Amidst the tears of loss, deprivation, panic and economic instability, the COVID-19 pandemic is changing life as we know it.
There have been over 2.2 million confirmed infections, almost 600,000 recoveries and over 150,000 deaths. But the real heroes may never make the frontpages of newspapers nor get any mentions on CNN Heroes. The real heroes are the men and women, doctors and nurses who are providing care to the sick in this pandemic.
Men who will lay down their lives that more may live.
Today, we salute these heroes – soldiers in defence of our health forces.
Dr Aliyu Yakubu
On Saturday a medic in northern Nigeria, Aliyu Yakubu, became the first doctor to die of coronavirus in the country. The late physician, Aliyu Yakubu, had travelled to Lagos and returned to Daura after which he fell sick and was later confirmed to be infected with the virus. He was admitted at the Nigeria Air Force Reference Hospital, Daura where he died on Saturday, April 4.
“Samples of about 23 people were taken to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control; three tested positive for COVID-19,” Governor Aminu Masari told journalists in Katsina.
He said the wife and two children had been taken to an isolation centre at the Federal Medical Centre, Katsina where they were being treated.
Dr Olumide Okunuga (Italy)
Nigerian pathologist Okunuga, 64 lived in Modena a city in Emilia-Romagna, in northern Italy. Dr Olumide Saraju Okunuga, was an alumnus of one of the foremost private schools in Nigeria – Mayflower School Ikenne, in Ogun State, and an indigene of Ikenne Remo. He studied medicine at the University of Bologna in Italy from 1982 to 1990. He was the President of Egbe Omo Yoruba Emilia-Romagna and the Vice President of Yoruba National Community Italy.
Dr Alfa Sa’adu (United Kingdom)
Dr Alfa Saadu was a medical director at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Essex and Ealing NHS Trust, before he died at the age of 68, Sa’adu died on Tuesday afternoon at the Whittington Hospital in north London.
Despite retiring in 2017, Dr Saadu continued to work part-time at the Queen Victoria Memorial Hospital in Welwyn, Hertfordshire. During his career he also worked as medical director of the Ealing Hospital NHS Trust and was appointed interim medical director when the trust merged to become the London North West University NHS Trust in 2014. The Princess Alexandra Hospital, where Dr Saadu worked as a medical director until he left in December 2017, also paid tribute: “Our condolences to you and your family. Our thoughts are with you all.”
Dr. Emeka Chugbo
The 51-year-old doctor was taken to Lagos University Teaching Hospital on Monday with “severe symptoms” and died on Wednesday, according to the hospital. Dr. Emeka did his residency in O&G at LUTH and moved to set up a private facility after the program. He also had a history of asthma, his friend Lawal Oyeneyin told local media. He had attended to in his clinic who had Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus. The patient is also deceased now.
In a statement from Centre for Liberty signed by Honeybellann Ndubuisi and Maryam Nuru Ahmed, he is applauded for his service, “For his efforts in saving humanity, Dr Emeka Chugbo would forever be remembered as a COVID hero.”
Dr Caleb Anya
Medical practitioner, Dr Anya, hailed from Ohafia in Abia State. “He died while rendering service to humanity on the forefront of the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic in New York on April 1, 2020.
A former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has called on the federal government to review the “hazard allowance” given to health workers involved in the fight against COVID-19. This is coming a day after the minister of health, Osagie Ehanire, said he was “not aware” if health workers get hazard allowance in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, on Thursday, gave the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, a dressing down for stating that he didn’t know if health workers treating COVID-19 patients were being paid hazard allowance or not.
The National Association of Resident Doctors had last week stated that Nigerian doctors were receiving N5, 000 a month as hazard allowance. Doctors at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital isolation centre had told The PUNCH Newpapers that they were being owed over N30m in allowances.
“Having acknowledged that healthcare workers in the frontline of the war against #COVID19 are our true heroes,” Mr Abubakar wrote in a tweet on Friday, “a review that will enhance their hazard allowance should be given immediate consideration.”
In Nigeria, an entry level federal doctor or dentist earns an annual consolidated salary of about ₦1.7 million ($4,722), rising to ₦8.5 million ($23,611) for the highest grade. Of this, hazard allowance is ₦60,000 ($167), irrespective of level, PREMIUM TIMES learnt.
Being the first respondents to coronavirus patients, health workers are highly exposed to the infection.
According to Aljazeera.com there are 72,000 doctors registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN); over half practise outside the country.
The recent demise of Abba Kyari, the Chief of Staff to the President of Nigeria is bringing a sharper focus to the inadequacies of the national health infrastructure serving over 180 million Nigerians.
A Kanuri from Borno, not much is known about his early life. In 1980, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Warwick, and also received a bachelor’s degree in law from the University of Cambridge.
In 1983, he was called to the Nigerian Bar after attending the Nigerian Law School.
In 1984, he obtained a master’s degree in law from the University of Cambridge. He later attended the International Institute for Management Development in Lausanne, Switzerland and participated in the Program for Management Development at the Harvard Business School, in 1992 and 1994, respectively.
Kyari had been hospitalized in the commercial capital, Lagos, after testing positive for the coronavirus upon his return from a trip to Germany on March 15. His death was announced via a statement from the Special Assistant to the President on Media, Femi Adesina on Friday April 17and buried Saturday April 18 in Abuja.
Kyari died at First Cardiology Consultants Hospital, Lagos on 17 April 2020, he died from complications related to COVID-19.
Kyari was married and had four children.