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Posts Tagged ‘My Mind Is No Longer Here’

doctor-protestA Few days ago, Nigerian polling organisation, NOIPolls, released the results of a survey which they conducted in partnership with Nigeria Health Watch. The research revealed that about 8 out of every 10 (88 per cent) of medical doctors in Nigeria are currently seeking work opportunities abroad. In other words, not counting those who have already left, among the very inadequate number we have, 88 percent have their eyes set on leaving at the earliest opportunity.

And this is not just among young doctors. The findings, according to media reports, cuts across junior, mid and senior level doctors in both public and private medical institutions — house officers, corps members, medical and senior medical officers, residents, registrars, consultants and medical directors.

No surprises here. The survey has only brought what has been a long known fact to the front burner of national discourse, albeit for as long as our fleeting attention span on important matters such as these can accommodate. You know we have this national habit of discussing our problems seasonally in piece meals and before we as much as arrive at a consensus or a clear path forward, we leave that issue and jump to the next one. For example, how often do you see headlines or public forums on recession these days? It used to be the order. Yet, we are still in recession. Same applies to Boko Haram, herdsmen killings, the Forex challenges, the President’s health and restructuring — the more recent craze.

But I digress. The result of the survey is a reminder of how bad things are. Indeed some will be surprised that there is actually a 12% who are happy to stay. Is this loyalty to Nigeria, lack of ambition or simply a case of ‘I really cannot be bothered anymore’? which ever it is, the real tragedy, as I had written here in the past, is that a lot of Nigerians are in a hurry to quit their country and this is not only evident in the medical profession. If the same survey were administered to everyone else, perhaps the only group who will express majority desire to remain will be our politicians and those who this rent-seeking economy has helped to have their mouths positioned very close to our revenue nozzle.

The challenge with doctors and health workers generally is particularly alarming though. Health they say is wealth. This statement holds even more value for a country where the large majority of the people live in poverty with attendant poor nutrition and hygiene, which leaves them susceptible to a wide range of communicable and incommunicable diseases. Millions of Nigerians die yearly from what has come to be known as “brief illness” — mostly a cocktail of easily treatable and avoidable diseases. A lot of our people simply cannot get to a hospital to access medical care because there is none within reach or when one exists there is no doctor or the doctor really has nothing to work with. This explains the scandalously high infant and maternal mortality rates and low life expectancy in these parts.

It should be a national tragedy that we have just 72,000 medical doctors registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria given our population, but it gets even worse when you find that only approximately 35,000 of them are practising in Nigeria. And of this number, 88% are eager to leave.

So why are they leaving?

The simple answer is that the country is not in good shape. The economy is bad, the security is horrible, infrastructure is non-existent and the system generally discourages merit, innovation and hard work. This is in line with the findings of the NOIPolls study. The reasons respondents cited for the looming brain drain in the health sector included challenges such as high taxes and deductions from salary (98 per cent), low work satisfaction (92 per cent), poor salaries and emoluments (91 per cent) and the huge knowledge gap that exists in the medical practice in the country (47 per cent), among others.

It is one thing to simply want a better life for yourself and thus aspire to be where the grass is greener. It is, however, something else when you are willing to work but the tools are simply not there. Nothing could be more frustrating. And by tools, I don’t even refer to sophisticated diagnostic equipment. We are talking about everyday hospital supplies. And as if that’s not enough, you are most of the time embroiled in an argument with your employer and the government over your pay and allowances. Nobody wants to live in such a circumstance, the Hippocratic Oath and human conscience notwithstanding.

What to do? Clearly, we cannot force them to stay as long as there are other climes ready and happy to welcome them with open arms and offer them a far better condition of practice. We also cannot afford to just fold our arms and lament while the situation gets worse. We must do something.

The NOIPolls result should be the conversation starter for government and other stakeholders in the country’s health sector to begin to seriously discuss and fashion out the much-needed reforms in the sector and redesign the health system to make it one in which our people can have a fulfilling career in and to which our poor citizens can look up to for help when they are ill.

Above all, we need to fix this economy and the structure of the country as a whole, otherwise, regardless of what else we do, we will just be kicking a can down the road.

@nzesylva

First published here on olisa.tv on Aug 9, 2017.

My new ebook, My Mind is no longer here is available here on amazon and on the okadabooks app.

