The spike in the number of deaths reported in Kano, Jigawa and Yobe states between the last week of April and early May has sent worries to Nigerians in the face of the rampaging COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the reports, 150 deaths were recorded in two days (April 17 to April 18) in Kano while in neighbouring Jigawa more than 100 were reported dead in four days (May 2 to May 5). Hundreds were also reported to have died in Potiskum, Bade and Nguru in Yobe State.
The total figure is much more than the number of deaths recorded from COVID-19 nationwide.
More worrisome is the fact that the deaths took the authorities unawares. Thus, the reaction from the government officials in the states ranged from denial to speculation about the possible causes.
While the authorities in Kano State are yet to determine the causes of the deaths even with the intervention of the Federal Government officials sent to assist the state to address the scourge of COVID-19, both Jigawa and Yobe governments explained the deaths to a usual happening at this time of the year. They have also set up respective committees to further unravel the situation.
According to the reports, many of the victims died of high fever, diabetes and high blood pressure. The reports also said most of those affected were the elderly who had been suffering from these ailments for sometime.
The fact that these initial reports ruled out COVID-19 as the cause of the deaths is a relief to many. However, going by the reports, that many died because they could not access treatment early enough due to closure of health facilities is a cause for concern. Also, reports have it that health workers were reluctant to attend to patients because of fear of contracting the virus Thus, the pandemic has in a way been responsible for the deaths.
But fundamentally, the deaths have shown a number of weaknesses in our health and information management systems which need to be addressed immediately.
It is unfortunate that most of the authorities were only aware of the spike in the number of deaths in their respective states only after media reports. That was the reason why some even denied such happenings while others had to quickly set up committees to unravel the situation. Government at all levels must at all times be abreast with what is happening to its people so as to take necessary and urgent measures where necessary.
Also, the fact that many of the victims died because of their inability to receive medical attention also calls for an urgent review of the present attention being paid to only COVID-19 related issues.
Given that the number of deaths is greater than those related to the virus calls for a need to also find a way where other patients should not suffer because of the present pandemic. This is more necessary since it may take long to fully stop the virus.
Officials have also admitted that the spike in the deaths is a normal occurrence. However, it is apparent none of them had made any plan to address the situation even before it happened. This buttresses the point that most of our officials are no longer proactive.
Therefore, planning and prevention should always be a key strategy in the management of our health system.a