Fear heightens as pregnancy develops, and the imminent labour instills jitters.
Pregnancy and successful childbirth are things that thrill most married women, but among women in Marke Village of Dambatta Local Government Area of Kano State and Bardo, a rural community in Taura Local Government Area of Jigawa State, instead, these periods bring nightmare due to decrepit or non-existent health facilities.
Malam Abdulmumin Yau, a cart operator in Marke Village, Dambatta Local Government Area of Kano State, is usually engaged by members of the community to transport the sick, especially pregnant women, to the nearest health facility which is about 20 kilometers from the village.
But around 2:00am on Wednesday last week, he was not on duty.
A woman was in labour and his cart would be too slow for the journey.
The family then hired a motorcycle to do the job.
But the baby was too much in a hurry for the bike ride, and the woman delivered on the way.
The motorcyclist returned to the village to get a local midwife to the spot to attend to the woman.
Malam Yau said: “On this cart, I have taken women to Dambatta town for delivery several times, on a few occasions they gave birth before we got there.”
The village head of Marke, Shuaibu Galadima, said the hospital had received several visitation panels from the government to see to its rehabilitation but nothing had improved there.
“State officials and even people from the MDG office in Abuja came but up till now it couldn’t be fixed.
“We only got a shop that we converted to a clinic where patients are treated by visiting health workers from the local government headquarters once in a month,” he said.
In Marke, he said, maternal deaths are recorded very often, a situation compounded by the absence of a hospital.
As a result, families and friends are usually frightened on the approach of pregnancies.
“For over 10 years, this community has been engaging the services of bull cart operators and motorcyclists to convey pregnant women, the sick and the elderly through a difficult road to Dambatta town to access health care.
“The community with over 2,000 households has no single health facility as the last one standing has become so dilapidated and a shadow of itself.
“The community through self help secured a shop that is being used as a makeshift clinic for a visiting nurse that comes at least once a month.
“The deteriorating condition of the clinic started when rain took off its roof, it was not fixed and with time it continued to deteriorate,” the village head said.
Our correspondent gathered from health authorities that the state is one the states in the country with a high maternal mortality rate.
The village head said: “This hospital has been like this for over 10 years.
“Then when functional we enjoyed it to the fullest, even beds were there for sick people to be admitted.
“There came a time that all things got rotten.
“We are having problems with our pregnant women when in labour, coupled with the bad road, and there is no support for us.
“Our sick are ferried to Fagalawa town or Dambatta General Hospital where we don’t appreciate their services, and that sometimes forces us to move to Kazaure in Jigawa State for health needs.
He added: “We cannot account for the number of women we lose from pregnancy related cases due to the lack of a health facility in this community.
“From the time the hospital got dilapidated, at least six deaths occur from such situations every month due to the absence of a functional hospital.
“Last week, four women were rushed to Dambatta and Fagalawa where they delivered.
“A nurse comes here from Sharbe village to support us but despite being a man we allow him to check our women.”
Another resident said: “We want the government to fix the hospital and get us health workers so that we can get good healthcare.
“Even yesterday, my wife gave birth but was attended to by a local midwife I called to help.
“Before now, a woman was coming to assist us when we transformed that makeshift shop into a clinic but not anymore.”
Yakubu Inuwa, a resident, lost his pregnant wife last year due to complications and his mother in-law three years ago.
He said both women were rushed to the Dambatta hospital when labour started.
“My late wife was rushed that fateful night and operated upon. She did her ante-natal at this makeshift clinic, then the nurse was visiting but not anymore. Even Mamus, my neighbour’s pregnant wife, died from child birth also. My mother in-law died from child birth three years ago, they all died on the road as we were rushing them to Dambatta hospital on keke (tricycle). It was my late wife’s first pregnancy while my mother in-law left nine children,” he added.
Another resident, Mamman Marke, said the absence of a functional hospital was seriously affecting them.
“We have complained several times to concerned ministries and even the office of the Secretary to the State Government to come over and help us with a hospital and road.
“We went again and again, we have been there over 12 times since the Shekarau, Kwankwaso eras and now the Ganduje administration.
“We were told to exercise patience, that the resources weren’t there, this is our predicament.
“Today, if a woman is in labour and the rain begins there is no way we can take her to hospital.
“Women climb carts to go to a clinic. Many women have died due to labour.
“Some deliver on the way while the unlucky ones die along the road.
“The only thing this government can do for us to pacify us is to construct this road and build a hospital for us.
“We don’t even need electricity, these two things are our priorities.
“We have been patient all this while but up till now our plea is unheeded,” he added.
NGO comes to the rescue
Daily Trust gathered that a non-governmental organization, Bridge Connect Africa, is intervening by launching a transport system that will be owned and led by women in the community and its environs.
It’s Executive Director, Sani Muhammad, said; “The Community Emergency Transport Fund is for emergency cases, a system where an emergency fund is donated to the facility and in collaboration with the NURTW, the Ministry of Health is reached to ensure that when there is an emergency, the community members would call and the driver would drive down to transport the patient to the facility.”