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The report of African migrants trying to reach Europe is a daily news item. Many as we know and see frequently in the news meet their deaths in the Mediterranean. According to the International Organization for Migration, many others are being sold by traffickers into slavery in Libya, including for sex, for as little as $200, while others still are killed and their organs harvested for sale in the booming human organ trade.

Many young Africans find that after having paid human traffickers in the hope of finding a better life in Europe, they end up being held hostage by their traffickers who exploit them and their families, turning the dreams of a better life into a nightmare.

The International Organisation for Migration says slave markets and detentions are becoming increasingly common on the illegal migrant routes as criminal gangs cash in on what has become a very sad situation.

According to IOM’s chief of mission in Libya, Othman Belbeisi, selling human beings is becoming a trend among smugglers as the smuggling networks in Libya are becoming stronger. In his words, “Migrants are being sold in markets as a commodity” at a going rate of between $200 and $500” .

While some migrants sold this way managed to escape, many wallowed in captivity for months before being bought free or sold on. Others die and are unaccounted for and many among them are Nigerians fleeing harsh economic situation back at home or simply chasing the myth of greener grass on the other side.

The reality is that for many young people in Nigeria, the ultimate ambition in life is to go abroad. And the exodus has been on forever. There is hardly anyone who does not have a relative or someone who has “checked out.” In the late ‘80s and ‘90s there was a massive brain drain of Academics and professionals following the collapse of our educational institutions, and the persecution of perceived pro-democracy activists by the military dictators who held sway then.

The brain drain continues even today. You see it in the long queues of visa applicants in foreign embassies. I still have vivid memories of the crowd of rowdy, sweaty applicants in a zigzag queue, I saw on my first visit to the UK Visa application centre in Abuja close to a decade ago and how very willing they appeared to endure any kind of manhandling in their quest for a visa.

Such is the value placed on obtaining a visa that it is often a major prayer point in churches and a good course for testimonies. This obsession very easily turns into desperation. Many short-term visa applicants have absolutely no intention of returning. Some on student visas do not honour the terms. They live illegally in the shadows abroad, many getting deported, or jailed. These stories of the fate of their compatriots do not stop those who intend to seek the West’s presumed greener pastures, as the risk is considered one worth taking.

The denial of a visa or deportation does not stop the determined Nigerian immigrant nor does the fear of the dangers associated with migrating illegally. As long as there is a chance of success, no matter how slim, there will be willing people. This has resulted in the growth of what is today an industry of powerful people and their agents, feeding off the gullibility and desperation of young people in the guise of helping them reach their dreams of a better life abroad. These issues form the theme of my new e-book, ‘My Mind Is No Longer Here’ recently published by Bahati Books.

We have read of people who faked travel documents, of folks who braved life inside airtight containers sailing across the sea, of stowaways in the wheel compartment of international flights. We are also quite familiar with the malaise of human trafficking, of young ladies who either by coercion or by choice, are taken to European cities to work as prostitutes and the daredevil journey to Europe through the scorching heat of the Sahara desert and the stormy waves of the Mediterranean.

The UN’s International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in 2016 warned that the trafficking of Nigerian women to Italy by boat was reaching “crisis” levels, with traffickers using migrant reception centres as holding pens for women who are then collected and forced into prostitution across Europe. About 3,600 Nigerian women arrived by boat into Italy in the first six months of that year, and more than 80% of these women will be trafficked into prostitution in Italy and across Europe, the IOM said.

We need to stem this tide. Many of those who make this trip do not know any better. The National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP), the Nigerian government’s agency set up in response to the situation can only do as much. While we continue to clamour for a better deal from the government in terms of the state of the economy which is the ultimate solution to the crisis, we must also step up advocacy and public campaigns targeted at young people on the dangers of falling prey to criminal traffickers.

This is one issue where ideas are needed. It concerns us all because, in small instalments, our country’s future is disappearing…never to be recovered again.

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Yipeee!!! Today, finally my ebook, My Mind Is No Longer Here was release by Bahati Books.

The book is available for purchase Amazon and on the popular Nigerian ebooks platform, Okadabooks app

And as part of the launch, I did an article here for TRUE AFRICA on the general theme of the book.

Someone who has read it said they really liked it.  Buy, enjoy and do share what your thought about it.

And yes, a print version is in the works for all you print book lovers. Just watch this space.

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