The Women’s Health and Action Research Centre (WHARC) received a delegation of chiefs and prominent sons from the traditional rulers of Okpella kingdom in Etsako East Local Government area, Edo state on Saturday 28th April, 2018 on a courtesy visit. The visit was in respect of an earlier request to the Principal Investigator of WHARC’s funded programs in maternal health, Professor Friday Okonofua, FAS to request support to establish a major health care facility in their community.
In the speech delivered by His Royal Majesty (DR.) A.Y.E Dirisu (JP), OON the Okuokpellagbe of Okpella Kingdom, who was represented by the leader of the delegation, High chief R.A David, the royal father appreciated WHARC for its immense contribution to the growth and improvement of healthcare delivery in Nigeria, remarking that various primary health care projects that are ongoing in Edo State are as a result of the pioneering efforts and commitments of WHARC. He said that it is worrisome that the Okpella community being the third most populated in Edo state do not have a standard Health Centre, and that community members have to travel several kilometres in order to seek quality healthcare, while some resort to traditional care and self-medication. “There is no government owned hospital in Okpella. Accordingly, our people still have to seek medical attention in Auchi and others for most of their health challenges which would easily have been done in Okpella. This is the reason we considered that your intervention in our community will substantially alleviate our plight. Trusting in your dynamism and humanitarian disposition, I believe that you will soon call for the project to begin accordingly” he said.
He added that several promises in the past by previous governments in Edo state have failed to materialize. However, the Okpella community has decided not to relent and will continue to invite noteworthy organizations and individuals to support the commencement of any initiative that will reduce medical quackery in the community. He therefore requested that WHARC should support the establishment of a hospital in the community as they have allocated a piece of land as a sign of their commitment for the project.
He also solicited for the community to benefit from the scaling up of the Innovating for Maternal and Child Health in Africa (IMCHA) project being funded by the International Research Development Centre (IDRC) for WHARC that is aimed at increasing access of pregnant women to skilled pregnancy care in rural communities in Edo state. The Okuokpellagbe emphasized the importance of such projects for realizing the vision of the community for high quality maternal health care.
In his speech, the Chairman of Etsako East Local Government Council, Hon. Aremiyau Alighame Momoh a prominent indigene of Okpella in the delegation, said the establishment of a hospital at Okpella is part of the agenda of his administration. He reported that as a Chairman who has been in office for only a few months, he was happy that he met some funds from the previous administration, part of which he has set aside for the establishment of a hospital in Okpella. He emphasized that he was ready to partner with WHARC and related organizations to start the project immediately.
“For a very long time this is the first time I see an outsider who has the interest of Okpella community at heart, but I want to tell you that the local government under my tenure will partner with you and ensure the project is accomplished. Personally, I will also contribute personal funds within my limit to the success of the establishment of a standard hospital to my community” he said.
In his response, the Program Advisor and Principal Investigator, Professor Friday Okonofua expressed his delight at the commitment of the community members of Okpella kingdom. He acknowledged the request for coming from the community without prodding from outside, he said it shows that it is an important concern of the community which has to be addressed immediately. He noted that Women’s Health and Action Research Centre (WHARC) through Research has found that community ownership is the most effective way to successfully implement maternal health projects that meets the aspiration and need of communities which will lead to sustainable utilization by community members.
Professor Friday Okonofua informed the visitors that WHARC is a non-governmental organization that offers humanitarian services and philanthropic works funded through grants from various local and international development partners and agencies. He promised the delegates that a site assessment will be conducted by WHARC within the shortest period of time which will give direction to the commencement of the project and that WHARC will assist to coordinate the project, hoping that the community will take a lead in supporting and contributing to the establishment of the health centre.
Other members of the delegation are prominent indigenes of Okpella Kingdom, a former Commissioner for works and finance, Hon. Abas Momoh Jega; a professor of chemical pathology at the University of Benin, Professor Sylvester Idogun; and several High Chiefs from the Okpella Kingdom; also in attendance include the Executive Director of WHARC, and former Commissioner for Health in Edo State, Dr Wilson Imongan; and key associates and members of staff (WHARC).