Imo indigenes in the US under the umbrella of the Amaimo Community US was home Easter with a full medical team to heal the sick in the land something that brought cheer to beneficiaries and their elated relatives. Sir Chukwunyere Jones Anaele President Amaimo Community USA who led the Medical Mission, a delegation that treated cataract, glaucoma, fibroid, hernia and a host of other health complications tells NDUKA NWOSU why the association is glad giving back to society.
Can you give a brief on the Amaimo Community USA?
Amaimo Community USA is an umbrella organisation of all sons and daughters of Amaimo residents in the US. It is a not for profit organisation whose dual aim is to cater to the interests of its members in the US as well as seek ways of making our presence felt through inputs on how to move our community forward through ideas, suggestions in local government or community affairs as well as make financial contributions and application of our professional know-how in moving the people forward. We listen to what happens at home and seek for ways of adding value to the solution of our problems. That way we move progressively to the next destination
Can you come with specifics of what you have done in recent times?
We listen to what happens at home the distance between us and the people at home notwithstanding. Health management is an important aspect of a useful existence. A lot of people do not have the resources to manage their health especially with reduced income, joblessness and old age. Many people resign themselves to death arguing that it is better to die than live in pain and penury. So we tried to re-write the situation by organising a medical mission. We had the last one in 2013 before the current one which has just ended. The people had serious issues of picking their bills. A lot of our people could not afford adequate medical attention. So as an organisation based in the US we organised the medical mission to heal the sick people of Amaimo. Amaimo US had to raise funds, equipment and medication and used the Easter holidays to execute the project.
How would you rate the two missions in terms of delivery?
I was not a part of the 2013 mission but those who participated confess that the 2017 event outclassed that of 2013. For example we had 160 eye and other medical surgeries and there was no single casualty. We hired equipment from an organisation in the US. In collaboration with a local organisation known as Imo Foundation, we created theatres where these surgeries were carried out. You could hear confessions from the beneficiaries who were obviously elated at the new life that was open to them. The Imo Foundation gave us part of their theatre to carry out most of the eye surgeries. We had a huge number of patients and they all received the benefits of modern medicine. You could hear them confessing that they went to hospital for treatment but because of the high bills they could not be treated; now a burden of many years has been finally cleared. I wish you had come to Amaimo to see what happened.
Were some of the eye surgeries related to blindness?
There were major cases of cataract and glaucoma. Everything went well. When they were transported home, people were hugging them, the reactions from relations and the regaining of one’s sight showed a huge difference has been made in their lives. It was a huge success and the people were happy.
What other forms of treatment took place?
There were cases of hernia, fibroid, lumps et al. Nothing was held back. A lot of people now have lumps all over their bodies and we do not know why. These patients for lack of funds to pick their bills stayed back at home. We encouraged them to come out and they had comprehensive tests before surgery. The list of ailments was extensive but the medical team handled them all successfully.
Back in the US everyone has access to Medicare. What is the secret?
The secret is the government which ensures everyone desiring medical attention gets it without being turned back. If you cannot pick the bill, you still get treated and bill settlement comes later. Medical attention in the US is very expensive but the government ensures the process is well implemented such that people are not turned back. I understand it is not the same case here in the country and that if you don’t have the money no one takes care of you. It is not meant to be so. One other thing that we observed is that there is a lack of education regarding the rules of good health. It does not cost anything to do that. There should be concerted effort to let people hear and know what it takes to keep fit. Teaching people how to manage their health is very important. Preventive health is the ideal thing, it is better than the complex case that is death threatening.
In the past folks relied on food from the farms but these days it looks like the vogue is to patronize the fast foods. This is dangerous suggesting that farm gate returns such as vegetables and fruits are getting leaner and in-accessible. These natural foods helped our parents. I was told the governor instructed that there should be a return to the old ways of farming and I was glad to observe that a lot of farmlands have been cultivated even in the urban areas. In the days past our ancestors fed on the returns from the farms and these are healthy intakes for good living
Did your association devote time to educating the people on the advantages of preventive medicine?
The government can do that by putting out educational facilities aimed at educating and helping the people. There is need to leave behind a medical team or personnel to handle this. I don’t think this will cost a fortune like politics. We understand what politics is but health is much more than politics and it is important that the budget should substantially address this issue of Medicare.
Does the association devote part of its time advising or contributing to the ideals of good governance to government especially regarding your medical mission’s ideals?
The organisation is non-political and we do not want to be seen as such.
By way of advice what would you tell the government?
What I would tell the government is that there is a lot of health centres built all over the place. The best thing is to equip these medical centres that will help to handle all emergency cases for the elite who still want to pursue their treatments overseas. If properly equipped and managed well these centres will go a long way to avoid cases of deaths where bread winners leave a helpless offspring behind. So it is pertinent to equip these abandoned or poorly equipped medical centres.
Do you intend someday to build a clinic or hospital in the name of the
That is a worthy idea. In this trip we bought some equipment.It is very ideal to think along the line of setting up a clinic or hospital so that when we are ready for a mission all we need to do is hop into the aircraft with our kits and with our medical personnel do whatever we can do. This project is a doable one for the future. It makes sense to have such a clinic or hospital we can call our own.
Can you say more on the Imo Foundation and its activities?
I learnt in some quarters that the Imo Foundation is the brain child of the current governor. The foundation has been useful to us and other missions coming into Imo State. Apart from providing some transportation, there were other logistic supports and one of our own who is the medical director as well as the director general, an amiable person, were part of the success story of the mission.
How have you been able to contribute in other areas of life affecting the indigenes?
We were actively involved with putting in place a security apparatus in the stormy days of kidnapping, armed robbery and related security issues. We provided logistics, built a bank kit….(?) and provided uniforms for the vigilante group. We are looking at the education sector as well. Some of the schools are dilapidated with poorly equipped infrastructure. The classrooms are littered with pot holes. We are thinking of helping raise infrastructure standards for these schools.
Are you constrained by funds?
We are. If everyone were to participate in the activities, we would go a long way. That is a challenge because some of the Amaimo indigenes like many other Nigerians are indifferent to what happens here because when they visit home once or twice, they feel depressed and disappointed at the state of things. Raising funds however is no problem for members of the association. Besides the US government offers support to organisations that carry out humanitarian activities and registered as non-profit, as long as transparency is the hallmark of such organisation. Oftentimes items such as drugs are tax free on purchase. The US government is keen on helping those who help themselves. For example the drugs used by the mission were purchased at greatly reduced costs.
Do you think Nigeria is ripe to operate a homeland security as obtains in the US?
It is a wise thing to do because it is saddening to see those who visited on holidays or even locals being felled by the bullet of armed robbers or kidnapped for a ransom. This has to do with joblessness because if people have jobs they will not get involved in nefarious activities
Back in the 1980s there was the brain drain syndrome. Do you think it is time for these great minds, creative and talented Nigerians, to come back home and participate in nation building?
Absolutely people want to come back but bad roads, poor water facilities and lack of electricity discourage them. It is not a bad idea except that each time some of these Nigerians returned home they were disappointed at the poor state of infrastructure in the country.