In the eerie midnight silence, gunshots from bandits shattered the peace of residents of Kigudu community, ZangoKataf local government area (LGA) in Kaduna State. The sound echoed close by, spreading terror and freezing everyone. When morning came, a horrific scene unfolded: a nurse lay lifeless on the floor, a grim testament to the night’s evil. The bandits had taken two sick patients on admission, leaving loved ones in anguish. They also looted and burned the community’s health facility, destroying life-saving resources.

Jerry Laman, the head pastor of Kigudu ECWA Church which is a few kilometres from Kigudu Primary Health Care (PHC), the only healthcare centre catering to about 12 settlements in the area, trembled as he shared the chilling tale.

Kigudu community has been plagued by bandit attacks for months. According to residents, between January and December 2022, the community was attacked eight times, and the local primary health care (PHC) was looted twice.  In the attack which took place in December 2022, the bandits were unable to find any drugs or medical supplies to loot. They reportedly became angry, killed a nurse, and kidnapped two sick patients, before setting the PHC on fire.

Residents live in fear and can no longer access basic healthcare within the community. Instead, they travel to Kaduna City and Kafanchan to receive treatment, Danjuma Philip, the chairman Kigudu ward development committee said. 

The PHC was closed after the attacks, forcing residents to travel long distances to receive treatment.  Philip said that the attacks have had a devastating impact on the community.

“We don’t know when the bandits will strike again,” he said. “In my capacity as ward committee chairman, I notified the PHC manager who coordinates PHCs at the LGA level in Kaduna about the incessant attacks and our present condition. It has been over six months and no one has responded or done anything.”

Kigudu residents are not alone in their suffering. Bandit attacks have also plagued their compatriots in Kajuru, in Southern Kaduna.

Rachael Samson, a resident of Jere South in Jere LGA, was running for safety during an attack on her community when she suffered a miscarriage. After the attack, she returned to find that the community’s health facility had been destroyed. She had no choice but to be treated locally for her miscarriage.

Christian Nuhu, the head of Vigilante, a local security group in the Jere South community, described how the only midwife in the community, Vero Samuel, was kidnapped while on night duty.

“Vero Samuel was kidnapped in one of the recent attacks by bandits,” Nuhu said. “We have not heard from her since then.”

Attacks on communities in Southern Kaduna have continued, destroying health facilities and denying thousands of residents access to healthcare. A Solacebase investigation found that the Kaduna state government has failed to adequately fund the rebuilding of these facilities, despite making budgetary allocations for this purpose.

Kaduna State Government Falls Short in Funding Reconstruction of Damaged Facilities

Analysis of annual budget documents including audited financial statements from 2020 to 2022 obtained from the Accountant General of the State (OSAG)shows a huge contrast between budgetary allocations and actual releases and expenditures made towards investment in the state’s health sector.

Due to incessant attacks, looting and burning of health facilities across Kaduna state since 2021, many residents expected the state government to devote a significant amount of money to the rehabilitation of the damaged facilities.

Although Kaduna state was applauded for being the only state in Nigeria to meet the 15 percent African Union health allocation target between 2020 and 2022, records show that a substantial part of the allocations was not geared towards rebuilding the state’s ailing health infrastructure including those in Southern Kaduna. For instance, Kaduna state budgeted N42bn for the health sector and only spent N7bn on the upgrade and equippingof 16 hospitals across the state in 2020.

Furthermore, financial audited statements from the OSAG showed a decline in eventual funds released for health-related expenditure compared to the budgeted amount in 2021. Records from the 2022 audited report showed that N4bn was spent on the construction, renovation, and upgrading of PHCs, 225 health clinics, amongst others. However, during visits to affected communities, there is no substantial evidence to suggest that this funding has been used to rebuild or improve these facilities. Both Kigudu PHC and Warkan PHC in ZangoKataf and Birnin-Gwari LGAs respectively are still left in their damaged condition after the attacks.

A Closer Look

Records from the Nigeria Health Registry revealed that there are 1,820 PHCs across the 31 LGAs in Kaduna state. At least 315 of these PHCs are situated across the 12 LGAs that make up Southern Kaduna, which has been the most affected by these attacks.

