A Visit to Amukoko – Lagos Mainland

I had the unique opportunity to go with an acquantance from the British Womens Group (BWG) to a Community Health Project in Amukoko.  This was quite simply an eye opening experience, one that not many expats would venture into.  Amukoko is about one hour drive time over several bridges back to Lagos mainland and into the heart of the “slum” area.  It is mostly African transients trying to get established in Lagos that have nothing.  The streets are packed with people in native garb, 3 wheel cars (yellow)[thousands of these], okada’s (2 wheel motorcycle taxis), and vender stands (the size of a 3X3 ft. square) packed into every available space.  We went to the Mission/clinic to give a donation check from the BWG to the mission so the mission could purchase soy beans for the nutrition clinic.  The Mission is actually an oasis in the middle of the slums.  After driving for 20 miniutes on dirt streets through carts, people and stalls, you come upon the Clinic which is a Catholic Mission (a priest house for the only priest, a convent [5 nuns – one of which is a doctor], a church, a clinic, and 2 schools (computer school and baking school).  The nuns are simply amazing.  The clinic is open 7am-4pm, Monday -Friday, and offers the following services: pre and post natal care, TB clinic, AIDS/HIV clinic, Immunization clinic and Nutrition clinic.  The schools for computer and baking are to educate these women to facilitate them getting a better job and a better life for their famililes.  We recieved a tour of all the clinics because I had never been there before, and the nuns were so grateful for the donation.  We had arrived before noon and they had already seen 17 TB patients, given 200 immunization shots, tested 40 women for Aids/HIV, fed 80 women and children in the nutriton room (10×10 ft. room with a single stove and mini-fridge).  The physician on duty had seen almost 100 patients that morning.  The check we brought was for 125,000 Naira (or $1100) and will buy soy beans for the Clinic for 3 months.  The staff will sort the soy beans, wash the beans, grill the beans and then grind the beans into flour/meal for packaging into portions to serve 2 people each.  The clinic then teaches the mothers how to prepare the flour and then they feed the mother and children for 3 days, re-enforcing the nutrition teaching daily before finally supplying them with soy flour/meal to take home.  The clients are very patient.  They have their temperature taken daily and their symptoms logged and paper charted.  There is a complete pharmacy available for the clients.  After recieving care, the clients form a queue for the cashier’s office.  Everyone is expected to pay and they calmly wait to do so (there were about 75 waiting when I was there).  An immunization shot costs 15N (or $0.12).  The cashier accepts whatever they can give even if it is only 1N, and they each get a receipt.  The main supporters of the clinic are the Catholic church, the BWG and the Nigerian government (who supplies the drugs, the syringes and the DVDs/CDs the nuns use to keep up with the newest regulations).  So after the tour, we went to the convent for coffee and biscuits.  The day room was complete with TV/DVD and computer with Internet but no lights and a one burner stove.  These people thanked us over and over for coming to see them in person. While this is not a place I could readily volunteer, (as the Africans in this setting have little trust for the oyinbo – “white person”), I can voluntarily help them best by raising funds and visiting them occasionally.  It was most interesting to converse with the nuns.  They were as curious about me as I was about the clinic.  It is a very well run clinic (clean, orderly) in a 3rd world area, rigidly following CDC/African Health Guidelines and helping the people move a step forward.  Next time, I’ll try to get a few pictures!