Officials of the church presenting drugs to the hospital

While people in urban centres worry over lack of choice amenities, in the rural community of Akwu Ukwu in Idemili South Local Government Area of Anambra State, the renovation of a community health centre, which is the only existing one in the community by a faith-based organisation has sparked off jubilation among women, reports David-Chyddy Eleke

Akwu Ukwu Primary Health Centre (PHC) is not different from that of the 189 communities of Anambra State. Situated along the Onitsha-Owerri federal highway, the centre just months ago had been dilapidated. The roofs were leaky, the patients’ beds were squeaky and the mattresses worn out.

The Chief Nursing Officer, of the PHC, Mrs. Chukwurah Eucharia, said the centre was so bad that it lost all its clients to public and private hospitals in neighbouring communities as indigenes preferred to travel long journeys to centres belonging to other communities than coming there. She said the condition of the members of the community was made worse because the primary health centre was the only hospital in the community.

She said: “Before January, this hospital was in a bad state. We had leaky roof, broken fence and bad floor. Our toilet was also very bad and we had less facilities and equipment to take care of our patients. I felt so bad myself because I was a chief nursing officer in a hospital that could not do anything for the people of the host community who depended on us. Our women and children suffered the most during child birth especially as they have to be taken out of the community, sometimes at odd hours.”

She said members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints came and took a look at the hospital, with a view to noting what was needed to give it a face lift and to provide it with modern facilities.

“They came to us and we listed our problems to them, we didn’t take them seriously, but soon they came back and started work, and it was a surprise to us, because we never applied for it. Since they did this job, we have been experiencing influx of patients here. Gone are the days when our people travelled to neighbouring communities to access healthcare. Just this month, we have witnessed the highest turnover of deliveries, and most of the facilities now make our work easy,” Chukwurah said.

THISDAY noted that besides rebuilding and roofing the hospital, LDS , which is described as the charity arm of the Church of Latter Day Saints also tiled the entire floor of the hospital, provided modern hospital beds, mattresses, pillows and other facilities. It also provided drugs and partnered the community to ensure provision of water through the sinking of a borehole project, and reticulation of the water to ensure supply at every point, all around the hospital.

Chief Linus Aniemeka, a community leader who lives in Lagos expressed his delight about the renovation of the hospital. He told THISDAY that the Akwu Ukwu Town Union in Lagos have had a huge burden of renovating the centre, and had been making arrangement towards it before help came through the church. He said the happiness the town union felt from the renovation by the church was the reason it quickly accepted to sink the borehole as part of its contribution.

He said: “This place is now a big hospital to us. We are going to tell the Lagos branch what we have seen today. We will not fear about where our people will go to have children any longer while we are in far away Lagos. The place is now neat and clean and people have started coming again,” he said.

The renovation and handing over of Akwu Ukwu Primary Health Centre, which took place recently however evoked jubilation and dancing from women of the community who claimed that they have been at the receiving end of the poor facility at the centre.

Women from the community who gathered to witness the handing over of the facility to the community expressed their happiness over the gesture. One of the women who gave her name as Grace said she had her four grown up children in the centre, but regretted that in the past few years, the centre was left to collapse to the extent that women and children who had health needs had to travel to neighbouring communities to bear children.

“We are happy that Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint came to our aid again. As for me, I have stopped bearing children, but I may have other health needs that require me to come here. My daughter will also use the centre, and our mothers would stop going to other communities at odd hours to bear children. That is the reason for the jubilation you see here today.”

Chidi Ibeakuzie, the area welfare specialist of the Church who was on ground to hand the renovated hospital over to the leaders of Akwu Ukwu community said the charity arm of the church was moved to come to the aid of mostly women and children of the community who have to travel to neighbouring communities to access healthcare. He said the church has renovated several health centres in the three senatorial zones of the state, cutting across most communities in the state.

“The LDS Charities is the charity arm of our church, and we have people from all over the world donating funds to take care of people in rural communities, and our job is to go about putting smiles on the faces of these people. In the case of this centre, this structure you see today was totally dilapidated, the roof was leaky, they had no good beds for patients and they lacked drugs too and other facilities.”

Ibeakuzie said his organisation has done projects in Ebenebe in Awka North Local Government, Nkpor in Idemili North, Nri in Anaocha, and several other rural areas in Anambra and beyond. He refused to put a price tag to how much it cost the organisation to fix the hospital, saying that what is paramount to them was that the people were happy over the gesture and ready to make good use of the place.

He stated that healthcare was a cardinal need of mankind, but regretted that people who live in rural areas have long been denied this, leaving them at the mercy of quacks and alternative medicine. He said his discovery showed that there were no hospitals in the surrounding, so people who had healthcare needs, needed to be mobile or be buoyant enough to hire cars to neighbouring communities. In the absence of that he noted that people had to go to chemist shop attendants who they regarded as medical doctors, and accepted whatever medication they got from them.

With the handing over of the hospital to the community, Ibeakuzie expressed happiness that members of the community can now access quality healthcare, without having to travel out of their communities. He urged them to put the hospital and all equipment donated, to proper use.