By Job Osazuwa
Residents of Opi Agu, Ohodo, Adani, Akibite, Nkpologu and other communities in Enugu have heaved a sigh of relief as the Senate Committee Chairman on Primary Healthcare and Communicable Diseases, Senator Chukwuka Utazi, is waging a battle against killer diseases ravaging different parts of the country.
Pundits, particularly health experts, said the National Assembly passing the National Health Emergency Bill, sponsored by the lawmaker, was a political masterstroke that would redefine the nation’s response in the strategic war against pandemic and other emerging global health hazards.
If signed into law, the new legislation, named “Bill for an Act to provide for an effective national framework for the control of outbreaks of infectious diseases and other events endangering public health and requiring public health emergency measures and for other related matters (SB. 413),” would provide for an effective and efficient legal and administrative framework to address the challenges posed by public health emergencies. It will also ensure timely response, control and management of public health emergencies.
Presenting the committee’s report, Utazi said the bill would channel available resources during periods of public health emergencies towards the mitigation or eradication of the infectious diseases and public health events. According to him, it would also streamline all rules and regulations for the control of public health during periods of public emergencies for their early containment.
He said part of the objectives of the bill was to maintain appropriate balance between health measures required to be taken by appropriate authorities under any declaration of public health emergency and the constitutionally guaranteed rights of citizens and the general public in the overriding national public health interest.
“The Bill will provide an appropriate legal platform for a concerted and effective inter-action among federal and state governments during periods of public health emergencies, ensure coordination and organised national responses during periods of public health emergencies, and support the implementation of the International Health Regulations in Nigeria,” he explained.
Since charity begins at home, the lawmaker also took his intensive health campaign to Enugu North constituency by distributing truck-loads of medicines and hospital equipment worth millions of naira to six health facilities in the area for administration on the sick at subsidized rates.
He said health institutions in localities often suffered from lack of essential drugs and modern facilities to cater for the health needs of the large populace in rural communities. He expressed hope that the items distributed would encourage quality healthcare delivery in the rural areas at affordable cost.
Speaking in Nsukka during the distribution of the drugs and hospital equipment, the lawmaker said the constituency outreach project was targeted at the grassroots, to complement national campaign at attaining universal health coverage by 2030.
He explained that equipping the hospitals with modern facilities and drugs would improve daily services to the people and reduce the high mortality rate from treatable diseases in local communities.
The benefitting health institutions included: Bishop Shanahan Hospital, Nsukka, Faith Foundation Hospital, Nsukka, Aru Ike Ndi Oya Hospital, Adani, St. Mary’s Hospital, Enugu Ezike, Calvary Hospital, Opi, and St. Victor’s Hospital, Opi Agu.
The lawmaker urged the hospitals to utilise the materials effectively, and ensure improved access to health care in the area. He said the items donated, when properly used by the hospitals, would subsidize the cost of medical treatment for the people in the area and improve the life expectancy of vulnerable groups in rural communities.
Representatives of the Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Nsukka, Prof. Godfrey Igwebike Onah, and the Anglican Communion, Rt. Rev. Aloysius Agbo, commended the lawmaker and prayed for God’s blessing upon his endeavours.
To prevent outbreak of diseases in communities, the senator embarked on provision of clean water as one of his constituency projects. He said more than 40 motorised water boreholes were attracted to several communities in the senatorial district. The projects handled by the Anambra Imo River Basin Authority have been inaugurated.
The benefitting communities include: Ezi Ukehe, Ohodo, Umunko, Uvuru, Anuka, Ugbene Ajima, Iheaka, Enugu-Ezike, Ezimo, Obollo-Eke, Nguru, Abuibeyi, Unadu, Inyi, among others.
In Opi community, the launching of a motorised water borehole project, with a 15KVA generating set, brought relief to the people, who had suffered water scarcity for decades.
A resident, Mrs. Joy Ugwueze, said provision of water in the area has reduced the challenge of going far distances to fetch water for domestic use.
She explained that Nsukka community usually suffers scarcity of water during dry season because seasonal ponds and rivers that serve rural communities dry up.
In Nkpologu community, Utazi also commissioned a water-borehole with a big overhead tank, as part of his zonal intervention constituency projects. He said the borehole, which has 15KVA generating set, 750 depth and 7.5 horse-powered sumo, would yield water at all seasons for the people of Akibite and others living within the area.
He expressed optimism that the modern borehole would reduce incidence of water-borne diseases afflicting rural communities. The lawmaker also commissioned another water borehole at St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral, Nsukka for the benefit of people living within the area.
With these interventions, the people are of high hope that the year-long suffering of water scarcity in many parts of Nsukka and its adverse health implications on the populace would soon become a thing of the past.