By Eric Dumo
Residents of Iropo community and surrounding towns like Madoga, Ilagbe and Imule in Ipokia Local Government Area of Ogun State could not hide their excitement recently after the area got its very first borehole.
The water facility, which was built by the Gabriel Olutola Foundation, a non-profit organisation, followed a report by Saturday PUNCH on December 26, 2015 titled: Ogun community where over 10,000 residents share only one hospital bed.
The report had captured the agonising experiences of inhabitants of the area whose lives had become a living hell following the absence of a host of basic social amenities like clean, potable water, decent healthcare facility, good roads and electricity. For example, the once vibrant community health centre in the heart of the town had become an old shadow of itself, with only one bed left standing inside its ward to attend to over 10, 000 adults and children who live in the area and throng it daily for medical help.
The hospital, which is manned by only two members of staff – a young nurse and a middle-aged doctor, according to the report, also lacked basic items required to deliver quality healthcare including drugs to treat minor cases like malaria and typhoid – the two most prevalent ailments in the area.
To make matters worse, the facility lacks a toilet and bathroom, forcing patients to defecate in polythene bags and bathe in the open most times. The only well providing water for the hospital had also crumbled and converted to a dump where faeces of patients who defecate in polythene bags are littered. On occasions where there are many newly delivered mothers around, each is allowed to rest on the hospital’s only bed for a few minutes before giving way to another woman and her baby, the report revealed.
The unavailability of electricity supply also added to the people’s problem, making communication with the outside world for many of them very difficult.
Moved by the touching accounts of sufferings and deprivation across the area as highlighted in the report, the Gabriel Olutola Foundation apart from building the borehole also donated a huge generator to Iropo community including two 3000-litre water storage drums to ease the pains of the locals. The group wanted to build and equip a new ultra-modern hospital in the town but government bureaucracy meant it had to back down on the plan after approval was not given.
“We were deeply touched by the plight of the people of Iropo and neighbouring communities that we had to visit the area a few days after the story was published in Saturday PUNCH. We were concerned and worried about the little children and women especially the pregnant ones who could be the most vulnerable in the area looking at it from the health perspective. There is no way many of them can survive with that type of hospital there.
“So, we contacted officials of the local government and even some state government officials but from the outset the reception we got wasn’t encouraging. We asked to build a new and modern hospital at the site of the dilapidated one but we were turned down. Though, they said we were free to build a new hospital away from the site of the old one if the community gave us a land but then we realised that there were going to be issues with getting doctors and nurses to work there because they were not willing to post anybody there as they were not under any compulsion to do so. Even if we brought in our own nurses and doctors, there was no way we could sustain their wages as we are only a non-profit organisation.
“These were some of the challenges we faced along the line but we are happy that we were able to do something little for the people,” an executive member of the Foundation told our correspondent.
But the ‘little’ that the group did has gone a long way in changing the life of many households across the agrarian community. Young and old – the people were all smiles during the commissioning of the project recently. Their gratitude can hardly be qualified.
“We don’t know how to express our feelings on the special blessing that God has brought into our community,” Adedeji Bankole, one of Iropo’s leaders, said excitedly. “This borehole is the biggest thing that has happened to this community and environs in a long time. Before now, we drank from the only well in this town with many of our people always falling ill as a result of its unsafe nature. But today we have a very good source of water to drink from and a generator to operate the borehole and also charge our mobile phones. We thank all those who made this possible, only God can reward them,” he said.
Another non-profit organisation, following the report, also visited the community earlier in the week to further intervene in the people’s situation. The group plans to conduct free medical checks and treatment in the area at regular intervals and also donate another borehole facility to complement the existing one. The NGO also plans to make interventions in the areas of education.
The Ogun State Government while reacting to the report a few days after its publication, had promised to urgently look into the people’s plight by repairing the hospital and addressing many of the challenges faced by residents of the area. But more than three months after that pledge was made, locals told Saturday PUNCH they are yet to see anything from the govrnment.