Health Minister visits Niger
… commiserates with Fuka village elders
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole has visited Fuka village in Muyan Local Government Area of Niger State, which has recorded the highest number of deaths so far from the current Lassa fever outbreak.
The Minister had earlier in Abuja, while briefing the Senate Committee on Health, named Fuka village as the first community to experience the current Lassa fever outbreak last August saying no fewer than 17 villagers died in quick succession. According to him, the incidence was not reported to the state government due to the superstitious belief that the villagersdeaths could be a ritual to commemorate the establishment of a new market.
Adewole who paid a courtesy call on the Niger State governor, Alhaji Abubakar Bello before visiting the village also told he governor that the failure of the notification system made it impossible for the Federal ministry to respond promptly to the situation in Niger State.
The situation in Fuka however appeared to be under control. The Niger State Commissioner for Health and Health Services, Dr. Mustapha Jibril, informed the Minister that despite the delay in notification and unwillingness of the people to give information, the state government swung into action with the support of the federal government, World Health Organisation (WHO) and other relevant agencies to nip the disease in the bud.
The minister expressed sympathy with the community head and members of the village and also encouraged them to report to the health officials as soon as they feel ill for immediate and effective diagnosis. He also cautioned against self-medication and resort to traditional care, informing them that there are specific drugs for the treatment of Lassa fever in hospitals
Prof. Adewole also ordered the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Ado Muhammad, to ensure immediate renovation of the Primary Healthcare Centre in the village and reposition it to render 24 hours service.
The minister noted that if the primary health care centre had been operational, it would have alerted the Federal Ministry of Health at the onset of the outbreak of the disease in the community and prompt response would have saved lives.
He said all hands must be on deck to sustain the current effort to stem the spread of the disease by ensuring that the Federal Ministry of Health is immediately notified of any strange death or disease, because, adding: Every life counts and every death also counts.