Ebonyi govt ‘bureaucracy’ delays teenage leprosy patient’s treatment

Master Peter Nwigwe

A non-governmental organization, Good Living Initiative, has accused officials of the Ebonyi State Government of delaying the treatment of an indigent boy diagnosed as having leprosy.

The director of the organisation, Stella Chukwuma, stated this in Abakaliki while speaking with PREMIUM TIMES.

Mrs. Chukwuma said she picked up the 13- year-old, Peter Nwigwe, while wandering on the streets of Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital.

The boy had trekked for over 30 kilometres from his village, Ogbala Izenyi, in Izzi Local Government Area of the state, to Abakaliki, to seek work as a wheel barrow load carrier and fend for his siblings and dumb father.

Peter said he was rejected in all the places he asked to rent wheel barrow because he manifested symptoms of a health case suspected to be leprosy on his toes and fingers.

According to Mrs. Chukwuma, the boy was loitering along Water Works Road when she approached him for interaction on seeing his deplorable condition.

“I was attracted by the condition of the boy, he was looking hungry, weak and was not putting on any footwear. I wanted to give him money but people told me he came from a far place and when I interacted with him, I noticed he had a problem,” she said.

Another member of the NGO, Joseph Agbo, narrated that after the boy was diagnosed as having leprosy at Mile Four Hospital, the organisation made efforts to get him admitted at the hospital.

But the authorities of the hospital demanded a Letter of Undertaking from any relevant government agency, especially the Social Welfare Department.

“When I saw the boy, I noticed blisters and open sore on his hands and legs and I suggested that he be rushed to Mile Four Hospital. On getting to the hospital, he was diagnosed as having leprosy,” said Mr. Agbo, an evangelist.

“However, the hospital authorities told us that he would be treated free of charge but because we are not his parents, we should get a letter from the Social Welfare Department of the Ministry of Women Affairs.”

Mr. Agbo said all efforts to secure the letter from the Department as well as the Police and Office of the Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Welfare Matters were not successful as all of them said it was not their responsibility.

“I took the boy to the Governor’s Wife’s Office and I saw her Chief Press Secretary, Mr. Donatus Owo, who called the Ministry of Women Affairs to draw their attention to the case.

“But when we got to the ministry, we met with the Acting Permanent Secretary, Mrs Christiana Ogbu, who told us that we should go to the hospital and get the letter.

“I called the Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Welfare Matters, Reverend Father Abraham Nwali, but he said his duty is to facilitate money for the treatment of such cases.”

When PREMIUM TIMES contacted the Acting Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Women Affairs, Mrs. Ogbu, she said: “I am not a doctor to know that the boy has leprosy. It is hospital that should refer them, so there is no way I can write a letter on what I don’t know.”

While the blame game continues, the boy’s health is deteriorating and requires urgent attention as one of his fingers has already been affected up by the disease which is fast spreading to other fingers and toes.

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