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Nigeria: every one of us is a casualty

As part of efforts to strengthen the capacity of journalists to better inform their audiences on health issues, Save the Children in Nigeria recently organised a workshop for 28 health editors and reporters from various media organisations across the country.

The first two days of the workshop were restricted to issues, challenges and solutions to the maternal, newborn and child health situation.

On the last day we opened the floor for journalists to share their experiences. We got more than we bargained for!

Sharing her experience, one of the journalists, Amina, cautioned her colleagues that “the alarming health statistics in the country are not just numbers but real people and every one of us is a casualty directly or indirectly”.

Mother’s instinct

When Amina had her third baby, she her instinct told her that something wasn’t right.

“Immediately I got to the ward and my baby was handed to me, I observed something unusual and drew the doctors’ attention to him. They just laughed it off and advised me to take some rest. The following day, we were discharged,” she said.

“I didn’t feel too good about my baby’s physical state, and when a family friend, who is also a medical doctor, visited I asked him to take a look. He also returned a verdict of ‘good health’.

“I continued feeling uneasy so I took him to another doctor-friend who also told me my baby was okay. After this, I accepted their verdicts and decided I was only being obsessive.”

A dangerous turn

Three days later, the story took a dangerous turn, as Amina’s newborn went into a coma.

“We rushed him to the hospital where he was resuscitated. Again, the doctor — a different one entirely — told me my baby was OK.

Despite all the danger signs, none of the medical personnel thought to take the infant’s blood sample to check the bilirubin levels and, if necessary, treat him for jaundice.

“It was at another hospital in Lagos that I was told that my baby had jaundice.  I was advised to set up the equivalent of phototherapy at home and to put my baby in a well-lit window for ten minutes, twice a day.

“Immediately we left the hospital, I called the electrician and instructed him to set up fluorescent bulbs in my baby’s cot.

“By the time I got home, the cot was ready. However, when one of our doctor-friends came on a visit, he screamed and said I was attempting a medical procedure at home without careful monitoring or supervision!

“So my baby was rushed back to hospital.

“Even at the children’s hospital in the heart of Lagos, I had to donate the electrical sockets needed to operate the phototherapy equipment. Treatment was supposedly free, but I soon realised that it’s a mirage,” she said.

Long-term damage

Amina’s baby survived but suffered permanent damage to the brain.

Cross section of journalists at the workshop

By the time Amina finished her story, all the journalists and workshop facilitators could not hold back tears.

For all the journalists, Amina’s story not only brought the sober reality of maternal, newborn and child health challenges closer to home, it was a call to action!

At the end of the workshop, all the participants made concrete commitments to keeping maternal, child and newborn health on top of the news agenda in their various organisations.

 

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