US medical team provides free healthcare, palliatives to underserved rural communities in Gombe

The American medical team led by Dr. Robert Lee Lawson (in white cap), sitting with the leader of the Fulani community in Kalindi during the free medicare outreach and commissioning of a PHC.

By Williams Ago, Gombe

A team of medical expatriates from the United States of America, Ghana and Nigeria, are touring some selected underserved rural communities in Gombe State with free medical care and palliatives.

The team, which also comprises of indigenous medical personnel and paramedics to support the foreign expatriates, is led by Dr. Robert Lee Lawson from Texas, USA.

The one week long free medical outreach, which began on Sunday and Monday 30th/31st October, 2023, in Nyuwar community, Balanga LGA, is expected to be rounded up in Komta, Billiri LGA on Saturday 4th November, 2023.

According to Dr. Lawson, this is his sixth visit to Nigeria. He summed up his observation from the current visit on the third day of the tour, saying, "there are a lot of health challenges in the rural areas, especially in the aspects of sanitation, clean water, lack of healthy food among others."

He said, "We tried to bring some food in addition to the medical outreach to give some of them that need it the most so that they can have nutritious food.

"We intend to treat as many as possible. We have itenary for each day and we intend to leave food and medication for the nurses and doctors to help the people even when we have gone back,” he stressed.

During the medical outreach, a primary health care centre was built in a Fulani settlement in Kalindi by the community with support of Honourable Rambi Ibrahim Ayala, the Gombe State NNPP chairman under a programme of the Gombe State Agency for community and social development.

Honourable Rambi, a former two term member of the State House of Assembly, also a facilitator of the free medical outreach, said apart from the timely free medicare service, the medical outreach team had also settled the medical bills of six snakebite patients at the Kaltungo Snakebite Hospital.

He explained that just after three days of the free medical outreach, the team had already met the medical needs of well over 500 persons with various health challenges and they hope to cover much more in the remaining days.

He said, "the team has been coming in contact with people with serious health challenges and their intervention has been very timely. Grains will also be shared to those mostly in need as palliatives due to current economic hardship.

"They also attend to eyesight challenges and others. They make referrals where necessary. It's a complete team, some run tests, some are giving medical attention and we keep buying drugs," he stated.

Speaking on the Primary Health Care Centre, Rambi said, "I conceptualized and gave a push while I was still in government. I had interest in the Fulani settlement that have been with us over the years.

"We pushed in to apply for one of the programmes of the GSACSD. I provided the counterpart funds, that is, the percentage of money expected from the community.

"I'm happy to see the completion and putting to use of the PHC. Getting to the settlement is a harculean challenge because of the bad road, especially during rainy season. So bringing that facility is part of solving their problems.

"To me, it's a community service that we will keep doing in or out of government. It's something that I am passionate about, we've just started, we'll have similar exercises, bringing succour to communities that are underserved,” he stated.

While commending the Inuwa Yahaya led State Government for providing the enabling environment for such intervention activities to thrive, he called on it to look deeper into the rural areas by prioritizing their health and welfare needs.

"I have seen that health challenges of the people is really underreported. They should also meet up with the minimum health target in the 2024 budget, not only on paper but it should be matched with action,” he emphasized.

Leader of the Fulani settlement in Kalindi, Alhaji Ade (Ardo Ade), expressed happiness with the provision of the health facility as well as the free medical outreach.

He said, "We had to travel as far as Billiri, Kaltungo or Kumo to access health facilities or get medical attention and when it rains, we have to wait till the next day before we can move. 

"Sometimes, our women give birth on the road while going to the hospital outside our community. We urgently need a road to be constructed here," he appealed.

The free medical outreach had reached communities such as Nyuwar, Kalindi Fulani, Dungaje-Cham, Mona and some others and is expected to be rounded up on Saturday 4th November, 2023 at Komta in Billiri LGA.

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