“This arrangement is going to be a temporary solution before the community gets a new health care facility.
“This will increase access to maternal health services through provision of affordable and timely means of transportation to health facilities as well as getting skilled health personnel to attend to them.
“We however use this opportunity to call on the Kano State government to attend to the concerns of the people of Marke community and build a primary healthcare facility to serve this very vulnerable population of women and girls, and members who for the past 10 years, have not got access to a primary healthcare,” he said.
Kano State govt reacts
When contacted, the Kano State Commissioner for Health, Dr Aminu Tsanyawa, said the ministry had no such formal complaint before it but with this enquiry, officials would be deployed there to assess the situation and find out what had happened all along as well as the workers’ status.
“This is one cardinal area this administration is focusing on that in the next four years there will be renovation and upgrade of health facilities to ensure universal health coverage, we will revive all facilities at the primary level to decongest secondary facilities and provide services close to the people,” he said.
“In every ward of the state there will be a functional primary health care facility that will provide services needed,” he assured.
In Bardo, Jigawa State, women take their destiny in their own hands
One of the constitutional responsibilities any government owes its citizens is to provide them basic social amenities like education, quality healthcare, good road networks and those things that would make life worth living.
That appears not the case presently in Bardo, a rural community in Taura Local Government Area of Jigawa State.
Faced with these challenges, the people of this community have decided to take their fates into their own hands.
The good news, is that women in the community have decided to do the unusual, by contributing N1000 each with which they recently bought a car that would be used to convey pregnant women in labour and other emergency cases to hospital.
Malama Hanne Alhaji Hassan, the spokesperson for the women group in the community, while giving the background to their initiative, told Daily Trust during a visit that for three years, the community was without a vehicle to convey their critically ill persons and pregnant women in labour to the Jahun General Hospital in the neighbouring local government area, the only general hospital near the community.
This development, she said, had caused the deaths of several members of the community.
Bad road worsens situation
Malama Hanne added that the situation was exacerbated by bad road, as the only five kilometer access road leading into the community from the expressway in Sabongari Takenebu in Miga LGA is in a deplorable condition.
She said a pregnant woman in labour being conveyed on that road expresses a lot of stress and pain.
She said the community had to bear the situation for more than three years until empowerment came.
“Therefore, with the empowerment support we have been receiving from the federal government, we normally contribute.
“When we couldn’t meet the N1m target, some of our people in Kano assisted with some money, so with the money, the car was bought and each time we have health challenges like labour, we are easily conveyed to the hospital in Jahun.
“Before we got this vehicle, we suffered a great deal.
“But since we do not have a good road, before getting to the hospital, we still suffer.
“Before then, it was either you had to go to another community to get a vehicle or to go on motorcycle, which has its own implications, but with this vehicle, we thank Allah and our president for the empowerment scheme that enabled us to contribute the money to purchase the vehicle, because every member of the community is benefitting from the services of the vehicle,” Malama added.
Corroborating Malama Hanne’s story, the traditional leader of the community, the Dagacin Bardo, Alhaji Alhassan Haruna, said before now, the community had a vehicle given to them by the government with which they were conveying their sick persons and other emergency cases like pregnant women in labour to the hospital in Jahun, but the vehicle was involved in an accident about three years and was written-off.
“In fact, that vehicle was crushed by a trailer.
“Even though no life was lost in the accident, the vehicle was condemned.
“In this community, we place a lot of premium on the health of our people, any time a member of the community is not well we do everything possible to save the person.
“As a result of that, seeing that we are used to having a vehicle to convey our sick to the hospital, coupled with the deplorable condition of our road, then this N5000 monthly empowerment programme of President Muhammadu Buhari for women in the rural communities came in handy for us.
“Because they normally give them at the end of every two months, which means that instead of giving them monthly, they decided it to be given to them at the end of every two months. So, they are paid N10,000.”
With an estimated population of more than 10,000, the village chief confirmed that altogether, 417 women are benefitting from the programme in the community.
“So, when they got the first batch of the N10,000, we sat down as a community to decide that since our vehicle is no longer available and government has not deemed it fit to replace it, what do we do?
“We decided to make N1,000 contribution from the money.
“Twice, they gave out these contributions which amounted to N800,000 and we have some of our indigenes from this community who are residing in Kano doing business who also gave us their widow’s mite of N100,000 plus the remaining individual personal contributions which amounted to N1m with which we used to purchase the vehicle from Kano, which we have now dedicated solely for conveying the sick in critical condition and pregnant women in labour to Jahun General Hospital, about 29 kilometres from here.”
Asked if the authority was aware of their plight regarding the damaged vehicle, he said that the authority was aware, adding, “In fact, as I speak to you, the carcass of the vehicle is at the premises of Taura Local Government Secretariat, our headquarters.
“Having waited for long and did not see any sign that the vehicle would be replaced by the government, we embarked on this contribution to get the vehicle.
