Tired of waiting for the government to provide a basic health facility for their community, poor women in Baddo community in Taura Local Government Area of Jigawa State have done what they considered the next best thing – taxed themselves to buy a vehicle they now use as an ambulance in their community.
The women clustered into 21 groups of 20 members each and contributed N1,000 each for two months to buy a vehicle for taking any of them in labour to the nearest health facility 31 kilometres away from their community.
The women made the contributions from the N5,000 they receive monthly from the federal government under the Conditional Cash Transfer scheme.
The scheme was designed by the Muhammadu Buhari administration to assist poor households with a monthly stipend of N5,000. The beneficiaries are also trained and assisted in setting up small business.
A leader of one of the clusters, Hanne Hassan, told PREMIUM TIMES that they bought the vehicle for conveying women in labour to the nearest comprehensive health facility in the area.
Mrs Hassan said the community is difficult to access due to its location, as a result of which there is often no vehicle coming in. It also has no health centre.
She said the situation mostly affects women in labour and those who have complications in their pregnancies.
“We have to go to neighbouring communities to get commercial vehicles to take us to hospitals. We used to rely on a vehicle donated by the state government under former Governor Sule Lamido but it is grounded following an accident,” Mrs Hassan said.
“Since the vehicle was grounded, some women have died during labour, and many unborn babies also died due to delayed operations,” she said.
Mrs Hassan said the women in two months contributed about N900,000 while other community members donated N100,000.
She also said because the vehicle they bought is the only one in the community, other people with emergency sickness also use it to get to the health facility.
“Every household in the community can use the vehicle to convey their pregnant mother to the nearest health facility as far as the head of the household can fuel the car and settle the driver,” she said.
She, however, lamented that despite the women’s sacrifice to get the vehicle on the road and their other struggles, state government officials have not been sympathetic.
“Despite our efforts, highways officials normally stop the vehicle asking for particulars thinking that it is a commercial vehicle. This causes delay in conveying women in labour to the maternity, and has led to the death of one woman,” Mrs Hassan said.
Community’s head speaks
The traditional head of Boddo, Alhassan Haruna, said the initial safe motherhood vehicle donated by the previous administration greatly helped the community’s women for over five years before it was involved in an accident that grounded it.
He said he headed the committee that went to Kano to buy the vehicle after the women contributed the money.
“We took the vehicle to the local government chairman and he commended the efforts of the women. He pledged to buy new tyres for the vehicle. However, three months after, the official is yet to fulfil the promise,” the traditional ruler said.
What we are doing on safe motherhood – Jigawa government
The Executive Secretary, Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Kabiru Ibrahim, told this newspaper that the safe motherhood programme has been in existence in Jigawa for over 20 years.
Mr Ibrahim said the programme has three components but the most common which people know is the provision of vehicles for hard to reach communities.
He added that, previously, many models adopted in the state for transporting women from the hard to reach locations to health facilities failed because of the negligence and inconsistency of the system.
He said the state collaborated with the National Union of Road and Transport Workers and trained over 1,000 drivers on how to convey pregnant women to hospitals.
But he lamented that the programme has not been successful.
He said the state had bought over 120 vehicles dedicated for the hard to reach communities for the safe motherhood programme but most of them are grounded.
He said a committee set up by the current administration in the state to look into the operations of such vehicles found that only 20 are working while about 100 are grounded.
A new system in place
Mr Ibrahim said the state government has now come up with Community Emergency Transport System (CETS) which it is piloting in five local government areas.
He said the new system had within three months transported over 300 pregnant women to health facilities with no single record of death.
“The CETS registered interested vehicles owners of the various community and placed them on N4,000 allowance per trip. The over 300 vehicles registered in the new system now cover 17 councils areas of the state.
“The remaining ten council areas, including the Taura local government where the women voluntarily donated the vehicle, will soon be captured in the year ending.
“In Jigawa State, there are 12,681 towns. The state’s economy cannot sustain this at a go. However, we are moving gradually towards attaining that,” the official said.