The Nigeria Medical Association, NMA, Zamfara chapter, and residents of the state, have accused the state government of negligence in the handling of the current meningitis outbreak that has killed nearly 200 people there.
The medical association said the government failed to prepare despite warnings, and has still not responded appropriately to the epidemic.
Residents who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES over the weekend, also accused the government of “neglect”.
Zamfara is worst hit by the current meningitis outbreak that has killed nearly 300 people across Nigeria.
The state commissioner for Health, Adamu Suleiman, had in a radio programme confirmed that 160 people had so far lost their lives to the outbreak.
Mr. Suleiman told journalists on Tuesday that the outbreak had spread to all the 14 local government areas of the state.
He said the disease first emerged in Birnin-Magaji local government area over a week ago. He also said that areas worst hit were Maradun and Bindin villages in Maru local government.
He also announced the formation of a task force to deal with the outbreak.
However, the NMA in its statement as reported by the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, said it had observed that the state government was not prepared for the outbreak despite glaring signs of epidemic.
It said months into the present outbreak of meningitis, Zamfara government was yet to provide the needed vaccines for the general population or at least for the most at risk population.
The association also decried non-engagement of relevant officials and individuals in the management of the outbreak in the state.
“We note that the constitution of the state government’s main committee for the prevention and control of meningitis in the state has no single medical personnel,” the statement signed by its chairman and secretary, Tijjani Abubakar and Mannir Bature, on Saturday, said.
“Therefore, it is unacceptable to the NMA to allow politicisation of health sector.
“Another issue that worries the NMA is the inadequate provision of drugs for the treatment of identified cases.’’
According to the association, the drugs being given to the patients are not enough.
“There is no Emergency Operation Centres for coordinating and updating the stakeholders and general public on the progress as it affects the outbreak.
“We also noticed that health institutions in the state especially state primary health centres and the general hospitals are weak and lacking capacity to address the outbreak of this magnitude,’’ it said.
The association urged the state government to improve its commitments and provide lasting solutions to the following observations in order to have good arrangements to protect lives of people.
“NMA’s major responsibility is to advise the government at all levels on issues affecting healthcare services and delivery in order to ensure effective protection of lives of the people.’’
More people dying as drug vendors take advantage
Days after the confirmation of the spread and casualty figure, checks by PREMIUM TIMES showed that more people continue to die from the outbreak.
Some of the people interviewed in one of the first three affected local governments expressed their dismay over the situation, describing it as “negligence on the side of the government”.
Mustafa Ibrahim, a trader based in Bungudu town of Bungudu local Government, told our reporter that he lost two of his children to the disease.
“I was surprised when I took my children to our clinic for treatment but only to be told that none of the staff were in the clinic,” he said.
Mr. Ibrahim also said “the only person I met was a labourer, and what he told me was that for the past two days none of the staff has come to work”.
Also speaking, Sani Buhari of the same area explained that government had not played its role as far as the outbreak was concerned despite repeated complaints from the people.
“We have now resorted to self-medication,” he said.
Meanwhile, PREMIUM TIMES observed that drug vendors in the state were taking advantage of the chaos to make money out of the hapless citizens.
Patent medicine dealers charge between N6, 000 to N7, 000 to immunize a child.
In Kaura Namoda local government, one of the three local governments badly affected by the disease, some parents had to sell their grains or other valuables in order to get their children treated.
“We have waited for long to see whether we can get any assistance from the government, but up to now there was nothing tangible coming out from that side,” said a resident, Nasiru Musa .
According to him, since the outbreak, “no single drug or injection” has been given to them.
Battling tears, the 68-year-old Mr. Musa said he had to leave his house for a nearby village in order to have relief and hope of survival for his children.