Improving healthcare in Nigeria: caught between two worlds…

Reporting from Nigeria: Emeka Nweze

According to the CIA factbook’s website, Nigeria has one of the worst infant mortality rates in the world. Unfortunately, their estimates are only the tip of what is truly a colossal iceberg. Healthcare in this country makes the United States seem like paradise. To put it bluntly, it is an unmitigated disaster. The wealthy typically travel overseas for treatment, so unless international travelling is banned, there is no solution in sight. The pictures accompanying this entry are of one herbal clinic located in Area 1 Abuja, a district only a few miles from my house. Most taxis in this location are inclined (no pun intended) to sport bumper stickers offering “divine enlargement”.

There seems to be an inconsistency here. If Nigeria produces a considerable number of medical (as in not herbal) doctors, then why is her healthcare system in such a state of disrepair? It may have to do with the ideas floating around in some communities. Some communities see herbal treatment as superior to western medicine. For one community in the south, the fact that western medicine is unable to cure children of witchcraft goes a long way in strengthening this belief.

Why, just the other day, an herbal doctor with a battered vehicle and a public announcement system pulled into my neighborhood to hawk his wares. The potions and ointments he confidently advertised are capable of rescuing any victim of the incompetence of modern medicine by curing AIDS, breast cancer, a plethora of STDs, impotence and several other ailments. I shrugged, assuming that other passer-bys would recognize this peddler for what he was: a throwback to when the world’s population suffered mass illiteracy. As they gathered around him, I assumed, they were trying to get the full gist of things, for such an experience must surely make for an amazing anecdote. As some of his listeners started fishing into their pockets for some money, I was taken aback. Then, I realized how foolish I was being. Why settle for a hard to substantiate anecdote, when one can purchase a souvenir or memento? These guys were clearly thinking way ahead of me. It was not until I saw the desperation and hope in their eyes, and noticed their attention failed to waver as this charlatan gave pain-staking instructions on proper use of their products, that I realized how deep-seated this problem truly is.

I wish I could call this entry, along with the pictures, an elaborate April Fools’ prank. Unfortunately, I cannot. So long as people hold absurd ideas, they will forever be prey to opportunists and predators. As I have said before, evil is simply the space between ignorance and enlightenment.  Making such issues a subject for discussion is, as history has shown, a definite step in the right direction.

One thought on “Improving healthcare in Nigeria: caught between two worlds…

  1. Thanks for your post, Emeka!

    I can tell you that even in countries where healthcare is better developed there is still a place for charlatans like the one you`ve mentioned ;( Pitifully, people tend to believe in “magic cure”, “super pills” and all the stuff. If it works as a placebo, sometimes it might be even helpful, but when it harms a person or makes him abandon contemporary treatments (esp. in cases of serious life-threatening diseases) – you`ll have to make decisive steps then

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