Nigerians would attest to the fact that the regime of darkness, which is now the hallmark of national existence, has been with us for as long anyone could remember. In fact, no one would readily recall when last any part of the country had uninterrupted power supply for 24 hours on any given day. The situation is so awkward that not many Nigerians look ever forward to having electricity on daily basis. Mentally and psychologically, Nigerians are coming to grips with the reality of living their everyday existence without power and would paradoxically express bewilderment anytime there is light. For any well-organised society, the daily lack of electricity is enough to galvanise the citizens on nationwide protest against the authorities. Incidentally, those in charge of providing electricity in Nigeria have lured the citizens into false sense of complacency in the face of rising odds and incompetence.
Given this scenario, the citizens are paying a high price in terms of health care. Moreover, such inefficiency has succeeded in hobbling the country’s health related infrastructures. Today, majority of our public hospitals, clinics, mental homes and other health institutions suffer from acute lack of power, which has affected not only morale of the personnel but also the equipment. A visit to any of our health institutions would reveal the pervasive deterioration and decay within the environment. It is not unusual to find imported expensive medical equipment rotting away due to lack of electricity to put them to maximum and beneficial use.
Even when there is power, the voltage is so low and intermittent that much of the equipments become prone to malfunctioning, thereby defeating the purposes for which they were purchased. Invariably, such situation has forced the health institutions to rely more on manual ways of rendering service, thereby affecting the cost of healthcare. Ironically, while our health institutions are forced to resorting to prehistoric mode of service delivery, the consequences are being felt by the poor who now find it difficult to avail of their services due to rising costs.
Invariably, initiatives to prevent and treat noncommunicable diseases are also facing huge challenges, given that essential devices, such as electrocardiograms and mammograms, require significant electricity supply capacity. In addition, the country’s immunisation policy also faces an energy challenge given the limited vaccine refrigeration capacity. In the face of high costs and increasing poverty, many Nigerians are resorting to unorthodox medicine, faith healers and quacks to seek cure for their health challenges. In the process, many Nigeria are known to have lost their lives at the hands of untrained and unprofessional health care givers.
Incidentally, the rich who can afford the costs of health delivery are leaving in droves to countries with well-equipped and functional health institutions. Such medical tourism is responsible for the relentless capital flight that has been depleting the country’s foreign reserves. Investigations reveal that more than 30,000 Nigerians engage in medical tourism every year, at the whopping cost of $1.2billion annually.
Paradoxically, while Nigeria has the largest number of medical practitioners among Africans in the Diaspora, she has not been able to provide the enabling environment for them to come home. All this boils down to lack of constant electricity. Until, the authorities solve the problem of power shortage, its absence will continue to militate against the nation’s advancement in all spheres of endeavour.