Author Archives: Laz Ude Eze

About Laz Ude Eze

A public health physician, health systems consultant and an advocate for good governance, health equity and social justice. Authored the book, "A Companion to Practical Pathology" and founded HAPPYNigeria in 2006. I'm also a Brand Ambassador of Social Good Nigeria. To read my full profile, copy and paste this link on your URL and check it out >> http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=35254652&trk=tab_pro Your feedback on all posts are welcome. Follow me on twitter - @donlaz4u.

#Cancer Control: The task before the next President of Nigeria

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Laz Ude Eze

Dr Laz Ude Eze

Last year, I met Mgborie (not real name), a 27 year old lawyer battling breast cancer and soliciting for funding support. The cancer was already in a late stage (Stage 4) and she was scheduled for surgery and radiotherapy having completed chemotherapy. She was the first child with six siblings all of whom were in school and had lost both parents. The family looked forward to her graduation to enable her secure a job and support the training of her younger ones. Four years earlier, she found a lump in her breast and went to a hospital where it was surgically removed. The lump reappeared 2 years later and was found to be cancerous. She battled the disease with hope of survival and lost the battle last year. If she was not living in Nigeria, she would have probably won the battle and still be alive. “Why”, you may ask, please find out in the subsequent paragraphs of this article.

Cancer is a disease which abnormal cells of the body divide uncontrollably and destroys the body tissue or organ. It may affect virtually every part of the body except the hair and nails. It is treatable and curable especially when detected early. According to the latest estimates by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the global burden of cancer rose to 18.1 million new cases and 9.6 million deaths in 2018. In Nigeria, more than 100,000 cases are diagnosed annually and over 90% of them die from the disease, thereby putting us in an ignominious position of being the country with the highest number of cancer deaths globally.

In fact, Nigeria is plagued by a triple whammy – a high burden of communicable diseases, a rising burden of non-communicable diseases and persistently high incidence of road traffic injuries. The health system is very weak and unable to meet most of the health needs of the citizens. The funding for the health sector has remained very poor and continuously decreasing especially in the past six years. Yet, the rising burden of diseases is an indication for a substantial and sustainable increase in public funding for health care.

Each year on 4 February, the global community commemorates the World Cancer Day to enable every one of us across the world to show support to people fighting cancer, raise our collective voice against the disease, take personal action and press our governments to do more on cancer control. This year’s is not an exception as government and civil society organisations have lined up activities to commemorate the day. Coincidentally, Nigerians will be going to the polls to elect a new set of leaders at the national and sub-national levels. It provides an opportunity for citizens to elect candidates with demonstrable commitment to prioritise health and improve access to qualitative screening, diagnosis and treatment of cancer in Nigeria.

The essential ingredients required for cancer control are cancer awareness and early detection with prompt and effective treatment. To improve knowledge and understanding of cancer prevention practices, consistent public awareness must be created using multiple mass media platforms and inter-personal communication models. To prevent cancer, healthy diets, regular exercise and HPV & HBV vaccination must be promoted and made available and accessible to everyone who needs it. To detect cancer early, there must be a screening program for common cancers like breast, cervical, prostate and colon cancer. For this to be successful there must be citizens’ awareness and education, available of a well-motivated skilled manpower and equipment and equitable distribution of both across the country. When cancer is detected, immediate commencement of qualitative treatment is required. For treatment to be qualitative, it must be done by a team of experts including oncologists, nutritionists, radiologists, clinical psychologists, etc; in a timely manner using well-maintained modern equipment and facilities. Do we have all these in Nigeria? Your guess is as good as mine.

Please permit me to quickly summarise the experience of most cancer patients in Nigeria. They usually present in late stages (more than 80%). The diagnostic tests are usually invasive and sometimes take months, delays caused by overcrowding of facilities, inability to pay for the tests or health workers strike. After confirmation of cancer diagnosis, the patient may go into the denial stage with utterances like “I reject it! It is not my portion!!” Many family members or friends would recommend a religious treatment centre for divine healing; others may recommend traditional medicine while a few may opt for orthodox medicine. While some who opted for miraculous or trado-medical healing may succeed, majority of them end up in hospitals in critical conditions.

