Nigeria is celebrating her Golden Jubilee recently. Nigerians from all over the globe have something to look forward to this day of reflection

Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) an international aid agency of Catholic Church in England and Wales has been a development partner in Nigeria for just over three decades and is proud to join Nigerians in this momentous period which calls for sober reflection, re-awakening call, change and taking action for everyone.

 In our reflection as a development partner, we stand alongside our partners, the poorest and disadvantaged Nigerians to reflect the achievements, challenges and what the future holds for over 70 millions poor and disadvantaged Nigerians across the country. 

 Sr Esther Shebi is the Director of Kuru Water filtration project in the Archdiocese of Jos where CAFOD has supported the programme since 1999. “CAFOD Contribution has help in combating water born diseases through the provision of wells and rain harvest tanks that make available safe drinking water to many homes, institutions and communities. Promotion of personal and environmental hygiene.” 

 Politically, Nigeria moved from being a British colony to a Republic. From at3-region nation, Nigeria has developed to a 36-state nation with over seven hundred local councils. Apart from that, Nigeria was able to remain a united nation after coming out of a civil war in the late 1960s to early 1970s. It also survived military dictatorships for over three decades. The country returned to civilian rule in 1999 and for the first time the ‘civilians’ were able to supervise an election to usher in new government. Successive general elections have been held since then.

Pregnant and nursing Mothers listening to health talk during a session of Ante natal Clinic (ANC) in one of CAFOD Supported Primary Health Care Centre.

Pregnant and nursing Mothers listening to health talk during a session of Ante natal Clinic (ANC) in one of CAFOD Supported Primary Health Care Centre.

 Nigeria has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Petroleum and oil resources play a large role in the Nigerian economy. The country is the 6th largest producer of petroleum in the world; it is the 8th largest exporter and has the 10th largest proven reserves. However, the country is overly-dependent on its oil sector whereas other areas of the economy such as agriculture, palm oil production and coconut processing are in decline. 

Pauline Goltong is Diocesan Health Coordinator of Bauchi Diocese and Head of Gambar Primary Health Care a very remote rural community that has no access to light, water and government clinic, CAFOD has been building the capacity of the PHC and provided a Solar Light system in 2009. “CAFOD has greatly change the life of the people in Gambar, staff are working 24hrs with light and communities come to access health care in the night unlike in the passed when they come and only Kerosine bushlamps are used which most often produces smoke that irritates the eyes, security guards are happy as well. Patients and staff are able to buy telephone handsets as there is place for them to recharge their batteries. 

National statistics report that the trend in poverty is on the decline but acknowledge the slow progress towards meeting the Millennium Development Goal of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. Poverty remains one of the most critical challenges facing the country and population growth rates have meant a steady increase in the number of poor. Nigeria remains one of the world’s poorest countries with the largest population of poor in Africa. It is also suspected that life expectancy remains low and is estimated to have decreased from 47 years in 1990 to 44 years in 2005. 

Rev Fr Simeon Omale is the Diocesan Health Coordinator of  Idah diocese “CAFOD capacity building has helped communities to be more informed about their health status, PHC facilities have put in place best health practices.”

According to the UNDP Human Development Report 2009, the public health sector is one of the worst in the whole world. The ordinary Nigerian considers the sector to have completely collapsed. The recent cholera outbreak in some part of the North is a clear example. With poor reproductive healthcare, the country has the second highest rate of maternal mortality in the world. In 2009 the UNICEF estimated that maternal mortality ratio in Nigeria is 1100 per 100,000 live births, antenatal care coverage 47 percent, institutional delivery rate 33 percent, and each woman bears six children on the average. The rate at which children die from all forms of diseases is alarmingly increasing. Most hospitals, roads, even schools do not contribute to ensuring the survival of the Nigerian child. At CAFOD we believe a country at 50 should be able to say that the rights of its children are being protected. 

Sr Benedette Ukoh is the Diocesan Health Coordinator for Kano Diocese and:  “our target beneficiaries which include children and pregnant women through CAFOD support for transportation we have been able to reach the interior where government assistance could not reach which has help in reducing morbidity and mortality rates. Within the past 6 years of CAFOD support, nutrition status of children and women have improved including acceptability of orthodox treatment due to health education. Childhood illnesses have reduced through immunisation” 

The same report also ranked Nigeria among the most unequal countries in the world despite its vast resources. And we all know that Nigeria’s poverty is artificial, imposed by poor and insensitive leadership. In the last 30 or so years, Nigeria stumbled and was held captive by a cabal, whose take on leadership is completely different from the aspiration of its citizens.

Participants in group discussion during a provincial training on Health Management Information System

Participants in group discussion during a provincial training on Health Management Information System

CAFOD partners believe that at 50 Nigeria should be able to boast of a healthy citizenry living beyond 50 years in a conducive environment, Nigeria should be able to boast of good governance, of access to well-equipped hospitals, of good schools with serene and conducive environment for learning, constant power supply, good roads and other infrastructure. How many of these can she boast of? 

Ignatius A Kaigama, Catholic Archbishop of Jos, Nigeria: “At 52, I’m a proud child of Nigeria’s independence. Over the last 50 years, we have embraced our new-found freedom of expression, association and religion. Nigerians want to make it. However, there is still desperate poverty in our country, a terrible situation when you consider the huge wealth generated by oil. This poverty is often the cause of the social trouble we witness. We must push our leaders to create a vibrant economic system free from corruption, for better education and healthcare, for improvements in the life of every Nigerian.” 

What hope of a bright future does Nigeria have then? As a nation has Nigeria attained the heights a 50-year-old nation should reach? This is a moment for sober reflection, re-awakening to support the chart for a new course for the country and look forward to turning things around.   

CAFOD has been working in Nigeria since the 1970s. The beginning of Primary Health Programme was heralded by the formalisation of support for the 16 projects started in 1999. Today the programme supports 64 projects to improve the healthy status of people living in rural areas of Northern Nigeria.

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