- Title: NIGERIA: U.S. based medical student leads free health care initiative back home
- Date: 10th August 2010
- Summary: PEOPLE WAITING TO BE SEEN BY THE DOCTORS PEOPLE BEING DIRECTED TO SEE THE DOCTORS
- Embargoed: 25th August 2010 13:00
- Location: Nigeria
- Country: Nigeria
- Reuters ID: LVACE9HLWY0ITDD478VN8XS4MLYX
- Story Text: A U.S based Nigerian medical student recently led a team of 30 American health experts on a mission to treat slum residents in Nigeria's sprawling commercial capital of Lagos.
Segun Ajayi, a Havard trained physician studying Ophthalmology or eye care, is the founder of "Hospitals for Humanity", a non-profit organisation which aims to provide better health care for free in developing countries.
Ajayi said preliminary consultations between Hospitals for Humanity and the Lagos State government had identified Makoko slums as an area in urgent need of medical care.
Ajayi set up Hospitals for Humanity after an experience five years ago, when he fell seriously ill while visiting his family in the country and could not get adequate treatment.
"What we do is that I get all my friends and my colleagues that are in the medical field from the U.S. and the U.K., and we come over and we give medical care, from surgeries, from eye surgeries, we bring about twenty thousand pairs of glasses, we have about ten ophthalmologists full staff, they come we see patients all day, about twelve hours a day," he explained.
Many people in Makoko, a slum supported by stilts over a lagoon in Lagos, can not afford medical treatment. Many of those who came to see the doctors from Hospitals for Humanity had never been to a medical doctor for treatment and simply relied on traditional herbs to cure their ailments.
"Our main goal in all of this is to eventually build a state of the art hospital that will be free for all people that want to come and get proper care. Obviously that is a big goal, but it is something that we are willing to do," Ajayi said.
Since founding Hospitals for Humanity, Ajayi has managed to persuade hundreds of doctors and medical support teams from all over the world to volunteer their time to travel to developing countries such as Haiti and others in Africa to treat people for free.
Ajayi said his organisation had also brought medicines and other medical supplies worth over 400,000 U.S. dollars as donations from pharmaceutical companies and well wishers in the U.S.
Nigeria's public health care system and infrastructure has seen decades of neglect by successive military leaderships, and private medical care is mostly unaffordable to low income families.
"I really appreciate it because, health is wealth, if there is no health, there is nothing one can do," said Apostle Sholumada, a school teacher who was treated by Ajayi's team.
"They need to help people like us, we can not go to private hospitals, when you get there the money would be too much but here, they help us free," said Morayo Agbaje.
Ajayi and his team also went deep into the floating slum using canoes to reach residents who couldn't get to the shore.
Emmanuel Shemade, the Chief of Makoko was among hundreds who benefited from the free health care mission.
"I am very happy about the exercise, I am very grateful to the government and the Hospitals for Humanity for their contribution to the health of my people, because, some of them were attended to on land and today without any discrimination, the doctors have come onto the water to treat all the fishermen and those who could not make to the land, so I am very happy and please continue, we need the medical care," Chief Shemade said.
Officials from the Lagos state government said the state is considering incorporating the free medical care missions into its health service delivery policy.
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