More so, many of the people who went for the orthodox treatment option usually have gory tales arising from inability to pay out-of-pocket, long waiting time in health facilities, poor counseling services, rude behaviours of some care providers and frequent treatment interruptions caused by unavailability of some chemotherapy drugs, lack of or frequent breakdown of CT scan and radiotherapy machines, and health workers strike. The available treatment facilities are grossly inadequate. For example, the Pink Oak Cancer Trust paid for radiotherapy at the National Hospital Abuja for a cancer patient in November 2018 but she’s yet to be commenced on treatment due to a long queue of patients. There were only two functional radiotherapy centers in Nigeria in January 2019; more than 200 is needed for our population. Lobbying for treatment is at its peak. A patient told me she was going to the hospital every day by 7.00am and sometimes waited till 1.00am of the subsequent day in order to get treatment. “Horrific”, you may say but it’s only a tip of the iceberg.

Do you now realize why Mgborie died? Hers was a case of mismanagement. Had the doctor that removed her breast lump in 2014 done biopsy, the cancer might have been detected, treated and cured. When the lump recurred in 2016, the cancer had already spread to other parts of the body, prognosis poorer and a chance of survival was minimal.

How do we solve this problem? The approach to health care in Nigeria must shift from management of diseases to management of health. This is where the next set of political leaders has a big role to play. All levels of governance have a critical role to play in cancer control. The local government should be responsible for awareness creation and health education in communities. The state and federal government should work collaboratively to ensure availability and access to cancer screening services, well-motivated skilled manpower, chemotherapy drugs, equipment and maintenance of same and sustainable financing for cancer care.

According to Nigeria’s National Cancer Control Plan (2018-2022), an estimated sum of N97.3 billion is required to implement the plan. The next President must lead this effort by investing substantial public funds in cancer control and inspiring states and local government areas to do same. The office of the president is the most powerful office in the country and should be used to save the lives of the predominantly productive population that is being cut short by cancer. The next president should strengthen the six building blocks of the health system and create an enabling environment for a humongous private sector investment in health care including cancer control. Private sector investment can be encouraged through offer of tax incentives, loan facilities with low interest rates, health insurance coverage for cancer prevention and treatment services, and availability of uninterrupted power supply in such facilities. The governors should also replicate same in their respective states. Can the next President and Governors say this, “I am and I will” implement the above recommendations? In the efforts to beat cancer, everyone has a responsibility. I am and I will continue to play my part, what about you?

 

Dr Laz is a public health management expert, Producer of TalkHealth9ja and the Executive Director of the Pink Oak Cancer Trust – Nigeria’s 1st Cancer Treatment Fund. You may contact him through laz.eze@pinkoak.org. He tweets as @donlaz4u.

Okposi Group Visits, Commiserates with Fed. Min. of Education over death of FGC Students

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The people of Okposi Community, Ohaozara LGA of Ebonyi State appear to be taking all the right steps in response to the unfortunate and questionable death of two JSS 3 students of Federal Government College, Okposi (FGCO) – Tochukwu Eneh and Chukwuemeka Ugwu. FGC

On Friday May 27, 2016, a delegation of Okposi e-8, an association of elites of Okposi community, paid a solidarity visit to the Directorate of Basic and Secondary Education, Federal Ministry of Education in Abuja. The delegation, which was led by the association’s chairman who is also the Chairman of the Community Based School Management Committee of FGCO, Barr. Emenike Okorie, was received by the Director, Basic and Secondary Education, Mrs. Anne Buchi Okonkwo.

The delegation said it was in the Ministry to express solidarity with the education authorities over the sad incident. The Okposi e-8 representatives expressed the willingness of their association and community, to cooperate with both the Ministry and security agencies towards unravelling the cause of death, noting that Okposi community has never witnessed such bizarre occurrence or ever been associated with violence of any kind. They explained that Okposi community which is known rather for its hospitality and respect for visitors has already gone ahead to activate its traditional way of dealing with issues of this nature.

The delegation also urged the Ministry to immediately strengthen the school management in order to forestall and nip in the bud acts of indiscipline that might lead to similar incidents in future.

Responding, the Director, Mrs. Okonkwo, thanked the delegation for the timely visit saying that the visit has served to dispel the anxiety of the Ministry over the safety of lives of both students and staff of the school. She further promised to forward a report of the visit to the Permanent Secretary for onward transmission to the Honourable Minister.

Earlier, the group had issued a statement urging a thorough investigation to identify the cause of death and ensure justice is done. Similarly, the Okposi Education Initiative urged continued cooperation of members of the community with the investigators and pledged to work with other stakeholders to prevent recurrence. In accordance with its tradition, the community has also placed curses on any person connected in the death of the students.

