Agbani, headquarters of Nkanu West Local Government Area of Enugu State, literally stood still on Tuesday as the First Lady of the state and wife of the governor, Mrs. Monica Ugwuanyi, launched the health care/screening test and treatment programme, a pet-project of the wife of the president, Mrs. Aisha Buhari. About 2, 000 persons were screened and treated of various ailments.
It was a day to remember for the people of the state, as thousands of people, including the young and the aged, drawn from the 17 local councils of the state, turned out to take part in the health programme. The situation at the venue of the event looked more like a carnival in view of the huge number of people that graced the occasion.

Voluntary Service
Mrs. Buhari had last year launched the health programme at the zonal level across the country, with that of the South-east taking place at the Queens School in Enugu on November 5. She had noted at the event that the pet project, which took off shortly after the inauguration of her husband, President Muhammadu Buhari’s government was intended to promote the health and wellbeing of women and children across the country with special emphasis on women in the rural areas.

She said the project was a voluntary one with the sole intention of rendering selfless service to humanity, explaining that even the medical personnel working with her are equally rendering voluntary services.

Mrs. Buhari appealed to wives of the governors of all the 36 states to ensure that women from the rural areas took part in the screening exercise, noting that at the moment, the nation’s health care system is still improving and as such still requires the contributions of all and sundry.

“In line with this vision, I have recently demonstrated a desire and commitment to support the on-going effort of improving the health and wellbeing of women and children through this programme to be implemented in collaboration the wives of governors of 36 states of the country. This initiative is intended to reach women, particularly, those in hard-to-reach areas with basic medical interventions in all the zones,” the president’s wife said.
It was, obviously, in realisation of the importance of the health programme and in keeping with her promise to ensure that the project was replicated in the entire state that Mrs Ugwuanyi took up the responsibility of bringing the project closer to those in the rural areas.

Screening and Testing
The health programme is basically for the screening, testing and treatment of women and men against some preventable diseases, such as blood-sugar test, breast/cervical examination, kidney function test, dental/eye checks, and prostate cancer check. It is also designed to restore hope to those who have lost it, especially the less privileged and those living in the rural areas where medical care is mostly difficult to access.

Expectedly, all the 17 council areas in the state were fully represented, including a team of medical doctors and paramedical personnel from the state Ministry of Health and some development partners in the state such as PATHS 2 and DFID.

Mrs. Ugwuanyi at the programme said, “We were thus inspired to take every necessary step to ensure that we successfully replicate the exercise in our state. We are here, therefore, to kick start the free health screening test for treatment for women and men in Enugu State in collaboration with our local health care providers and partners.”

To ensure the success and sustainability of the programme at the grassroots, Mrs. Ugwuanyi appealed to the chairmen of the local government areas in the state to support their wives to publicise and mobilise both urban and rural women in their areas.

Also speaking, the wife of the chairman of Nkanu West local council, Mrs. Ugochi Okereke, described the flag off of the free health care initiative by the wife of the governor as a demonstration of her love and passion for the health needs of the people, noting that the Enugu first lady is the first governor’s wife in the country to replicate the programme at the grassroots since it was flagged off by the president’s wife.

On his part, the host chairman, Afam Okereke, said the free health care initiative targeted at the rural dwellers and the less privileged was a development that would impact positively on the lives of the people. While promising to ensure the success of the project in his council, Okereke commended Mrs. Ugwuanyi for her foresight in successfully flagging it off in the state.

Other observes who also shared their thoughts on the project were of the view that with the flag-off of the basic health care initiative, all, hands must be on deck to ensure its success. They appealed to major stakeholders, including the medical personnel at all tiers of government, the development partners, council chairmen and their spouses to effectively mobilise the people to take advantage of the programme to resolve their health challenges.

Many observers at the event believed that enough funds needed to be provided to adequately procure drugs and medical consumables as well as pay of health workers that will execute the programme, especially, in the rural areas.

A medical officer, Dr Kenneth Ukoha, noted, “A good number of health institutions or health posts have to be designated at various centres for the test and screening exercise, just as in the case of the routine immunisation exercise for the child killer diseases, to ensure its success and sustainability. It is also important for the exercise to be extended to the secondary schools, especially, the girls’ schools.”

Ukoha appealed to other states in the country to borrow learn from the wife of the Enugu State governor by equally replicating the programme in their local government areas, saying that would go a long way in spreading free and accessible health care to the grassroots where both the poor, less privileged and the needy persons will benefit.