…As UN says 45m people across Southern Africa face hunger***
The Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) and other health workers on Thursday embarked on a peaceful protest walk in Abuja to express their grievances over rising incidence of assaults and violence on its members.
The protesters took a walk to the office of the FCT Minister over incessant attacks, assaults and violence meted on medical doctors and other health workers by relatives of patients.
The protesters carried placards with several inscriptions, including: “We Care for You Why Beat Us’’, “Better Securities in our Hospitals’’, “Say No to Violence Against Health Workers“, “Doctors and Health Workers deserve Better’’.
NAN reports that the doctors had on Wednesday embarked on a three-day warning strike across FCT general hospitals over recent assault and stripping naked of a female doctor by relatives of a deceased patient in Maitama District Hospital, FCT.
Addressing the protesters, the FCT Minister of State, Dr Ramatu Aliyu, appealed to the doctors to call off the strike as the authority was already addressing the issue, which will bring an end to all forms of assaults on all persons.
“I appeal that you call off the strike and just give us the benefit of doubt and see what will be done in a shortest time. I will come personally and talk to all hospitals in the FCT to know whatever challenges you are facing there.
“We appreciate your patience and understanding that you didn’t take laws into your hands and we assure you that the issue is receiving attention your demand is taken seriously and given utmost attention.
“Violence is not acceptable whether on male or female at the FCT or anywhere else in the country,’’ she stressed.
According to her, the FCT will synergise with the ministry of health, information and culture and other stakeholders towards educating the public towards imbibing the rights attitude and culture of law abiding citizens.
While calling on them continue their duties in proving medical care and attention to the public, the minister assured them of their safety and protection, while discharging their duties.
The FCT Chairman, Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Dr Ekpe Philips, said the association was pursing through the National Health Act or Bills jail term for any person that perpetrate any form of violence on health workers.
“We are pursuing through the National Health Act or through the bills, we will make sure that if there is violence against any health worker, there is a particular term of jail to serve for such persons.
“We are advocating that there should be an undertaking by the patients that the relatives would not show any violence against health worker in Nigerian hospitals again.”
Also, Dr Eleanor Nwadinobi, International President, Medical Women International Association (MWIA), decried the series of attacks meted on health workers, which she said was a threat to their life and profession.
“There should be no hiding place for perpetrators of this type of violence. It is important that we feel safe, while discharging our duties.
“This is Nigeria, FCT in particular, where the 2015 violence against Persons (VAP) Acts was passed and signed.
“We are here today to speak clearly and to say no more should this happen to any of us in line of duty and we expect justice to be done to our colleague and she should have all the support she needs,’’ she said.
On her part, Dr Aisha Umar FCT President, Medical Women Association, stressed the need for relatives of patients to exercise decorum, rather than inflict injuries on medical workers discharging their duties.
“It is wrong for patients relative to take out their anger while expressing their grievances on the doctors or health workers; many doctors have left, we are the ones left behind, so we should not be treated that way,” she said.
The FCT President, ARD, Dr Roland Aigbovo, said the association would hold an emergency congress to address the issues on calling off the strike as appealed by the Federal Government.
In the meantime, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said on Thursday that a record 45 million people in the 16-nation Southern African Development Community faced growing hunger following repeated drought, widespread flooding and economic disarray.
Southern Africa is in the grips of a severe drought, as climate change wreaks havoc in impoverished countries already struggling to cope with extreme natural disasters, such as Cyclone Idai, which devastated Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi in 2019.
Zimbabwe, once the breadbasket of southern Africa, is experiencing its worst economic crisis in a decade, marked by soaring inflation and shortages of food, fuel, medicines and electricity.
“This hunger crisis is on a scale we’ve not seen before and the evidence shows it’s going to get worse,’’ the WFP’s Regional Director for Southern Africa, Lola Castro, said in a statement.
“The annual cyclone season has begun and we simply cannot afford a repeat of the devastation caused by last year’s unprecedented storms.’’
The agency plans to provide “lean season” assistance to 8.3 million people grappling with “crisis” or “emergency” levels of hunger in eight of the hardest-hit countries, which include Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mozambique, Madagascar, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini and Malawi.
To date, WFP has secured just $205 million of the $489 million required for this assistance and has been forced to resort heavily to internal borrowing to ensure food reaches those in need, it said.
In December, the United Nations said it was procuring food assistance for 4.1 million Zimbabweans, a quarter of the population of a country where shortages are being exacerbated by runaway inflation and climate-induced drought.
“Zimbabwe is in the throes of its worst hunger emergency in a decade, with 7.7 million people – half the population – seriously food insecure,’’ the agency said.
In Zambia and drought-stricken Lesotho, 20 per cent of the population faces food crisis, as do 10 per cent of Namibians.
Castro said that if the agency does not receive the necessary funding, it will have no choice but to assist fewer of those most in need and with less.