The 2022 Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition (SHCC) report shows that Kaduna is ranked amongst the top security-challenged states that recorded significant attacks on both health facilities and health workers.

The report stated that in 2021, the state recorded 12 attacks on both health workers and health facilities, while in 2022 there were 16 attacks on both health workers and health facilities. The report found that the attacks have led to the closure of health facilities, the displacement of health workers, and the disruption of healthcare services.

Residents Terrified to Speak with Strangers

The residents of Warkan community in Birnin-Gwari LGA of Kaduna State are living in fear. They are so afraid of strangers that they often run away or call others to run when they see someone they don’t know. The residents are also reluctant to talk about their experiences with strangers, as they fear that doing so could put them in danger.

However, with the intervention of the community head, Christian Goni, some residents shared their stories lamenting the poor state of health facilities in the community and how many have died due to lack of medical attention.

“We have lost many people because of the poor state of our health facilities,” a resident said. “We have to travel long distances to get to the nearest hospital, and even then, the hospital may not have the necessary equipment or drugs.”

According to Goni, both economic and livelihood activities of the community has been halted because of frequent attacks by bandits. 

“I am still wondering how you got here without getting scared that you might be attacked. Some of these Okada guys are part of them, and they may deliver you to them directly,” Goni said.

“Our PHC is completely shut down just like our market and schools. We don’t know when we will reopen them, people no longer come to the market, teachers no longer come to school, and health workers have stayed away, it’s close to a year now, so it’s a long conversation.

“Jere PHC which is by the roadside is what we now use, and it’s like an hour’s journey, and during emergencies, we are left with no option than to travel there to access health care. Due to the cost, and distance, we often turn to herbs to address our illnesses and diseases.”

Agency, Ministry Keep Mum

A visit to the Primary Health Care Development Agency in Kaduna State revealed that no one was willing to speak about the agency’s plan for rebuilding the PHC that had been destroyed by bandits, or the government’s efforts to secure PHCs from further vandalism.

Sambo Alkali, the Director of Planning and Rural Health when visited twice declined to respond to questions and asked that the reporter return after the new government has been sworn into power. Weeks after the swearing-in of the new government, the reporter reached out to Alkali as requested. He explained that the agency had plans to rehabilitate all vandalized PHCs, but he could not provide a specific timeline for the reconstruction.

Just like Alkali, Isa Aliyu, the Director of Procurement, Kaduna State Ministry of Health declined to also provide information as regards the state of PHCs in the state and the role of the government in rehabilitating PHCs looted and destroyed by bandits.

“We have decided not to disclose any information to any media house except if it’s a press release by the ministry or any agency under the ministry. We are careful to give out information because of the insecurity situation we find ourselves in, so we are sorry we can’t help you,” Aliyu said.

Expert, CSO Knock Government Over Negligence of PHCs, Call for Swift Rehabilitation

Elizabeth Wambai, a health expert and lecturer at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, described government’s neglect and poor funding of PHCs as an unwise decision capable of ruining the society.

“The Kaduna state government is good at designing beautiful budget documents on paper, to get global and media appraisal, and then release an insignificant amount for use. The health sector is supposed to rank top on the priority list of any serious government.

“This is how a country begins to collapse, the elections are over and we have a new government in Kaduna state, I just pray the governor will give priority to the health sector as an important sector,” Wambai said.

Danjuma Ibrahim is the North-West Coordinator ‘Get Involved’, a non-governmental organization aimed at promoting community ownership of government facilities constructed for the benefit of the people, said government negligence of rural health as intentional and deliberate.

“Government cannot claim it does not know that some basic amenities, such as PHCs cannot be toiled with. If you must stand with the people, you must first prioritize their health, and there is no better way to know than how an administration prioritizes rural health infrastructure since that is where majority of the population of the state reside.

“We are aware that quite a number of PHCs have been vandalized by bandits in Kaduna and across some states, we have made several calls to the government in this regard hoping they will pay more attention to it,” Ibrahim said.

Source: Sahara Reporters

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