The only Mobile health center in Wassa IDP Camp
Juliana Danjuma was a trader who sold dry fish in Doron-Baga, Maiduguri in Borno State.
Her husband, John Danjuma, worked as a purchasing officer for the military in the state.
The duties of a Purchasing officer include booking hotel reservations, buying food and carrying out any other logistical duties for military officers fighting insecurity.
However, tragedy struck when insurgents popularly known as Boko haram invaded the town in 2013 living many dead including her 46 years old husband who was on his way home from work.
This event devastated Juliana who was pregnant with their 5th child at the time.
In 2015, Juliana came to the Wassa Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camp located in Wassa Community, a suburb of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Wassa IDP is a community of over five thousand residents, with a distance of over 5 kilometers from the city center.
The majority of occupants are internally displaced persons from the Northeastern States of Nigeria including Borno and Adamawa who go to the urban areas of the FCT to seek menial jobs as taxi drivers, motorcycle riders, farmers, security guards and house helps.
The houses in Wassa IDP camp look like an abandoned low-cost housing project with no basic amenities.
Radio Nigeria observed that some of the buildings were already getting dilapidated.
Challenges of accessing health care
However, with poverty comes diseases which could lead to death due to lack of access to quality health care in a country where even the rich “pay through their nose” to get quality health services.
Juliana narrated that when she came to Wassa, residents go to other communities as far as 2 to 3km to get treated for any illness with transportation costing N1000 ($2); (to and fro), a fee too high for them at the time.
According to her, sometimes they relied on local patent stores or traditional medicine for treatment, a risk which has led some to their early graves.
Juliana says; “It was so difficult and life threatening especially for pregnant mothers to access health care. Some of them ended up dying because of lack of access to health care services. “
In 2017, former speaker, House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara donated a mobile clinic to the community as his contribution to their needs.
This brought a huge sigh of relief to the residents of Wassa as they could now have access to basic health care services such as antenatal care, treatment for malaria, measles, family planning services, Hepatitis tests and even child births.
Has it helped? Community members share their experiences
STELLA NWAFOR said, “I immunize my children at the mobile clinic and also treat diseases such as malaria there”
“I delivered my two children at the mobile clinic here in Wassa, my first delivery was in 2020 and the second one this year (2022). I also had my antenatal care there too. In the said dates, my labour came at around 2am in morning, I was helped by a neighbor who runs a taxi business to the clinic”. The health officer was called upon and came from his nearby residence (a kilometer drive to Wassa) and i put to birth successfully. I delivered with no complications, the health officer was so professional, and I got the services I will get in any primary health care center. The best part of this is that all the delivery and treatment came at no cost as some Non-governmental organizations occasionally donate medical supplies.”
“Even if I am to give birth 20 times, it will be in that mobile clinic”. (All laughs😅)
“My parents and I came to this community 22 years ago when I was just 3 years old. As at then, we do patronize traditional medicine for treatment or sometimes travel far distances to get basic health care services. But since we had this mobile clinic, it has solved most of our health care needs including cost of transportation. Though I rarely get sick, I however treated my son for measles recently at the clinic.”
“The clinic is very effective, I like the treatment I get here, and I also like how friendly the health worker is.”
“I delivered my child at the mobile clinic. I started labour about 12 noon a day before and gave birth at noon the next day. The health officer was with me all through to see to my delivery which I did safely without any complications.
“I do refer some of my friends who leave in other communities to the Wasa Mobile clinic, which they also enjoy the services”
The Wassa mobile clinic though effective, comes with its challenges.
As at the time of visiting the clinic in April 2022, the mobile clinic had only one health worker stationed at the post. Sometimes the responsibilities might be too much for him. The health worker does the observation, prescription of medication and sometimes even go to buy the drugs for the patients.
Mr Tanimu Osu who is the health worker stationed at the mobile clinic stays in Wumba village, a suburb of the FCT with his wife and four children, about one kilometer away from Wassa Community. He works 7-days a week at the clinic and always at the “beck and call” of the residents. He is a staff of the Abuja Municipal Area Council, AMAC.
In addition to the challenges of human resources, the clinic has little to no drugs and other equipment for treatment.
According to the health officer, the structure came with all needed equipment such as beddings and other medical kits.
But however, with time amenities such as drugs and delivery kits get exhausted.
According to him, the clinic depends on FCT Primary Healthcare Board and donations from non-governmental organizations for supply of drugs. This is however not constant as even writing requests to the Primary Healthcare Board could take a while before money is released or drugs are supplied.
“I used to buy drugs with my money for the patients and charge them for it but stopped the gesture when some of them felt I was hoarding the drugs which were supposed to be free. I now prescribe the drugs for them to go and buy from pharmacies.”
Mr Osu however still buys delivery kits, forceps and even drugs from his N85,000 naira ($199) monthly income to treat his patients.
Treating complex diseases
The mobile clinic obviously does not treat all health cases because of lack of equipment and manpower.
The health officer refers complex cases to either National Hospital Abuja or Asokoro Hospital.
Some women also called for urgent supply of equipment and medicines to the mobile clinic to get timely treatment.
HAUWA MUSA, “A woman was in labour but there were no delivery kits for the health worker to use. He had to go to town and buy the items”
Imagine such a scenario during emergencies, the life of the child or the mother or both could be threatened.
FATI MOHAMMED, “I gave birth to a premature baby, the health officer didn’t have equipment to take care of the child. He and my husband had to go to another hospital to get delivery kit which we spent N4,000 naira ($9).
The residents of Wassa Community with over five thousand citizens are therefore calling for the establishment of a fully equipped and functional primary health care center that would cater for the health needs of at least eighty percent of the population.
By Emmanuel Kutara
THIS STORY WAS PRODUCED WITH THE SUPPORT OF THE NIGERIA HEALTH WATCH THROUGH THE SOLUTION JOURNALISM NETWORK.