Nze Sylva’s Corner: A dog’s life in America Vs Human Life in Nigeria

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With all the daily supply of anyhowness that one is treated to in this country, it is easy to begin to feel numb or if you like, unshockable–that feeling that there could really be nothing worse than you’ve already seen or witnessed. But then every once in a while, one is shocked back into the reality that is life in this country and left wondering all over again, why things are the way they are.

Like this random tweet I came across a few days ago. One Sean Murphy tweeting with the handle @africafeed had posted the image of Linear accelerator with the post “This is a linear accelerator. It treats cancer with radiotherapy. Nigeria has 18 but 11 (are) broken. USA has 2,500 with 65 more just for animals.”

According to Sean, all seven of these functional ‘surviving’ LINACs in Nigeria were in private hospitals. The Federal Government had purchased 8 in 2007 all of which have now gone out of service. Another 10 were gotten by private oncology centres, 3 of which have since gone bad.

He proceeded to even put it in context “So a dog with lymphoma in Miami has a better chance of getting treatment than a woman with a brain tumor in Lagos. Shame!”

Indeed, what a big shame. Perhaps even more shameful is the fact that in the responses to the tweets, Nigerians on the thread, most of whom I assume should know about such things, expressed shock (and serious doubts) that there was even up to 7 functional LINACs in the whole country. It sounded impossible. One handle actually asked that he be DM’d details of the centres with these functional LINACs. Tells you just how scarce these things are around here.

The question is, how much really is human life worth is this country?

As frontline a medical condition as cancer is globally today, Nigeria with a population of close to 190million people has only 7 functional LINACs. How much again does one of these things cost? How much did we make from oil sales in the last five years? How much, at the last count was the amount of money reported to have been stolen by corrupt public officials?

This country murders its own and eats them for dinner.

How many times have you received a broadcast or a message RT’d onto your timeline seeking help for an ill person who this country has abandoned to their own fate? Every other day will be my answer. From kidney challenges to tumours. We still top the charts for even the most common communicable diseases in the world. Every other day someone is being buried in some corner of this vast country, killed by the popular “brief illness.”

The National Association of Resident Doctors suspended the latest episode in the series of its ‘hide and seek” industrial actions game with the Federal Government only last week. We wait for the next instalment. Tales of a country that has made being a citizen, a criminal offence.

Some time ago I wrote about the dearth of Ventilators in this country. I was writing from a personal experience. I know about it all, how you can feel so helpless and abandoned when you need help the most. Those tales, I will tell at some point when I can bring myself to. But this much I have shared. If you have a patient with an emergency in Lagos that needs life support, you are entirely on your own. The few private hospitals who maintain a few units, make a killing.

We make the simplest of medical care seem like a luxury.

And of course, it is a luxury, or at least that is exactly what our failed leaders have made it appear like. You are either able to evacuate to some posh hospital abroad at the slightest ailment or you simply do not belong. That’s the price of poverty. So the rich (read those who have been able to feed fat from the nation’s treasury) find ways of widening the gulf. They give birth abroad. Train their children in foreign schools. Get married to themselves. And when they are ill, they find expert cure abroad while our own hospitals continue to fall to the dogs. They even have made dying abroad a status symbol.

The cancer starts from the very top. Only recently, our President was away for over a hundred days receiving care abroad.

Healthcare in this country simply doesn’t exist. Little wonder prayer houses and miracle healing centres are on the rise. Pastors and Marabouts keep cashing out. We stay alive by the power of prayers. What do you say about a country that cannot even boast of keeping polio out, even with all the help it is getting from all over the world?

Suwegbe country!

While you go about your life today in Nigeria, perhaps you are busy defending the government online or expending energy in some senseless argument about some politicians who do not even know you exist, remember that, a dog’s life in Trumps America is worth more than yours.


Fiction writer, op-ed columnist, social commentator. Sylva lives in Lagos Nigeria

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