Nigeria has an intimidating reputation with concerns about security, corruption, traffic chaos, economic nihilism and unfathomable bureaucracy.
However, carefully following all protocols and negotiating the hawkers at Lagos airport, I struggled into the tropical humidity of the arrivals lounge at Lagos airport and instantly found my host Dr Oluyombo Awojobi with his son, Yombo Jnr and our friend from Takoradi Dr Charles Sagua. We headed north into the night for a 150km drive to Eruwa. The journey of 6 hours took us through shanty towns and slums, over potted and non-existent roads, districts teaming with road-side traders and the general crush of humanity, until at midnight we arrived to the relative rural tranquillity in the tropical savannah at Eruwa.
After a good nights rest Yombo Snr took me on a tour of the Eruwa community. Beginning at the primary school, we watched the assembly, including joyous singing and I gave a small invited speech of encouragement. Ward rounds began at 8am and 40 patients were assessed. The Awojobi clinic is a miracle in the midst of the failing state of Nigeria which can no longer deliver fresh water or electricity to its towns or the hospitals within them. In the Awojobi clinic water is pumped up from dams fashioned by hand. Electricity is provided from cheap generators. All hospital equipment is cheaply produced including Heath Robinson autoclaves, a water distiller, intravenous fluid production, surgical gowns, drapes and materials. Yombo is able to provide comprehensive surgical services for all members of this community at a very low price. At the same time he is dealing with end stage pathology, which requires a large breadth of experience and surgical skill.
During the day we had discussions about how to enter a partnership between Operation Hernia and Awojobi clinic beginning within the next few months.
The following day Saturday 7th March, Yombo took me on a tour of the town which was amongst the poorest I have seen in Africa. There is virtually no visible input from government services. The District Hospital was in a state of desolation and decay with rusting beds and equipment and filthy conditions. Following a traditional lunch of palm nut soup, ground cassava, smoked catfish and a fiery, peppery stew, we visited Igba-Ora District Hospital, which was little improvement on the hospital in Eruwa, although there were some signs of surgical activity, which occurs when there is an electricity supply provided erratically during a random four hours each day.
The following day, which was my day of departure, I was taken to the Ibadan University and the University College Hospital, which had an air of majestic and faded neglect, and where we observed enthusiastic trainee doctors and surgeons. Finally before departure to the airport I visited Layo Model hospital at Ikire in Osun state which is run by Dr Tunji Adenuga. He has built a small medical facility in an isolated rural area together with a school and community based projects. This site may become a second place in Nigeria for Operation Hernia.
Nigeria offers exciting possibilities for Operation Hernia where in spite of the problems, there exists a nucleus of surgeons determined to provide a service for their communities and willing to work with outside agencies. We look forward to our next visit to the Awojobi clinic.