Why infertility is prevalent in Benue communities

The Nigerian health care system seems to be in trouble as quacks offer medical services to patients in return for money. In this report, DOOSUUR IWAMBE x-rayed some communities in Benue State where unqualified medical practitioners through fake diagnosis are destroying the future of young women. Read the excerpts.

Mrs Dooshima Ushahemba (not real name), is a 47-year-old woman who has been married for about 15-years without a child. She told our correspondent during an exclusive interview that an abortion process that was carried out on her by a quack when she was 20-years-old put her in the condition she is today.

Born in Adikpo, a small town in kwande local government area of Benue state, Mrs Ushahemba, lamented that little did she know she was going to pay for the mistake that almost cost her life.

Narrating her ordeal, she said, “I had just left secondary school and was in this teenage kind of relationship. After I discovered that I was pregnant, I told my closest friend who took me to this particular quack that was notorious in carrying out abortion on young girls then.

‘’He gave me an anesthesia that was able to control the pains in the course of the abortion but after the whole process, my stomach started hurting after he discharge me and I got home.

I started bleeding after about some hours. My parents on seeing the blood started panicking. They rushed me to St. Ann’s Hospital where the doctors battled to save my life.

‘’After several tests were ran ion me; it was discovered that one of my fallopian tube was affected. I am reaping from the fruits of my carelessness’’, she said.

For Mrs Ushahemba, the pains and agony she had endured in the hands of her in-laws due to her inability to bear a child were immeasurable, adding that barrenness is the worst thing you can wish anyone.

‘’Sometimes, I just feel like killing myself. Marriage without children is like a death sentence.

infertility in Benue communities

“I can still remember sitting on the bus, and thinking; I’m probably not going to have children. And to hear that, you know, 20 years after you’re married is heartbreaking.

‘’One of the lowest points of my experience was crying when a close friend told me she was pregnant. They were not happy tears; they were ugly, dark green tears of incredulous jealousy.

She had only gotten married a few months earlier, I thought. I am the one who was supposed to be pregnant! As I cried to my husband, I thought, what is happening to me? What sort of demon have I become?’’ Ushahemba queried as her eyes swelled up.

Also, 30-year-old Monica Azege related how her fertility struggle began after she was misdiagnosed; treated of infection when she was suffering from just menstrual cramps.

Mrs Azege, from Katsina-Ala local government area of Benue state, said that having taken loads of antibiotics prescribed by the said “doctor”, her life took a downwardly trend.

‘’I started having irregular menstruation. Sometimes, it would seize for about two –three months and when it does finally come, it would be a very heavy flow from day one to the end. When I eventually got married, my quest for a child after waiting for 7-years put me in a desperate situation for solution.

‘’I did not know what the long-term impacts of those medications were on my body, but the side effects were horrible in the short term – seven years later, I experienced trouble getting pregnant.

“After conducting series of tests, the results revealed that the antiobiotics affected me. there were countless times I found myself crying at night thinking this was all because of the unnecessary number of medications I took in my 20s’’,she said.

Ushahemba and Azege are amongst the many other Nigerian women going through the plight of infertility in Nigeria.

Infertility; is when a woman has trouble getting pregnant or staying pregnant. Fertility problems can happen in women and men, and can have many causes.

In Benue state today, a powerful pack of professional fraudsters parading themselves as medical practitioners are on the prowl practicing and promoting quackery at exorbitant prices and great risks to people’s health.

They prey on vulnerable people; pervert the healthcare system and plunge their powerless patients into endless agony in form of permanent state of infertility, paralysis and deformity.

Mostly, vulnerable and pregnant women are particularly exploited by the quacks who pose as qualified medical practitioners.

Every person needs medical attention at a point in his or her life and the desperate need for healthcare had sometimes driven the poor and vulnerable into the hands of persons not qualified to attend to their medical needs.

The result of this desperation is irreparable physical and internal deformity, complication of existing ailment, and in some cases, death.

Quackery appears to be widespread in Nigeria today, due largely to a wide vacuum in the country’s health sector. Sadly, those in authority to solve the problem are doing little.

A majority of these ‘doctors’ conduct abortions in their bedrooms, administer fake diagnosis and several other vices.

Why most young unmarried women choose to patronize them is because abortion is considered as a crime, sin that the society frowns at. Pregnant women, desperate to conceal their actions, usually find themselves patronizing these quacks.

According to a medical doctor at the Federal Medical Centre, Makurdi who prefers to remain anonymous, Benue state is sitting on a time bomb that would explode with devastating effect in the near future if nothing is done to address the issue of quackery in the state.

Attributing the growing trend to lack of adequate Primary Health Care Centres in the state, she lamented that most of the rural areas in the state are medically underserved.

