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Projects from around the world

Abidagba Health Centre, Nigeria

Christine Wamwati

Tags: Opus Dei, Solidarity, Women, Society, Nigeria
Ijebu-Ode, in Ogun State
Ijebu-Ode, in Ogun State
A project of Women’s Board
Educational Cooperation Society is a Nigerian not-for-profit organization based in Lagos which delivers healthcare to prevent common diseases in the area. Abidagba Health Centre is located in the grounds of Iroto Rural Development Centre, near the small town of Iloti, not far from Ijebu-Ode, in Ogun State, Nigeria.

The clinic started off in the 1980s in a room of the Rural Centre where common ailments such as malaria, typhoid, diarrhaea, childhood infections, etc. were treated. It soon became clear that a purpose-built Medical Centre would be welcome in this area.

In Nigeria Special Report
Some women in the hygiene classes
Some women in the hygiene classes
Nevertheless, it was some time before donors were found who could provide the funds needed for the construction.

Eventually, however, two major donors did offer the necessary help: Manos Unidas and a German family, the Dominicks, who wanted to contribute in memory of their son Andreas who had been killed in a car accident.

Thanks to these benefactors, as well as to some Nigerians who also wanted to donate, building went ahead and Abidagba Health Centre was opened in December 1996 by the Director of General Health, Ogun State, Dr. ‘Tunji Adelowo. Since it opened its doors, the health centre has run sessions on disease awareness and prevention which has resulted in successfully treating illnesses when the first symptoms appear.

 A view of Abidagba Health Centre
A view of Abidagba Health Centre
The origin
The inspiration to start Abidagba Health Centre came from the teachings of St Josemaria Escrivá de Balaguer.

For him:
"A man or a society that does not react to suffering and injustice and makes no effort to alleviate them is still distant from the love of Christ‘s heart. Christians should be united in having one and the same desire to serve mankind. Otherwise their Christianity will not be the word and life of Jesus; it will be a fraud, a deception of God and man" (Christ is Passing By, n.167).

One such Christian undertaking is Abidagba. Despite the fact that it costs a lot of effort to maintain, it has been rewarding, especially when a life is saved against all odds or when grateful mothers offer what they can –from the very little they have– in gratitude for what they have received.
St Josemaria Escrivá de Balaguer
St Josemaria Escrivá de Balaguer

"One of the main challenges in Abidagba is to get people to come in time for medical services"

The first remedy
One of the main challenges in Abidagba is to get people to come in time for medical services. Generally, the people prefer to treat themselves first with inadequate doses of antibacterial or antimalarial drugs. When they do not get better, they then go to the witch doctor, known as babalawo.

The clinics and hospitals are usually the last resort after attempts to treat themselves have failed. Because of this, the cases that come to the clinic tend to have resistance to the cheaper antibiotics and antimalarials.

• Laboratory tests:
Another challenge has been to get the patients to do laboratory
tests. They see it as a waste of money and would rather be treated without prior laboratory testing. One day, a seasonal farmer from the Northern part of the country came to the clinic with a festering wound in the leg. When asked to do a laboratory test he refused. He
was told that he would only be treated on the condition that he did the test otherwise no-one would be able to know which antibiotics to use for the wound. In spite of the explanations, he refused to do it though he had the necessary amount of money. He finally agreed to do the test only after a good number of his friends had spoken to him, by which time several days had elapsed!

• Oral Rehydration Therapy:
Many of the children who are brought to the clinic have malnutrition. This is usually the result of ignorance on their mothers’ part. The unhygienic environment and lack of clean drinking water make matters worse. There is a common belief among the people that eating sugar causes diarrhaea. So the children are usually not given sugar and are given mainly carbohydrate, especially garri, with
little or no protein in the meals. These children are usually very ill when they are brought to the clinic. The Oral Rehydration Therapy is now well-known and well-used, frequently saving the lives of the infants of these villages.

The value of pharmaceutical drugs is being more appreciated as an effective means of treatment.

