It the time amiable Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti, Nigeria’s one-time Health Minister, died in 2003, he had become a leading world figure crusading for the upgrade of the health system to cater for the poor. He proposed “an all embracing system to provide health-care in an integrated way, rather than through vertical disease-specific programmes.”
He pursued this religiously and finally broke his philosophy into what later became known as Primary Health Care (PHC).
Ransome-Kuti has since been known as the father of primary health care approach to the health problems of the nation.
What is the kernel of PHC? It is simply that the solution to the mother-child (or community) health problems lies in the communities from which the people come, and not elsewhere.
He proved this with an experimental family health clinic to assess the effectiveness of nurses in the direct delivery of preventive and curative services to mothers and children. It was this project that provided the impetus for the establishment of the landmark Institute of Child Health and Primary Care of the College of Medicine, University of Lagos and an academic programme as part of pre-service medical training.
Professor Ransome-Kuti, health minister from 1985-1992, is now regarded as the best health minister Nigeria has ever had!
And 10 years after his death, there is a nostalgic yearning for his ideals, following the serious slide in the conditions of the health sector notably in the rural areas. We would not have experienced the grave setbacks we have witnessed under successive governments in Nigeria if we had leaned on the submissions of this great son of Africa.
But there is hope because in the State of Osun, the government of Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola has adopted precisely these principles: he is resorting to the policy of providing clean and good water for the rural folk (and of course to all the citizens) as a holistic health revamp strategy.
For as the administration is proving, there is a linkage between the availability of water for all, and general economic and social development across all sectors.
The state of Osun government is very much on course in its strategy to ensure that every resident in the state enjoys access to potable water supply for there is a clear synergy entailed in this objective. To use just one example, it would be frankly rather self- defeating to pour in money into the health sector without access- to- water – for- all at the heart of a holistic health revamp strategy. For as the late Professor Ransome Kuti emphasized continuously throughout his distinguished career, the momentum must start at the area of primary health care. Now, since most of the diseases here are water-borne, the availability of water resources is vital.
This across the board synergy is why the Aregbesola administration has staked so much resource on the provision of clean water for all. We are not scoring political points but just stating the obvious in pointing out that the present government in the state of Osun is starting out from a very low base. When the government came into office, six major water works and 45 micro water works were operating below capacity in the state. The major water works which were designed for a combined capacity of 226,000 litres of water per day were producing only 23.7 percent litres per day, while the Micro water works with combined capacity of 13,400 per day, were producing only 18.6 per cent of their capacity. This situation is drastically changing.
The Aregbesola administration, in the circumstance, had its work cut -out. Government has had to redress the balance from two fronts: putting in place facilities that will bridge the gap between demand and actual production, as well as putting in place the institutional mechanism that will ensure the sustainability of the facilities that will fulfil this objective.
In order to ensure sustainability and continuity, the government is ensuring that personnel are well- equipped and trained for the maintenance of the facilities upon completion, while counterpart staff would be attached to each of the projects. Every avenue will be considered in moving things forward. Opportunities available will include twinning arrangement with experienced international water utility organizations, as well as to explore the possibility of Private Public Partnerships.
Sustainability is of course vital which is why a pricing and payments system is strategic to the water access- for- all strategy. In view of the level of investments made by government, the authorities expect distinguished and responsible citizens to partner with government in paying modest water rates to sustain robust water initiatives: If the standard of the re-reinvigorated water policy is to be maintained, everyone of us, the governed and the government, must be willing and ready to play their parts very well. As a first measure, the state government is embarking on Consumers’ enumeration, after which a ‘’willingness to pay study ‘’ will be conducted. Even as the rehabilitation of this water works is progressing, government is supplying water through tankers to homes to ameliorate the pains of the citizens. The cost is minimal and bearable and the mode of payment to the banks simplified.
We can see from the observations made above, that the Aregbesola administration is actually walking – the – talk. Noteworthy is the fact that the N 417m contract for the emergency work on Ede Water Works was awarded at the inaugural executive Council meeting, held at the executive council chamber of the Governor’s Office, just a few hours after the new commissioners were sworn in.
At the 2014 election in Osun State, the citizens should identify candidates who in turn identify with them through their people-based policies to vote for. Their votes should not be wasted on those who would seek to impoverish them.
Aregbesola is following in the footsteps of the man who struggled tirelessly to improve life in the rural community through a policy that entailed direct health care delivery on the platform of drinking water which would prevent fatal communicable diseases.