Sunday Ehigiator writes that the full medical scholarships awarded to 14 second year students across various Nigerian universities by Fajim Medicare Foundation during the maiden edition of the ‘Annual Undergraduate Medical Scholarship Award Ceremony’, recently held at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital will assist in changing some unfavourable medical statistics Nigeria is faced with for the better within the shortest time
The latest World Health Organisation (WHO) data placed the average life expectancy of Nigerians at 54.5 years, making the country one of the lowest, out of the 178 countries ranked.
The report, published in 2018, found that men are expected to live for an average of 53.7 years, while women live for an average of 55.4 years.
It cited influenza and pneumonia, diarrhoeal diseases, tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria as the top five causes of death, accounting for, 305,460, 186,218, 175,124, 168,900, and 168,900 death cases among the top 50 causes of death in Nigeria.
Health according to WHO is described as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
By implication, this involves a feeling of well-being that is enjoyed by individual when the body systems are functioning effectively and efficiently together and in harmony with the environment, in order to achieve the objectives of good living.
Healthy people are the foundation of healthy economies. As Africa’s most populous country and one of its biggest economies, Nigeria’s health indicators are no doubt, of national concern.
Health can be measured by indicators such as life expectancy at birth, infant mortality rate, neonatal mortality rate, under-5 child mortality (U5MR) rate, and maternal mortality rate.
However, other factors which affect health include socio-economic status, culture, education, government policies, indoor and outdoor environment, nutritional status, people’s own health practices and behaviours, and availability of medical facilities and personnel
Medical doctors play a critical role in maintaining and sustaining the health of any country’s human resources. They undergo a disciplined and regimented lifestyle while in the university which carries on into their professional practice.
It is disheartening that Nigerian doctors are migrating to other countries; this trend appears to be witnessing a new height, which the keynote speaker at the occasion, Mr. Tunde Popoola described as a ticking time bomb.
Recently, it was reported that 5,405 Nigerian-trained doctors and nurses are currently working with the National Health Services (NHS) in the UK.
The figure, released by the British Government, revealed that Nigerian medics constitute 3.9 per cent of the 137,000 foreign staff of 202 nationalities working alongside British doctors and nurses.
According to Popoola, “In search for better conditions, medical professionals leave the country and this development has worsened the physician-patient ratio in Nigeria from the initial one doctor to 4,000 patients, to one doctor to 5,000 patients.”
This is however contrary to the WHO recommended one doctor to 600 patients. Popoola revealed that “the physician-patient ratio in the UK is one doctor to 300 patients.
“This makes what Fajim Medicare Foundation is doing very important to the country, because this scholarship is not only unique because it is focused at medical students, but also because it has a great role to play in improving the doctor to patience ratio in our country.
“The moment these students finish their studies, it is expected that they would breach the gaps and also improve on our health sector. The government cannot do it alone, and that is why I would never stop commending this foundation. If more people can support this, I believe our health sector would improve drastically in no time.
“The government also has a very important role to play. People are suffering in this country. They are currently undergoing a lot of illnesses, ranging from, depression and mental health, to stroke, cancer, etc. And that is why we need enough doctors.
“The government should ensure that it provide better working condition to these live savers and also provide all necessary facilities in our public health sectors. It should likewise ensure the smooth passage of the health bill, which I believe would provide answers to most of our commonly faced challenges in our health sector.”
In his remarks, the Chairman, Board of Trustees, Fajim Medicare Foundation, Alhaji Jamiu Abdulkareem applauded his wife, Prof. Fatimah Abdulkareem for the idea to sponsor the students through their studies in various medical areas at different universities in Nigeria.
“The slogan of the foundation is ‘hand-in-hand, together we can’, aptly depicts our strong believe that by joining hands with people of high calibre, dignitaries, and vibrant professionals, we can achieve the aim of improving the health status of Nigerians, particularly, the under-served communities.”
He also congratulated the beneficiaries of the scholarships and admonished them to work harder in their academic pursuit, without forgetting to also give back to the less opportune in society, when they finally can, just as they had received.
In his remarks, the Chairman of the occasion, Alhaji Rafiu Ebiti emphasized the need to educate the girl child.
“When you educate a girl, you train a nation. And I am delighted with what the foundation is doing. I pledge my full support to really see through that the scholarship is full, especially for the girls among them.
“We need an effective universal healthcare coverage for all Nigerians, as the present health insurance doesn’t cover everyone. We also need increased remuneration for doctors and health workers to reduce the pay gap between developed countries and us and also improve the quality of life for all Nigerians.
“This would drastically reduce the rate at which our doctors leave the country immediately after acquiring education. Also, there must be a practice of social-capital. It should be deployed if we really want to address this issue holistically.”
Speaking on some of the scholarship and other achievements of the foundation within the one year of its existence, the founder, Prof. Fatimah highlighted the significance of the awards.
“The aim is to encourage students to pursue these medical related courses to promote leadership, academic excellence, as well as inculcate the spirit of volunteerism and service to the under-served communities.
“The call for application was published and applications were submitted online through Fajim website.
“We received over 2,465 applications, 44 candidates who were eventually shortlisted took the exam, which was computer based and an oral interview.
“The foundation is only able to sponsor 14 candidates due to limited fund and each candidate is to be awarded N100,000 each. They would be followed-up and monitored till they complete their study.
“In addition to maintaining leadership and academic excellence, they will also be required to give back to the society by being volunteers at our outreach programs and serve in rural communities that are under-served.
“Our three main areas of focus are preventive health-education, free screening for common non-communicable diseases, and scholarships grants to medical students.
“Within the one year of registration and six months of commencement of activities, the foundation has recorded some modest achievements such as conducting five free medical outreaches in some under-served locations in Lagos and Oyo States.
“Screening of over 1,000 persons for various ailments, established Fajim wellness centre, where nurses and midwives provides free screenings to the community, and of cause, today we are giving 14 beneficiaries scholarships.”
Speaking with THISDAY, a recipient of the award, a Radiography student at the University of Lagos, Ishola Bolanle, thanked the foundation, saying, “I have always heard people benefit from scholarships, but I never imagined that one day I would benefit. This is a big relieve to my parents and I am so grateful to Almighty Allah and Fajim Medicare Foundation for this wonderful gesture.”
Another recipient, Abdullah Bello, a student of Ladoke Akintola University who couldn’t hide his joy said: “Despite the challenging economy, the foundation still embarked on this kind gesture; may Allah continue to answer their prayers, and give us the grace to replicate this gesture when