Helping the family
The majority of women in Iloti have very little education. Their daily work consists of cultivating cassava which involves spending most of the day in the field and means they cannot dedicate much time to their homes. The family members who suffer most from the absence of their mother at home are the children who need her care, especially when they are ill. A high percentage of the children who are brought to the clinic have common childhood diseases which could have been prevented if the mothers had had the necessary knowledge.

It is apparent that the women of Iloti need help in order to realize the great potential each one has and to take care of their children and family as a whole.

One such example of the assistance provided to families is a case of a 3 year-old child who was brought to the clinic with dehydration, diarrhaea and malnutrition. The nurse, on seeing the critical condition of the child, advised the parents to take him to a betterequipped hospital in the town but the couple refused because
they had no money. The father is a motorcyclist and the mother is a garri farmer.

When they insisted on staying, the nurse decided to do what she could do with the little means within her reach.

She treated the child and gradually he got better. The parents were grateful and later on paid in installments the paltry fee which was owed.

Education and Prevention
In order to solve the problem of malnutrition at its root, the resident nurse of Abidagba started teaching mothers, with practical classes on how to feed the children with powdered soya-bean milk, a very cheap and affordable source of protein. The nurse taught them the quantity to be given at each meal and warned them that any left-over milk should be thrown away because this could be easily contaminated and cause infection. In addition, in the hygiene classes, they were shown how to clean the children’s feeding bottles. In Iloti there is a belief that a certain kind of seed when put into the children’s feeding bottles helps to close their fontanelles.

This is another source of unhygienic feeding and cause of diarrhaea. It has taken time and many classes on hygiene to get the mothers to stop putting the seed in the children’s feeding bottles.

These sessions on hygiene and childcare have clearly benefitted the health of the community. They have helped the people to recognize early symptoms and realize the importance of cleanliness, a balanced
diet and early treatment of kwashiorkor, malaria, typhoid fever, diarrhaea and other infectious diseases.

“These sessions on hygiene and childcare have clearly benefitted
the health of the community”
Women of Iloti need help in order to realize the great potential each one has and to take care of their children and family as a whole.
Women of Iloti need help in order to realize the great potential each one has and to take care of their children and family as a whole.

With the help of many
Though the villagers have little money for the medical attention they need, the Abidagba Health Centre as a rule asks for a minimal amount of money to commit the patients to the treatment being given.

This small fee is used mainly for the laboratory tests. The patients know they can pay in cash installments or in kind. This arrangement helped to overcome one of the initial challenges faced by the clinic: to get the patients to complete a course of treatment once they started to feel better. There are cases in which the patients stop coming after receiving only the initial treatment.

The clinic is maintained with the generous donations of different people from all walks of life. Abidagba Health Centre has on its staff at present a very experienced resident nurse, a laboratory technician and local health workers. Apart from attending to the patients who come to the Centre, the staff also make health visits to the surrounding villages as a follow-up of the classes in nutrition, hygiene, childcare and elementary medicine which are given in the clinic. Since they are from Iloti, the health workers
are better placed to help their fellow women to put into practice what they have been taught in the clinic. They teach the young mothers how to wean their children, as well as housekeeping and cleaning techniques.

Harambee Project
One of the biggest donations to the Abidagba Health Centre has been from Harambee Africa International Onlus, an organization that promotes development in Africa, inspired by the teachings of St Josemaria Escrivá de Balaguer.

The donation was gratefully received and contributed to improving the health of around 5000 people. House visits and free health checks were given to the people in the local area alongside classes of basic health and hygiene in the nearby villages and in the Health Centre.

Harambee promotes educational programmes in Africa and about Africa
Harambee promotes educational programmes in Africa and about Africa
According to St Josemaria Escrivá, “Earthly goods are not bad, but they are debased when man sets them up as idols, when he adores them.
They are ennobled when they are converted into instruments for good, for just and charitable Christian undertakings” (Christ is Passing By, n. 35).

Harambee promotes educational programmes in Africa and about Africa – developmental projects in the sub-Saharan region and awarenessbuilding activities elsewhere designed to encourage a positive outlook on African culture.

Text by: Christine Wamwati Photographs by: Abidagba Health Centre Graphic design: E.Vaillo

© 2010, Opus Dei Information Office. www.opusdei.org and www.josemariaescriva.info