“If you go to most of the primary healthcare centers (PHCs) in some of the communities in the state today, you will be shocked to discover that the buildings are deserted or converted to storerooms.

‘’This is the reason why all these quacks are having a field day. After spending one year in various schools of health technologies without graduating, they come out and start parading themselves as doctors.

“The data I’m giving you may not be official but take it from me; Benue state has the highest number of infertility in Nigeria today. A girl will walk into their clinic complaining of stomach or abdominal pain and the next thing he (the quack) prescribes an antibiotic.

‘’Ignorance, poverty, dysfunctional healthcare system, lack of medical personnel at the grassroots, desire to get rich quick, double taxation on hospitals, faulty system and high import duties on medical equipment and consumables are part of the things sustaining quackery in the health sector’’, she added.

Also speaking on the growing trend of quackery in the nation’s health sector, a Pharmacists, Osayamen Olaye noted that the menace of quackery in the medical profession had become embarrassing,

While stressing the need to revisit the issue of regulation, he called on the three arms of government to dialogue and come up with reviewed laws in regard to minimum requirements to establish a private hospital and the limit to what a private hospital can do.

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“We must revisit the issue of regulation. The minimum requirement you must meet to establish a hospital and a private clinic.

‘’surprisingly, in Nigeria today, clinics that ought to at best, function as a referral centre, to hear complaint and refer patients to the appropriate hospitals, now have one doctor, a general doctor, performing the role of a gynecologist, neurologist, dentist, eye surgeon and all sorts of things.

The result is that many cases that could have been managed quietly get complicated before they are referred to the right hospitals.

“Between the federal and state governments, I think we need to have a dialogue and see how we can review the laws in regard to minimum requirements to establish a private hospital and the limit to what a private hospital can do. There are too many quacks who masquerade as doctors.

“You must have found it quite embarrassing that even in the Federal Ministry of Health, a fake doctor was functioning in the Ministry, getting promotions and contributing to public policy formulation and it took couple of years before they found out he was never a doctor.

“It shows how rotten everything had become that somebody, not in my village, but in Abuja, was hiding and purporting to be a doctor at the Ministry of Health headquarters under the supervision of professors of Health who have been ministers and Chief Medical Directors of the federation’’, Olaye added.

In Nigeria, a country ranked at 187th out of 191 by the World Health Organization, it is not uncommon to go through the streets all over the country to find them littered with various health clinics, hospitals and pharmacies.

As the government’s healthcare system is so under-funded and overstretched, despite the huge budgetary allocations to the sector annually, private medical outfits seek to fill the gaps and help provide an alternative.

Despite the presence of these medical organizations, the health care system is nothing to write home about and most of these medical institutions are a cover for uncertified doctors who pass themselves off as qualified to diagnose and treat patients.

Who are the victims of these quacks?

The investigation delved deeper into the underworld of fake medical services and showed that most of the patients to these quacks are poor or ignorant of what they are getting themselves into.

Although some private health providers are legitimate, there are also a lot more that are not. They pass themselves off as doctors in order to exploit the ignorance and desperation of the poor and vulnerable people.

In a survey carried out in Nigeria in 2014, it was found that more than 50 per cent of the population had received ‘treatment’ from the quacks at one time or another for very serious diseases such as typhoid and malaria.

What are the authorities doing to solve the problem?

Despite the high rate of quackery in the state and the loss of lives and consequences victims and families face, authorities in the state are doing too little to tackle the harmful practice.

“The fact is that some of these people especially in the rural areas are quacks,” a medical doctor attached to one of the private hospitals in the state who preferred to remain anonymous said.

“Some of them operate without license and those who have license have not yet renewed it with the medical body.”

When asked why he has not reported those quacks to relevant authorities, he said, “How do you expect me to do that? It’s not my duty and besides, they (fellow doctors) will start seeing me as someone who wants to spoil business for them, or that I am just being jealous because I don’t have my own private clinic.”

Meanwhile, a top government official in the state has said that the state government has set up a committee to look into the matter.

He said, “I know it is happening and we have got reports on that.

“It is a serious matter and we have set up a committee to look into that since I came on board. The police and private practitioners are all involved and their mandate is to arrest those responsible.

In October this year, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) publicly called upon the Senate to pass a “Medical Anti-Quackery Bill”.

The government is seen to be doing little or next to nothing in solving the problem of ridding the country of fake doctors who are responsible for deaths and injuries than actual cures.

QUOTE

“The data I’m giving you may not be official but take it from me; Benue state has the highest number of infertility in Nigeria today. A girl will walk into their clinic complaining of stomach or abdominal pain and the next thing he (the quack) prescribes an antibiotic.

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Dailytimes Staff

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