ENUGU— It was an exchange of intellectual ideas and impart of knowledge last weekend as professors from different fields of knowledge, especially health, congregated at Oaklands Hotel in Enugu for the 2019 Amaka Chiwuike-Uba Foundation (ACUF) national asthma conference.

The conference with the theme: “Better Breathing; Better Living: The Role of the Environment and Governance” had in attendance more than 700 participants drawn from different states across the country, including those with asthma ailment.

The professors and experts in attendance included: former Minister for Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu (who was also chairman of the conference), Former Minister for Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, Consultant Chest Physician, Prof. Gregory Erhabor, the Vice Chairman, Ibadan School of Government and Public Policy (ISGPP), Prof. Tunji Olaopa, former Pro-chancellor and Chairman of the governing board of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife, Prof. Rowland Ndoma-Egba, Consultant Pulmonologist and Pediatrician, Dr. Adaeze Ayuk, Secretary of Anambra State Investment Promotion and Protection Agency (ANSIPPA), Dr. Ifediora Amobi, Consultant Pulmonologist, Dr. Adewole, Human Development Consultant, Larry Oguego, among other national and international public speakers.

In his opening remarks, Chairman of the conference and former Minister for Health, Prof Onyebuchi Chukwu, said that the one-day conference couldn’t have come at a better time, as there was need to help government in its policy direction, especially as they affect health and the environment.

Prof. Chukwu, who served as Minister during the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, said that universal healthcare coverage needs funding to be adequately implemented in the country, saying that many people cannot afford medical services in Nigeria, as a result of poverty, even as he said that health is the fundamental human right of citizens.

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He said: “As we are leaving here, we should leave with what we need to tell government about improving healthcare and services. I must congratulate the Founder of ACUF, Dr Chiwuike Uba, for his vision and selflessness in establishing a foundation that will help those living with asthma, having suffered the personal loss of losing his wife through asthma on July 4, 2016.

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“The theme for this year’s conference is particularly important because of the dangers we face as a result of pollution and it is still part of the theme of the 2017 conference. Regrettable, many people cannot access quality healthcare or medical services, as a result of poverty. That’s why we must support universal healthcare coverage. We need funding for universal healthcare coverage in Nigeria. It is the human right of Nigerian citizens.”

Agreeing with Prof. Chukwu, a former Pro-chancellor and Chairman of the governing board of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile Ife, Prof. Rowland Ndoma-Egba, said that accessing quality healthcare is still a problem in Nigeria, even as he expressed gratitude to Dr. Uba for the humane gesture of undertaking the treatment of asthma patients through ACUF.

He said: “I have great respect for Dr Chiwuike Uba for the fact that he is using the foundation to make sure that no one loses his soul because of asthma complications. There is no love greater than establishing this foundation in the memory of his wife, as the activities of the foundation will forever cement the memories of his wife in people’s mind.

“Health is important in our daily lives, though access to quality healthcare is still a problem in Nigeria. I am particularly interested in governance and how the people at the local level are affected. How can our local governments meet up with their responsibilities of primary healthcare delivery, if allocations to local governments do not get to them?

“Human capital is important in quality healthcare delivery. Enugu State has a teaching hospital today, but finance is a challenge, especially because of human capital. The uncertainty of health and pollution of the environment remains a thing of concern. Efforts should be made to implement quality healthcare in Nigeria.

“If government is serious, in one year, we will have all the services we need. Politicians must show concern to resurrect confidence in their followers and not allow the seeming neglect of the healthcare system.”

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On his part, a consultant chest physician and professor of medicine, Prof. Gregory Erhabor, said that education of the public by medical practitioners is paramount, as it would help in changing their perception about medical conditions.

“In the UK and other advanced countries, medical practitioners educate their patients. When the patient has cancer, asthma or any other ailment, you educate him. The internet is not the best way for education, because you can find many junks there. It is our responsibility to pass the message across to the world. We might not necessarily change the world, but we will change a lot,” he said.

Similarly, former Minister for Power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, said that Dr. Uba was offering invaluable services to humanity by establishing ACUF to take care of as many asthma patients as possible.

“I am deeply impressed by ACUF because I think something really needs to be done about asthma. When I was young, asthma was described as a disability disorder. We have lost so many people to asthma and we have to make many realise the disability disorder so that we can save more lives,” he said.

Also speaking, Consultant Pulmonologist and Pediatrician, Dr Adaeze Ayuk, whose address was on “Environmental Risk Factors for Asthma in Children,” said more awareness is needed on asthma, as environmental pollution affects both children and adults, even as she enlightened participants on asthma triggers.

“Air pollution affects every part of the body, including the brain. If asthmatic, you need to identify and avoid triggers. Control of the environment requires attention based on indoor and outdoor activities. You can replace your carpet, wash your curtains more often and clean your window panes.

“Also encourage people to go and see a doctor when they exhibit symptoms of being asthmatic. It is not a matter of ‘it is not my portion’. When they visit the hospital, data will be collected for research and recommendations,” she said.

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Speaking on “Human Rights, Environment and Health Management in Nigeria,” a Human Development Consultant, Larry Oguego, said every problem in Nigeria today can be viewed through the lens of human rights, even as he said that poverty has reduced the lives of people to the level where they no longer have dignity for human rights.

He said: “Chapters 2 and 4 of the 1999 Constitution has upheld human rights as the rights accruing to us, because we are humans and should enjoy them from birth till death. However, by omission or commission, it is common to abuse human rights in Nigeria, especially by security agencies and as a result of poverty. In fact, it is a crime to be poor in Nigeria, as poverty has already taken away some of your fundamental human rights.

“The highest violator of human rights is the police. The average police cell is designed to trigger asthma, as some people die in police cells as a result of asthma complications. This is apart from police using teargas to disperse demonstrations, with many of them being asthma patients. Police arrest and keep people in solitary confinements or in the booth of cars, regardless of the fact that the supposed criminals may be asthma patients.

“Apart from the police, our political leaders are also abusing human rights of Nigerians. In schools, classrooms are either overcrowded or students are exposed to cold, as they are forced to learn in the open, without protection under trees. There is no ventilation inside classrooms or protection from the air under mango trees.

“Our healthcare system is in a sorry state. If you have a medical emergency, especially as a poor man, you are on your own. Even some healthcare providers lack knowledge of what asthma is all about. However, we must steer Nigeria away from poverty, because poverty aggravates human rights abuse. Some asthma patients die because they don’t have money to pay deposits.”

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