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Enugu boasts model medical centre for low-income and the poor

By Paul Ejime

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On the 28th of November 2023, all roads will lead to the Umuchigbo, Iji Nike, Abapka Community in the Enugu East Local Government Area of Enugu State, southeast Nigeria for an epoch event as a model state-of-the-art Medical Centre constructed and equipped by the TY Danjuma Foundation will be unveiled.

The Goodwill Medical Centre is one of the more than 200 pro-poor multimillion-dollar projects within and outside Nigeria funded by the TY Danjuma Foundation with the approval of the Taraba State, northern Nigeria-born General TY Danjuma (rtd), a generous but quiet philanthropist.

The Medical Centre, which will cater to the health needs of low-income families and poor communities in Enugu state and neighbouring states in southeast Nigeria, is aimed at achieving the UN SDGs, an indication that Nigeria can demonstrate leadership by replicating the Enugu Medical Centre-type project in the country’s 774 LGAs.

On that day, the community on the outskirts of Nigeria’s metropolitan coal City of Enugu, will welcome dignitaries and sundry guests to the Commissioning of a multimillion Naira project – a philanthropic response to the healthcare needs of the poor and low-income families in the host community and neighbouring States.

It is an understatement that healthcare systems in Africa are disappointingly weak, under-staffed and under-resourced.

Nigeria, the continent’s most populous nation is not spared the attendant grim human development statistics.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics, 63% of persons living in Nigeria (133 million people) are multidimensionally poor because of a lack of access to healthcare, education, living standards, employment, and security.

Coming at a time of severe socio-economic hardship, the Goodwill Medical Centre (GMC) Enugu Project is unique not only in the choice of its location (in a slum), but also in its name. It is the brainchild of Nigeria’s unsung philanthropist, with great empathy for the poor and needy in the society irrespective of ethnicity, creed, religion, or political affiliations.

Retired General Theophilus Y. Danjuma
Retired General Theophilus Y. Danjuma

General TY Danjuma GCON (Rtd) is a gentleman officer and an unassuming personality whose sacrifices and contributions to the development of Nigeria and other parts of the world are well documented. But the General is grossly underpublicized, in terms of his philanthropy and generosity, his big heart and unconditional love for the poor and underprivileged.

As a demonstration of this passion and public-spiritedness, General Danjuma in 2022, gave his approval for a state-of-the-art Medical Centre to be constructed and equipped in Enugu State through his TY Danjuma Foundation.

The Centre is now ready for commissioning by General Danjuma.

Since his retirement from the Nigerian Army, it only took a fellow General to convince him to take up public office, to serve as defence minister under Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration.

Otherwise, General Danjuma has devoted his life and investments to initiatives for the empowerment and well-being of the poor.

The GMC in Enugu State is only one of more than 200 pro-poor projects funded by the TY Danjuma Foundation, which has spent 42.5 million US dollars between 2009 and 2023 on life-changing projects implemented by 150 grantees across Nigeria’s 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

General Danjuma’s passion to improve the well-being of poor communities is not limited to Nigeria. In 2010, he donated one million US dollars towards the elimination of River blindness in sub-Saharan Africa through the World Health Organization African Programme for Onchocerciasis Control (WHO/APOC).

That donation contributed to the strengthening of health systems in 140,000 communities in 19 river blindness-endemic African countries. He became the first African known for such a gesture in support of one of the World’s most successful public health intervention programmes in sub-Saharan Africa.

Only last September, General Danjuma was recognized with the prestigious International Humanitarian Service Award by the International Human Rights Commission (IHRC) for “his visionary leadership and dedication to advancing humanitarian service in Nigeria and beyond.”

Another contributor behind the GMC project is Prof Uche Amazigo, Nigeria’s renowned pro-poor public health specialist, and one of the few female Africans to have led a specialized UN Agency, overseeing a highly successful multilateral partnership in global health. Prof Amazigo is the first female Director of WHO/APOC and repositioned the river blindness programme from a control to the elimination stage before her retirement from the UN System in 2011.

Fully funded by the TY Danjuma Foundation, the GMC project is the brainchild of Prof Amazigo, a recipient of multiple international laurels including the Knight of the National Order of Burkina Faso (2011) and the prestigious Prince Mahidol Award (2012), and Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Science (FAS).

The Centre seeks to provide free and low-cost services to poor/low-income families by medical consultants, midwives, and nurses, while the rich and middle class would be charged standard fees.

Envisioning a “world where people unite to address the healthcare challenges of poor families in our communities and beyond,” the GMC “mission is to provide healthcare services; promote integrity, advance goodwill and peace through the engagement of medical professionals and communities as a not-for-profit self-sustaining project.”

Before the construction work began, a series of structured consultations and research/surveys were carried out to determine the health needs of the community and how to elicit their participation and collective ownership of the project. This is in line with the community-directed health intervention strategy championed by Prof Amazigo.

The pre-project survey showed that 71% of 2000 respondents are located between one km and 10 km from their nearest health facility: with very poor and poor families representing over 60% of the target groups.

All communities in the Umuchimgbo, Iji Nike, Abakpa, residents in Enugu urban and neighbouring States will also benefit from the GMC services.

Lying on an area of 2,681.320 sqm, the Centre is connected to the public power supply network but has an independent power generator and solar power system. It also has an independent water supply system with treatment facilities.

It has an Outpatient clinic, Accident and Emergency, a state-of-the-art Theatre, Eye Health Theatre for cataract surgery, Labour Room, Female, Male and Children’s Wards, a Pharmacy, a well-equipped Laboratory, Ambulance services, and administrative offices.

The main services on offer at GMC include Maternal and Child Health, General Primary Healthcare, Laboratory, Eye Health, Prevention and treatment of Communicable Diseases, General surgical services, Accident and Emergency.

The Centre will also provide opportunity for Research and out-reach programmes with Diaspora-based health professionals. It promises free treatment for indigent patients and standard charges for others, with compulsory enrolment and participation in the National Health Insurance Scheme for all patients, particularly low-income members.

The GMC has a Management Board of mainly volunteers, carefully selected to handle the administration, while the Discalced Carmelite Friars, Nigeria, oversee the Fund management.

The provision of healthcare services is a collective responsibility and should not be left to the government alone.

A major step for Nigeria and other African countries toward achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Health targets, is for governments to implement without further delay, the allocation of at least 15% of national budgets to the development of the health sector as agreed by African leaders under the 2001 Abuja Declaration.

Improved collaboration by the private and public sectors to scale up health investments, interventions and support to GMC and similar health projects will also contribute to the achievement of health and other SDGs.

To acknowledge and encourage philanthropists such as General Danjuma and not-for-profit organisations such as the TY Danjuma Foundation, for their contributions and investments in the health of the population, concrete financial and technical support to health initiatives such as the GMC project, with bearing on the SDGs and human development, are imperative and highly recommended.

The World is going through difficult times, but ‘health they say is wealth,’ and Nigeria as the powerhouse of Africa could demonstrate exemplary leadership by replicating the GMC-type project in communities across the country’s 774 Local Government Areas.

This is achievable once the political will is there.

The people of Enugu State and neighbouring southeastern States are the direct beneficiaries of the multi-million GMC project, but the Centre is accessible to all, irrespective of geographical location or nationality.

The TY Danjuma Foundation, and especially, the Taraba State, northern Nigeria-born General Danjuma, deserve commendation from all and sundry for the goodwill health project and other exemplary pro-poor life-transforming initiatives.

Paul Ejime is a Global Affairs Analyst and Consultant on Peace & Security and Governance Communications.

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