state of the healthcentres in Egosi and Odo-owa has not made a hero in the old herbalist alone. There is also a heroine, a woman operating within the premises of Christ Apostolic Church in the town, just within a walking distance of one of the healthcentres. She’s popularly called ‘Mummy’ but her real name is Janet Oyelowo.
Mummy said she had received training in midwifery. Though supposedly trained midwife, she is limited in terms of manpower and facilities. She handles child deliveries alone, except with the assistance of a friend and all she has got in her pharmaceutical box are anti-malaria drugs.
“When they come for deliveries like that, we test them for malaria parasite and we treat them,” she said. “That’s all.”
But when there are complications, she said her patients would be transferred to the general hospital, some nine kilometres away from her house. “By the Grace of God, we don’t usually have many complications,” she replied in reacting to a question on the referral statistics.
However, despite the dangerous gaps and unskilled methods in the practices of Baba Apiri and Mummy, the testimonies from residents of Egosi-Odo-Owa have been positive.
Morenikeji, a pregnant mother of two kids, explained how she gave birth to her two children at Mummy’s residence without complications.
“This pregnancy will also be delivered at Mummy’s house,” she said, smiling as she touched her belly.
State of the healthcentres
During our visits to four healthcentres in Oke-Ero local government, reports from the Community Health Officers (CHO) showed that most of the healthcentres have not recorded any child delivery for the three months.
Mrs Folashade Olokundu at Odo-Owa primary healthcare centre, PHC, pointed at the Church area when asked for the number of deliveries taken in the last three months. “That’s where the pregnant women in this town visit. They go to the mid-wife over there.”
It is the same situation at Egosi, where the old herbalist resides. The CHO in-charge of Egosi clinic, Mr Matthew Ajolaogun attested to the boom of the herbalist’s business at the expense of the clinic. “They’ve abandoned the clinic for the herbalist’s home, close-by.”
However, the clinics are in deplorable conditions. There’s a lack of health personnel, water facility and clean toilets in the health centres. “The borehole outside is no longer functional. There is no water in the toilet,” Mrs Olukundu said.
During our visit, early April, just one health officer and two health officers were reported for duty at Odo-Owa and Egosi PHCs respectively.
Moreover, added to the absence of necessary equipment, the health facility at Egosi is unkempt. On a tour of the centre, it was discovered that the rooms were dusty and dirty as a result of uncleanliness on the part of the officers. That negated the neatness expected in a health facility.
Uncompleted buildings used as healthcentres
Kajola health centre and Iloffa healthcentres, established a year ago, are products of the agitations for healthcentres in the communities. These health posts commenced health care delivery on the finances of the communities. As promised by the local government through the health department. the government will take over by sending health personnel and providing of drugs. But they have reneged.
However, both health facilities are substandard in comparison to the minimum requirements set by National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHDA) in 2017.
The building used in Kajola is an uncompleted one – yet to be plastered, without ceilings, windows and doors. Nuibat Sulu, who is in-charge of the centre, complained of the unavailability of drugs and necessary facilities.
“Even this uncompleted building is a rented one,” Ms Sulu disclosed.
That of Iloffa was donated by the king of the town but the limitations to quality healthcare dispensation in Iloffa are the lack of necessary equipment. According to the CHO, Mayowa Agboola; “The BP apparatus is not okay and the only bed in the PHC was borrowed from the cottage hospital.”
The need for a good building and necessary medical equipment and facilities are what these health officers are clamouring for when quizzed.
Health director speaks
The Director of Health in Oke-Ero LGA, Motunrayo Ibrahim, decried the activities of uncertified individuals, who parade themselves as birth attendants and handle child deliveries in their homes without a government permit,
She said she knew a quack nurse in a community, Ayedun. She said she reported to the king of the town who did not object to a legal action.
Spaking on the process of obtaining a licence to operate, she explained: “Such person will have to tender his/her certificate, go through a test and we will issue a license of operations.”
“Even with the government’s efforts, it is left for the communities and residents to reject those quacks. Many patronize them and that’s risky.” She added.
Against the claims of Baba Apiri, about him attending health seminars organized in the LGA, Mrs Ibrahim denied such. “No health seminar has been organized for birth attendants talk less of quacks by the government.”
On the deterioration of some facilities in the health centres and the lack of personnel, she confirmed that none of the health centres at the moment has access to a good water source as well as some needs in these clinics.
Like the lamentations of other local governments in the state, Oke-Ero LGA is as well financially handicapped to respond to the needs in the health sector, the director said.
“The health centres in Kajola and Iloffa have not been in a good condition because the government only supplied insufficient health officers and not medical equipment and facilities.”