Okposi Education Initiative mourns dead FGC Okposi Students

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Okposi Education Initiative has expressed shock and sadness over the mysterious death of two students of Federal Government College Okposi, Ebonyi State. According to media reports, the students were reported missing earlier in the month and their dead bodies were found recently at a bamboo grove in a river near the school.FGC

In a statement signed by its Chairman, Dr Laz Ude Eze, the group demanded full investigation to uncover the cause of death of the two students. He commended the community for their proactive response to the tragic incident. According to him, “We are extremely pained by this tragedy because nothing like this has ever occurred in Okposi. Ndi Okposi rose unanimously to express sadness when the students were declared missing and were involved in intensive search until their bodies were discovered. The community considers the ugly development as an abomination; consequently, all commercial activities were suspended, the people gathered at the market square and placed curses on any person connected to the death of the students. Okposi elites resident in Abuja have also responded likewise. Our people are very united in mourning these children and praying for their families”.

The group pledged to work with the school, community leaders and government authorities to prevent recurrence of such evil in Okposi community in future. It also called on Ebonyi State government to intervene and end recruitment of students into cultism as has been observed in some parts of the state.

16 top #Choice4Life Tweets for #16DaysofActivism

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GBV info#Choice4Life Advocates commenced the #16DaysofActivism against Gender-Based Violence with a 4-hour tweetathon on November 25, 2015. The 72-member group consists of innovative young professionals who use social media to promote women sexual and reproductive health and rights.  “We believe that we can all achieve a bright future without this violence. We will not keep quiet until it ends” – vowed the advocates.

Below are top 16 tweets the group wants you to share in your networks;

  1. Violence Against Women is one of the most pervasive human rights violations around the world. #Choice4Life #EndVAW  #VAPPAct #16Days
  2. Whether domestic, physical or sexual, violence against women is still as damaging. #Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct #16Days
  3. We would teach women their rights, we will raise our voice to dispense justice in Nigeria via the #VAPPAct. #Choice4Life #EndVAW #16days
  4. Violence against women is punishable and we demand that our #VAPPAct be implemented in all Nigerian states.#Choice4Life #EndVAW #16days
  5. Broken Women make unstable families; unstable families make a shaky nation. #Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct
  6. It may be impossible to achieve sustainable development if gender based violence continues.#Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct
  7. Statistics show that 1 in 3 women have experienced physical or sexual violence mostly by intimate partners. #16days #Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct
  8. The cultural idea that put women as victims must be conquered,it is a new dawn of liberation for our women. #Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct
  9. No excuse no matter how legally crafted should permit violence against women. Please, understand your rights.#Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct
  10. It is not left to only women to defend and support each other, Everyone has to help eliminate it.#Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct
  11. Did you know that the #VAPPAct bill has several prison terms for offenders of violence against women?  #Choice4Life#EndVAW
  12. You should not keep silent when you notice acts related to violence on women. Please Act! #Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct
  13. Abusive marriages should never be smiled upon. The #VAPPAct should be domesticated in all of Nigeria.  #Choice4Life#EndVAW
  14. We understand that our women hold the key to the future; we respect them and their rights. #Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct
  15. The #VAPPAct identifies rape as any penetration into another person’s orifice without consent.#Choice4Life #EndVAW
  16. Parents and teachers must encourage children to dismiss the acceptance of violence against women. #Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct
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Know the #VAPPAct

Other tweets include;

  • How you treat and speak to a woman shows your perspective on violence, we must do better. #Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct
  • Love was never intended to hurt. Let’s break this stereotype of emotional abuse and help more women. #Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct
  • It is amazing how many women keep silent on violence done to them. Speak up and help fight your demons. #Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct
  • Female Genital Mutilation is a grave violence on any woman’s wellbeing. It is offensive and destructive. #Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct
  • The sad amount of women that have been ejected from their homes because they do not have a voice. #Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct
  • It is a very wrong to engage in online conversations that ridicule gender based violence . #Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct
  • We will continue to celebrate the strength and resilience of women that have been victims of violence. #Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct
  • We do not just seek to curb or reduce these violence…we are talking elimination. #Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct
  • Every woman has a right to a healthy happy life. #Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct
  • Who are you to deprive a woman of her liberty? You belong in a prison. #Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct
  • Verbal and physiological abuse has triple effects on women and their environment. We stand to end emotional abuse. #Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct
  • Extreme widowhood practices have made it okay to violate women in various parts of Nigeria. This has to end. #Choice4Life#EndVAW #VAPPAct

Every Woman Counts!

#16Days: #Choice4Life Advocates want the World to #EndVAW

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nov 25#Choice4Life Advocates are young Nigerian professionals who promote Women Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights using Social Media. The Group conducted a tweetathon on November 25, 2015 to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. They are also committed to educating social media users on issues that promote women’s health during the #16DaysofActivism.

They called for the domestication of the Violence against Persons Prohibition Act (#VAPPAct) by all the 36 States of Nigeria.

