Idogo: A City in Medical Need

By Florence Adeosun

These unpaved roads lead to Idogo, Nigeria, a village where the nearest hospital is more than 12 miles away and many residents don’t own a car. In Nigeria, malaria is the leading cause of death, accounting for 20 percent of all mortalities.

This battered blue sign for one of the two primary schools in Idogo—one for the Christian faith and the other for the Muslim faith—is a reminder of the struggles of students like Ayo, a 15-year-old resident of Idogo. Ayo dreams of attending college and becoming a doctor so she can give back to her community one day. For now, though, Ayo sees little chance of escaping Idogo, which she sees as her “prison.”

Adebiyi, whose name means “the crown birthed this,” drives his weathered vehicle to the market to sell his goods. Most of the residents are farmers and  travel to the market to sell their crops. Adebiyi is lucky enough to have a car to get him there. Despite living in one of the wealthier states in Nigeria, many of the villagers in Idogo live on just 650 Naira a day— about $2.

Diekola is a volunteer working for the Relume Foundation in its pop-up medical clinic, which visited Idogo for the first time in September. Relume means “to rekindle, to relight.” It services the medical needs of impoverished villages throughout Nigeria, running these clinics in different locations twice a year.

“We serve as a conduit between those that have and those that have not,” says Idowu Balogun, a board member of Relume Foundation. Relume is a nonprofit founded five years ago. The foundation is funded entirely by private donations—the largest  donation thus far was for $5,000 from one of the foundation’s board members.

Relume Foundation provides Idogo residents with medications to treat such ailments as malaria, hypertension and diabetes. They also provide thiamin and ascorbic acid supplements as many villagers in Nigeria suffer from vitamin deficiencies. Malnutrition is the sixth leading cause of death for Nigerians, specifically a deficiency in vitamins like thiamine. Many of the volunteers come from Relume Foundation’s local partner, the Lagos-based church Household of God, which provides as many as 40 volunteers.

Segun, left, and Romade, right, wait for the medical services. Like many others in Idogo, they have done manual farm labor for more than 20 years. They are wearing their best clothes for the occasion. “I don’t waste time with smiles,” Romade said. “Trust me when I tell you today is a good day.”

Folarin is tied to the back of his older sister Ireayo, who is waiting for the medical services to begin. The medical staff saw 400 people on the first day of its visit to Idogo. Over 600 more people were seen by the medical staff on the second day.

Adesewa waits for her son’s turn to see the doctor. She fears the boy has malaria, and is desperate to get legitimate malaria pills for her son (there is a problem of counterfeit malaria drugs being sold to people). She has already lost one child to malaria and says she can’t bear to lose another.

When Izzy and Asabi heard of the pop-up medical clinic, they rushed to bring their mother to see one of the doctors. She hasn’t been able to walk on her own for months, and this is the first time she has been able to see a doctor about the problem.

Free eye exams were provided for all the village residents who attended. Staff handed out more than 200 reading glasses. Cataract tests also were provided; the Relume Foundation provided free cataract surgery for 10 patients. In Nigeria, over 7.5 million people suffer from cataracts, and four percent of adults over the age of 40 are blinded by them.

Dressed in beautiful pink Nigerian garb, Busayo gets her blood pressure taken to see if she needs hypertension meditation. Hypertension takes the life of 250,000 Nigerians every year.

Idowu (in red) was diagnosed with diabetes two years ago, but couldn’t afford the medication he needs. This is the first time he has been given medication to treat his condition. Nigeria has the most people with diabetes in all of sub-Saharan Africa; close to 1.8 million people suffer from the disease.

All 537 children seen by a doctor in the pop-up clinic were gifted a school bag with notebooks, pencils, crayons, and other school supplies. “Now the kids can focus on their studies, instead of worrying about where they’re going to get their next sheet of paper,” said Sherri Balogun, the president of Relume Foundation.

The children gather in the church for some whimsical fun while their parents are getting check ups from the doctors. “Repeat after me!” called Joanna, the adult volunteer in the green shirt. “All things are possible!” All the children raise their hands in the air and yell back: “All things are possible!”

– Florence Adeosun is a member of the Relume Foundation