LARA ADEJORO writes on how residents in New Kutunku in the Gwagwalada Local Government Area of the Federal Capital Territory are bearing the brunt of a 12-year-old health facility abandoned by the Federal Capital Development Authority

At New Kutunku, life is cheap, especially the lives of pregnant women, children, and senior citizens.

Yet, a cottage hospital stands on Madam Blessing Street, off Jeremiah Hussein Road, abandoned, and decaying for the past 12 years.

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The nearly completed hospital is meant to meet the people’s immediate health needs, but that will not happen anytime soon.

Mukhtar Sabiu was 11 when the construction of the hospital began. He has, however, witnessed not only the fits and starts the project has been through; the 23-year-old has also seen pregnant women dying for lack of access to primary health care.
Mukhtar
“It was meant to serve our medical needs. People were excited when they realised it was a hospital,” Sabiu recalls.

The hospital is structured into five separately constructed buildings; double two-story buildings, a one-storey building, and two bungalows.

New Kutunku, in the Gwagwalada Local Government Area, is home to over 11,000 people who are mainly artisans and petty traders.

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Deadly consequences
The construction of the building started in 2011-four years before the end of President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. But it has been abandoned under the regime of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).

The proposed cottage hospital project is spearheaded by the Health and Human Services Secretariat (works unit) of the Federal Capital Development Territory.

Sequel to the failure of the Buhari regime to complete the project, the residents have been facing difficulties accessing healthcare. The community has recorded several deadly consequences, including the inability of pregnant women and sick children to access timely medical care. These are linked to the lack of functioning health facilities, challenges in accessing available healthcare, and the inability to afford alternatives.

Sabiu says he takes residents who need emergency care to either the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital, Gwagwalada, or the Rose Haske Maternity and Clinic.

The UATH is 8.4 kilometres away from New Kutunku, according to Google map, while the latter is 2.7 kilometres away from the community.

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In recent times, he has taken eight residents of the community to both hospitals through the bumpy road at midnight, sometimes resulting in deadly consequences.

“People come to knock on our gate at midnight and if my dad is not around, I have to take them to the hospital. There was a time my mum was sick and my dad was not around. I had to go look for someone outside to take her to the hospital since I didn’t know how to drive then. I had to learn how to drive afterwards.

“A month ago, I took a pregnant woman to the hospital at 4 am and returned home but by dawn, I heard she had already passed away. She gave birth to the baby but the baby passed away too.

“The problem is that the specialist hospital (UATH) is overwhelmed. It takes a long time for them to attend to you even in emergencies, and it takes a lot of processes to make payment before one can be attended to. If you are sick and you need emergency treatment, it is very hard to attend to you immediately.

“For us here, after struggling through this bad road, you get to the hospital, and spend up to two hours before you can be attended to, but assuming we have our health facility, it would have been easier.

“The distance to the hospital discourages pregnant women from going for ante-natal. They hardly go for ante-natal. They hardly bring out their children for immunisation. You have to convince them that they will be given milk if they come out for immunisation.

“Honestly, I feel very bad that we don’t have a place we can go immediately for treatment. It also affects us economically,” Sabiu narrated.

Earlier in April, Mrs Patience Edeh had to take her 11-month-old to the hospital in the wee hours when she developed a fever.

“I trekked from the house for several minutes because there was no motorcycle before a good samaritan took me in his car to St Mary Catholic Hospital around 3 am. Even when I got there, all the health workers were busy. We only ran the necessary test before I proceeded to another hospital for her treatment in the morning.

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“When it comes to healthcare, the health facility most people go to is the teaching hospital, even though it is not close. There are other private hospitals but not everyone can afford them. Meanwhile, these hospitals are usually overwhelmed, there may not be bed space, and before you are attended to, you just have to keep praying that you don’t lose your loved ones,” Edeh lamented.

In Nigeria, at least 2,445 women and children die every day from preventable causes. Data from the Federal Ministry of Health on national maternal and child health revealed that “145 women die every day due to preventable pregnancy-related causes in Nigeria; 2,300 children under five years of age die every day from preventable causes in Nigeria.”

Seventy per cent of the deaths, according to the data, are preventable. Going by this figure, about 892,425 women and children under the age of five die every year from preventable causes in Nigeria.

Hospital turns farmland
Our correspondent who visited the site of the building observed that the proposed hospital is currently a grazing site for goats, cows, and other animals.

A man, who identified himself as the security official at the building, has converted a section of the building into a rice farm.

All the windows of the buildings are louvred and some sections of the hospital buildings have been tiled, some are left bare, and a part of the roof has been blown away by the wind.

There were cigarette packs trashed at a section of the hospital premises, suggesting that hoodlums make the place their abode.

As there seems to be no solution in sight, garbage is beginning to take over the premises of the hospital. Some nearby residents also burn their refuse openly around the site.

Residents say the abandoned hospital has become a problem for the community.

A 79-year-old resident, Motunrayo Salisu, who knew when the construction of the building commenced, said the easily accessible hospital building had become a hideout for all manners of people.

She said government officials came two years ago to continue the project but that lasted for only two months.

“We want the government to work on completing the building; it’s been long overdue. When they came, we thought they were going to complete it but nothing has been done since then,” Salisu said.

Another resident, Mrs Iyabo Oshinbolu, said one of the biggest problems facing the community was the lack of affordable healthcare facilities.

She stated, “We have private clinics around here and it is difficult for people to afford healthcare there as most people pay out-of-pocket, and not everybody has health insurance.

“We also lack other basic amenities. We have tap water but the water is not regular; we have water twice or three times a week. Almost every compound depends on well water.”

The project supervisor of the hospital project, who identified himself as Aliyu, admitted the building had been abandoned but argued it was not a hideout for criminals.

Aliyu said the hospital project was faced with a funding shortfall.

“I have been supervising this place since the inception of the project in 2011. The contractor is still pushing things in the FCDA so they can pay his outstanding bill and continue the project,” he claimed.

Left in the dark
The community leader, Alhaji Muhammed Sabiu, said he was not informed before the government initiated the project.

Muhammed Sabiu
“As the head of the community, if they want to do anything that will be beneficial to the people, the government is meant to liaise with me, but they didn’t do that. We just saw that they demolished houses and started building the hospital.

“We have a government primary school here and it has been beneficial, if we have a government health facility too, it will be good for our people and it will save lives,” he said.

He pleaded, however, for the completion of the hospital to meet the health needs of his people.

When contacted for comments, the Head of Public Relations and Information at the FCDA, Richard Nduul, directed our correspondent to the Secretary of the Health and Human Services Secretariat of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, Dr Abubakar Tafida.

Dr Tafida did not respond to calls or the text message sent to him as of the time of filing this report.