Some of their tweets include;

  • No excuse no matter how legally crafted should permit violence against women. Please, understand your rights.#Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct
  • It is not left to only women to defend and support each other, Everyone has to help eliminate it.#Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct
  • Did you know that the #VAPPAct bill has several prison terms for offenders of violence against women?  #Choice4Life #EndVAW
  • You should not keep silent when you notice acts related to violence on women. Please Act! #Choice4Life #EndVAW #VAPPAct
  • Abusive marriages should never be smiled upon. The #VAPPAct should be domesticated in all of Nigeria.  #Choice4Life #EndVAW

President @MBuhari appoints 18 #NewPermSecs

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Using the hashtag #NewPermSecs, the following names were announced via @NGRPresident and @GarbaShehu as newly approved appointments by President Muhammadu Buhari.

The New Permanent Secretaries

Muhammadu Buhari: President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

Muhammadu Buhari: President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

  1. Ayotunde Adesugba
  2. Alhaji Mahmoud Isa-Dutse
  3. Taiwo Abidogun
  4. Bukar Hassan
  5. Wakama Belema Asifieka
  6. Jalal Ahmad Arabi
  7. Sabiu Zakari
  8. Obiageli Phyllis Nwokedi
  9. Aminu Nabegu
  10. Bamgbose Olukunle Oladele
  11. Alo Williams Nwankwo
  12. Shehu Ahmed
  13. Ogbonnaya Innocent Kalu
  14. Nuratu Jimoh Batagarawa
  15. Christian Chinyeaka Ohaa
  16. Bassey Apkanyung
  17. Louis Edozien
  18. Ugo Roy

Deployment of the Permanent Secretaries

  1. Dr. Shehu Ahmad     –        Fed. Min. of Agric & Rural Development
  2. Arch Sunday Echono   – . Fed. Min. of Communications
  3. Alh. Sabiu Zakari      –        Fed. Min. of Transportation
  4. Mrs. Ayotunde Adesugba – Fed. Min. of Information & Culture
  5. Amb. Danjuma Sheni        – Fed. Min. of Defence
  6. Dr. Shade Yemi-Esan        –        Fed. Min. of Education
  7. Mrs. Fatima Mede             –       Budget & National Planning
  8. Alh. Mahmoud Isa Dutse – Fed. Min. of Finance
  9. Amb. Bulus Lolo      –        Fed. Min of Foreign Affairs
  10. Dr. Amina Shamaki         –        Fed. Min. of Health
  11. Mr. Aliyu Bisalla      -Fed. Min. of Industry, Trade & Investment
  12. Mr. Bassey Akpanyung    – Fed. Min. of Internal Affairs
  13. Mr. Taiwo Abidogun        – Fed. Ministry of Justice
  14. Dr. Habiba Lawal   –        Fed. Min. of Science & Tech.
  15. Dr. Clement Illoh    –        Fed. Min. of Labour & Productivity
  16. Dr. Jamila Shu’ara       –        Fed. Min of Petroleum Resources
  17. Mrs. Binta Bello                –        Fed. Min of Women Affairs
  18. Dr. Babatope Ajakaiye     –       Federal Capital Territory
  19. Mrs. Rabi Jimeta             –        Fed. Min. of Water Resources
  20. Dr. Bukar Hassan            –        Fed. Min of Environment
  21. Mrs. Wakama B. Asifieka – Fed. Min. of Niger Delta Affairs
  22. Mr. Istifanus Fuktur       –        Fed. Min. of Solid Minerals
  23. Mr. Christian Ohaa          –        Fed. Min of Youth & Sports
  24. Engr. A.G. Magaji            –        Fed. Min. of Works & Housing
  25. Mr. Louis Edozien – Fed. Min. of Power
  26. Mr. Jalal Arabi – State House
  27. Mr. Mohammed Bukar – General Services Office, OSGF
  28. Mr. Abbas Mohammed – Ecological Fund Office, OSGF
  29. Dr. Ugo Roy – Council Secretariat
  30. Mr. Aminu Nabegu – Special Services Office, OSGF
  31. Amb. Bamgbose Akindele – Political Affairs Office, OSGF
  32. Mr. Alo Williams Nwankwo – Economic Affairs Office, OSGF
  33. Mrs. Obiageli Nwokedi – Special Duties Office, OSGF
  34. Mr. Innocent Ogbonnaya -Career Management Office, OHCSF
  35. Mr. S.K.Y. Adelakun – Common Services Office, OHCSF
  36. Mrs. N. Batagarawa – Service Policy & Strategies Office, OHCSF