Until now, mothers expecting their babies in riverine areas of Rivers State often endured days to cross the Atlantic Ocean from places as far as Kula, a town that juts into the ocean, to paddle to upland areas to be delivered of their babies if local birth attendants in the seas could not help.
This was how the present caretaker committee chairman of Akuku-Toru was born. He was born in Kula (oceanic town) but his twin sister could not make it there. Birth attendants did their best without success. It was decided to risk the long journey across the ocean to the upland. The only conveyor was a hand-pulled canoe which took almost a whole day of pulling.
“This is how my twin sister was born three days later in Degema,” Tonye Awari Alalibo, Akuku-Toru CTC boss, disclosed to a bewildered audience recently in Abonnema, the council headquarters.
Now in a position to do something about this, he said he delved into reviving the only medical facility in the oceanic town, the Kula Primary Model Healthcare Centre (KMPHCC) which has been moribund. This is how Belemaoil joined the effort.
“Such situation is no more. That is the motivation for this task of reviving the Kula centre so pregnant women could get first rate medical attention,” Alalibo said.
Throwing some light, Darego Fubara, head, government and community relations, Belemaoil, told BDSUNDAY that health of the communities was important to them.
“We are committed to the communities. We are ready for more support in such campaigns in the future. We delved into this rehabilitation project as part of social performance drive, to contribute to Nigeria and host communities. We were invited and are happy to support them. We have been supporting good works in the communities. We are satisfied how the funds were disbursed. We have seen a lot of items and they seem satisfied,” Fubara said.
“Prior to the support we gave, we were told of long travel to get medical care. So, we want to reduce this agony. We are ready to do more. Our expectation is that the communities would cooperate with Belemaoil and support our operations.”
Grace Ejiasa, head of administration, Newcross Exploration and Production that also partnered with the local council to help Kula, said saving lives was important.
“We regard this as an opportunity to help humanity,” she said.
The medical director of the Kula centre painted the gloomy picture of working in the deep areas of the riverine areas.
“Kula produces oil but the healthcare centre is nothing but a leaking roof; no power supply, no security, etc. Sea piracy, kidnapping, high transport fees stifle the healthcare centre. Let the chiefs, oil companies, and others help to rescue the oceanic sections of the Niger Delta,” said the director.
He said the medical centre was lying waste and occupied by rats and cockroaches.
“The CTC boss reactivated the moribund centre which was not fit for human use for the 40,000 inhabitants that it was meant for. There are seven such facilities but none is functional.
Now power, equipment, accommodation, etc are back to the centre. We the medical team are motivated,” he said.
Kama Amabibi Eleki, the Amanyanabo of Kula, who is also a medical doctor, said his people were happy that the medical centre has been rescued.
“Belemaoil and Newcross have reactivated our desolate and despicable health centre. The workers did not show up but were ready to treat patients in their homes. I admonished them many times. Now, we have all the equipment needed to make the centre viable,” he said.
“We therefore cannot allow these items of equipment to vanish. We will inspect them every three months. Inventory will be kept with me and others. Let the workers be there all the time to work, henceforth. Belemaoil and Newcross have brought new dimension in community relations. We will pay them back with conducive environment to produce oil.”
The community leaders such as the four compound leaders that make up Kula and the Kula community development chairman, Sibia Sukubo, echoed massive support to protect the equipment for general good.
The permanent secretary, Ministry of Health, who was represented by Ekanem Nyareo, director of medical services, Rivers Primary Healthcare Board, said the state government was taking over the primary healthcare facilities and the job done by the CTC and oil companies had made the case of Kula easy.
Those present hinted that the security threats in Abonnema and the entire Akuku-Toru local council area had calmed down. They said the CTC boss had brought down kidnapping and piracy so people could travel to the seas and had also brought down flooding so vehicles could pass in the rainy season. A source talked about reducing tension in the area by reducing the salary arrears owed workers from N300 million to N60 million.
“This is a very important event, being the handing over of equipment to Kula Model Primary Healthcare Centre (KPHCC). Due to the difficult and challenging terrain, access to healthcare by the oceanic dwellers is very difficult. Thus I vowed to overcome every challenge to equip and revamp the healthcare centre, thus the collaboration with Belemaoil and Newcross. This will provide critical medicare to the grassroots people in the far-flung areas,” Alalibo said.
“The items include basic hospital and medical facilities like chairs, tables, beddings, examination kits, lab equipment, etc all to furnish the general out-patient, registration, pharmacy and lab and records units of the health centre.”
The equipment were to be handed over to the Amanyanabo of Kula for onward handover to the medical centre.