[By Dike Chukwumerije]
Machina is a town – the headquarters of a local government with the same name – in Yobe. It is a proud town on Nigeria’s border with Niger Republic. But in Machina there is only one Public Health Centre. It is a broken thing – no electricity, no water, no drugs, no equipment, no trained medical staff. So, parents in Machina, without the option of strolling down to the local clinic for coartem, watch their children die of malaria. This is true. Abdul Hussaini was only nine months old when he breathed his last. Mallam Muhammed was 60. But an simple stomach ache and an aching back should not be the cause of death of an any old man in any community in Nigeria. But it is, routinely, in Machina. Because the Health Centre, were it even unbroken, cannot adequately serve the 15,000 men, women and children that need it in Machina.
Yet, since 2017, the Border Communities Development Agency (BCDA), has had funds budgeted for a second, better equipped, Primary Healthcare Centre in Machina. Imagine? This is not common knowledge in Machina. It was only discovered when CODE, a non-governmental organization based in Abuja, but passionate about the plight of Machina, began to ask questions. They asked the community if they were aware of the project, the community said NO! They wrote to the BCDA asking for details of the project, the BCDA was silent. They petitioned the supervising government agencies about the non-execution of the project, the agencies said and did nothing. Yet, every day, Nigerian women in towns like Machina go into labour not sure if they will come out. Yes, without doubt, this tendency of Nigerian public officials to re-route public funds away from public needs and into private pockets is the reason mothers die giving birth in Machina today.
Yes. Unless we do something. Imagine? In 2018, EiE heard the story of Machina. And, along with CODE, went to Machina to interview people there. These interviews were recorded. Imagine? Imagine if this recording is shared and forwarded, so that more people see it? Imagine if people – in Machina, in Yobe, from all around Nigeria – begin to call the legislators representing Machina? Imagine if the phone numbers of these representatives go viral? Imagine if Aisha gets her friends together, and they draw up a schedule to make sure calls and text messages about Machina keep pouring into these phones every day? Imagine if Ahmed asks his father to go with him to visit the Emir? Imagine if they appeal to the Emir, and he agrees to pressure these representatives too? Imagine if the deaths of baby Hussaini and baba Mohammed are put on the ballot? Imagine if a Senator or a Member of the House of Representative, a Governor or a member of the State House of Assembly in Yobe loses their office simply because an Amina or a Fatima, a Hassana or an Asabe went to give birth – and for the lack of basic health care – never came back? Imagine?
Yes. Imagine. For this is what will then happen. The representatives of Machina will stand over the shoulders of BCDA. And BCDA will start the construction, continue the construction, and finish the construction of a second, better equipped, Public Health Centre in Machina. So that babies who get malaria in Machina, unlike Abdul Hussaini, will be treated, and live out the length of their days in good health and dignity.
Yes. This is what will happen if you and I engage.
– Dike Chukwumerije
Written for a research project on storytelling in partnership with Research for Development (R4D). It is loosely based on actual events in Machina that EiE documented in partnership with Connected Development (CODE).