“Though our women are the only beneficiaries of this government empowerment programme, since it is a collective decision and they were well sensitized on the importance of the project, they willingly gave their contributions with smiles each time they got the money as this vehicle does not perform any other function than to convey our sick and pregnant women in labour to the hospital.
“But as a leader in this community, I had my own personal contribution in the project, I contributed N6,000,” he added.
Daily Trust also observed that apart from the deplorable condition of the access road to the community, the healthcare facility in the area, a Primary Health Centre, is also in a deplorable condition with some of the facilities, where they exist, like beds and tables in decrepit condition.
The village chief therefore appealed for the upgrade of the facilities in the centre as people from neighbouring communities like Sarawuya, Nahucce, Tumawa, Bichi, Plata. Gamakauye, Meyadiya, Dallam, Dinaka etc, also use the facility.
Similarly, the only primary school established in the area since 1974 is crying for attention.
But the chief confirmed that rehabilitation had begun on some parts of the school.
He attributed their plight to the lack of a strong voice in government.
He said, “We don’t have a strong voice in the government, the only person we have close to the authorities is the councilor representing our Ward.
“But we do have a member representing us in the state House of Assembly that we elected at the local government level, who is not even part of this community, and doesn’t come here to see us at all.
“But they only come here to canvass for votes during elections.
“They come here to tell us to vote for them, and after elections, we don’t see them again.”
On the deplorable condition of the road to the area, Haruna said, “About five months ago, we saw people from government here under IFAD, (International Fund for Agricultural Development) the federal and state governments, they have agreed to construct five kilometers of road for us from Sabongari Takenebu to this community, so far they have constructed about 20 culverts, but till now, we have not heard from them again, so we are appealing to the state government to come and continue this work so that we can heave a sigh of relief.
“Our appeal to the authorities now is that since they have started these culverts, they should hasten work and complete the road to reduce our hardship.”
Zakariya’u Adam, a youth leader in Bardo, in a chat with Daily Trust, lamented that politicians don’t fulfill their promises.
He, however, conceded that as youths, they had not done enough to hold the politicians to fulfill their promises.
His words; “Politicians come here to make promises to us, but I admit that we do not force them to fulfill their promises, but if they come here to seek our votes, they make a lot of promises and at the end of the day, they do not fulfill them, and we assist them a lot because even those in Kano normally come back home to cast their votes, but the moment they assume office, you can hardly find them around to see to our welfare.
Councilor defends government
Garba Babale Bardo, the councilor representing Ajaura Ward, defended the present administration on the allegations, saying, the community had never had it better.
According to him, since the inception of Bardo more than 300 years ago, “We have never experienced the kind of progress like we are having under the Buhari and Badaru Abubakar administrations, reason being that some of the things we didn’t have before, in this community, we now have them.
“For instance, you can see that our central mosque has been rehabilitated, we have secured EU solar, we have a water-pumping engine in Bardo and even from time to time, we normally get some support from the government.
“I can tell you that since we have been having presidents in this country we have never had a leader like President Buhari, because of his concerns for the people at the grassroots through his several intervention empowerment programmes.”
The Jigawa State Women Affairs and Social Development ministry said was is not unaware of the women’s initiative which it admitted, deserved commendation.
The commissioner, Hajiya Yalwa Da’u Tiijjani, told Daily Trust that she had gone to the community to see things for herself.
She said she visited the community alongside the local government chairman, some civil society organizations and their representatives.
Besides, she said during the last State Executive Council meeting, the governor mandated her on a special delegation to the community to commend and tell them what the government would do for them.
She confirmed that the Haifuwa Lafia Project was domiciled in the ministry under which vehicles were purchased and handed over to communities to be transporting pregnant women in labour to nearby hospitals but was being reviewed because of noticeable abuse of the vehicles by drivers.
“The vehicles we bought were being misused, they were not being used for the communities, the drivers were using them for public transportation, and most of them have gone off the road.
“So when I wrote a memo to the governor for the vehicles to be repaired, he directed that we should work out a new transportation system.
“Now we are using private vehicles whereby we pay drivers and they pick our pregnant women to hospitals nearest to them, we are just starting the system and it is working, so we commend the women for what they have done.
“If all the people getting this kind of intervention from the federal government can do that in each ward or local government, at least they will be helping the government per se, and because this is the first time females, not males, did this kind of thing, it went very far and that was why the Dan Amanan Dutse, Nasiru Danno has promised them a new car as a means of motivation to other communities.
“He made it clear that any community that follows suit would also get like treatment.
“What they have done is unheard off, because in our communities everybody waits on government to do virtually everything for them, but as they have got this for themselves, they should be commended.”
“I told them there and then that they are better than the men that were gathered there, because most of them that came were N-Power beneficiaries and they are earning N30,000 monthly, but they didn’t have the initiative of saying let us save something that will help the government, in-fact, some of them were even complaining that the N30,000 is not enough, but the women were just getting only N5,000, so why shouldn’t I be proud of them?”