Pistis Foundation, the social intervention arm of The Elevation Church in partnership with Pro-Health International, a non-profit voluntary healthcare organisation, recently carried out a heartfelt philanthropic exercise in Marwa, the heart of Lekki in Lagos, where thousands of lives were touched. Mary Nnah reports
Martha Ikpo sat close to her mother at a corner as they watched hundreds of people troop into the location where Pistis Foundation, the social intervention arm of The Elevation Church, carried out its medical and surgical outreach in Marwa, the heart of Lekki in Lagos. Her mother, Bridgette Ikpo, who should be in her 80s had just concluded a cataract surgery free of charge after several years of critical vision impairment.
“We came all the way from Ikorodu when we heard about this event. We have been to several clinics including an eye foundation, but we could not afford the cost of operation. By the time we paid for registration and consultation, we barely had anything left. When I walked in here this morning, I thought they will just advise us after test, but to my surprise in less than three hours, we came in registered and a successful operation was conducted”, Ikpo said.
As she spoke, her mother Bridgette began a litany of unending praises for the organisers of the outreach. Bridgette was overjoyed that she will see again before returning to Imo, where she had come from in search of treatment.
Like Bridgette, over 3500 people, who could not afford medical treatment, were attended to during the one-week free medical and surgical outreach organised by Pistis Foundation.
For all who were attended to, March 2019 will forever remain a month to remember, as the free treatment to many of them was as significant as a miracle.
One of the most remarkable surgeries performed by medical volunteers was that of Jumoke Ishau, a woman who was heavily burdened with uterine fibroid that all who saw her thought she was pregnant with twins and due for delivery. Ishau had been bearing the burden for over five years and had lost everything she had. During the outreach, she underwent a Myomectomy to remove a 16kg fibroid growth, the weight of five newborn babies.
A doctor who volunteered also described an encounter with a patient who came completely blind in both eyes and left the outreach with both eyes perfectly restored. “When we removed the patch in the first eye and he began to see, we thought we should go for the second eye as well. It was an unusual move because we do not operate two eyes on the same project. While we were attending to the second eye, we discovered he also had a problem with his stomach which needed urgent medical attention. The man who came with a cane walked home not knowing where his cane was.”
Another beneficiary, Sunday Olaniyan had an accident since 1993 which left his right foot internally fractured and swollen. “After the accident, I could not continue with my job as a mechanic, and because there was no means of livelihood the condition of my leg deteriorated”, Sunday said. He took advantage of the medical outreach to get free drugs in preparation for his surgery.
Pistis Foundation organised outreach was in partnership with Pro-Health International, a non-profit voluntary health care organisation with a focus on uplifting the health status of the less privileged and neglected rural populace in Africa. Pro-Health has been involved in over 170 of such outreaches across Africa.
Over 200 healthcare professionals and volunteers including doctors, nurses, surgeons, pharmacists and biomedical engineers were available from all parts of the country to attend to people during the Ubomi medical outreach. Ubomi, the name given to the church’s Medical Outreach, means ‘life’ in Xhosa, a South African language.
According to the Dr Iko Ibanga, the founder of Pro-Health International, “It has been a privilege to partner a church. It is one of the dreams that I have had for many years. Being in Lagos, I didn’t expect the level of sickness I was seeing in terms of the surgical cases, especially the women, so it has been interesting. We operated on a lot of patients with uterine fibroids during the outreach.” He expressed that the programme was a life-saver for a lot of widows, orphans and poor people who could not afford medical treatment.
“We have been doing this outreach for 27 years but this is exceptional. Because Ubomi is in partnership with a church, the amount of involvement from non-Pro-Health members is quite much. There is a lot of team work and positive synergy with medical volunteers within the church.”
Operations ranging from eye and dental surgeries, peadiatric surgeries, C-sections, orthopeadic sessions, fibroid removal, hysterectomy and more were performed during the outreach. Pistis Foundation also provided free post-event medical care for about 74 patients who have undergone surgery at partner hospitals which include Amethyst Hospital, St Kizito and Pedeatric Hospital, all in Lekki.
According to the Board Chairman, Pistis Foundation, Godman Akinlabi, the foundation is overwhelmed by the number of lives the programme impacted.
“A lot of individuals walked in here blind in one eye or both and they left being able to see. Witnessing over 3500 people with over 6,500 health challenges that were successfully attended to by medical volunteers from all over our nation is a very humbling experience for us.”
He added that “Ubomi, which means ‘life’, is a medical outreach to bridge the gap in access to medical intervention especially with less privileged people in our society. “What is prompting this move is that we cannot leave everything to the government. Government’s resources are not infinite, they are finite. Nigeria is a very populous nation. While the government can do a lot more but faith-based organisations, NGOs, corporates, everybody has to rise up to the challenge. That is what the Pistis Foundation is doing.
“There is no cost for treatment, all we are doing is a case of ‘freely you have received, freely give. We have doctors from all over the country and a specialist flying in from India all at no cost to the beneficiaries. The foundation has partners and Elevation Church is a major financier of the foundation”, Akinlabi said.
The General Manager of Pistis Foundation, Leonard Thomas, remarked that the event has been life changing and life transforming not only for the beneficiaries but the volunteers.
“On the first day, we had 21 eye surgeries and majority of the surgeries were cataract issues. I thought it would take a month for them to heal but by the following morning, they showed up, their plasters were removed, and they could all see. As at noon on the third day of the event, over 2000 people had been attended to, and over 200 surgeries were done.
“The foundation also took successful delivery of three babies free of charge. In all, there were about 6500 interventions, 285 dental surgeries, 191 general and eye surgeries performed, three babies delivered and no single case went bad.”
“We had surgeons travel down from Sokoto and all parts of the country. Surgeons are the most difficult to get but they have volunteered their time and energy to give back to the society through the Pistis Foundation”, Leonard added.
One of the beneficiaries expressed in tears, “This is exactly what the government should provide for us, we cannot even feed ourselves, how can we afford treatments when hospitals charge so high and the subsidised ones are insufficient”.
In Lagos State, only 26 general hospitals service a population of about 18 million. The Lagos State Ministry of Health also partnered Pistis Foundation for the outreach, validating the licenses of all medical personnel and providing ambulance services. During a visit on the second day of the outreach, the representative of Lagos State’s Commissioner of Health, Dr. Mrs Funmi Sokunbi took a tour of the treatment facilities and commended Pistis Foundation and Pro-Health International for the initiative.
“Lagos State government will always welcome initiatives like this because it complements the vision of the Ministry of Health towards ensuring universal health coverage. The medical mission is a stop-gap and an alternative access to healthcare”, she said.
Pistis Foundation’s ambition is to hold the outreach at least once every year to help the poor access better healthcare, according to Leonard. He concluded that the private sector and faith-based institutions need to collaborate more with the government to fight poverty and address the health challenges of indigent people.
The foundation has plans to move the outreach to Lagos Mainland in 2020. At a dinner to appreciate all volunteers and partners, Akinlabi said the move was prompted by the success of the recently concluded one and the need to extend a helping hand to those on the mainland. “We look forward to more partnerships, more funds from outside the church to be able to pull it through”, he concluded.