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Cablegate: Nigeria: Ngo Brings Urgently Needed Medical Care

VZCZCXRO6368
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHOS #0464/01 3260719
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 210719Z NOV 08
FM AMCONSUL LAGOS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 0312
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
RUEHUJA/AMEMBASSY ABUJA 9954
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH AFB UK
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
RHMCSUU/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC
RUEATRS/DEPT OF TREASURY WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEWMFD/HQ USAFRICOM STUTTGART GE

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 LAGOS 000464

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - HANDLE ACCORDINGLY
SIPDIS

STATE PASS USAID FOR GWEYNAND AND SLAWAETZ

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV TBIO PHUM SOCI NI
SUBJECT: NIGERIA: NGO BRINGS URGENTLY NEEDED MEDICAL CARE
TO NEGLECTED COMMUNITIES IN THE NIGER DELTA

1.(U) Summary: On November 4 PolOffs met with Chris Ekiyor,
Chairman of the Ijaw Youth Council, who is also an oral
surgeon bringing free and urgently needed health care to the
Niger Delta with his partner Philip Ugbodaga through their
NGO, Rural Africa Health Initiative (RAHI). The organization
hopes to increase long-term sustainability of medical aid by
equipping existing small hospitals in the region and
providing staffing from the large pool of unemployed medical
professionals in Nigeria. Because RAHI wishes to remain
independent of Nigerian government funding, it is seeking to
identify possible private or NGO donors of used medical
equipment. End Summary.

2.(U) On November 4, Chris Ekiyor and his partner Philip
Ugbodaga, both oral surgeons, told PolOffs they founded RAHI
in 1999 to provide free medical care to people in the Niger
Delta, who do not have access to or cannot afford medical
care. (Note: Ekiyor is also Chairman of the Ijaw Youth
Council, a graduate of the Federation for Ethnic Harmony in
Nigeria's nonviolence training, and a former IVLP
participant. End note.) RAHI takes a team composed of
medical professionals, who volunteer their services free of
charge, into communities using a mobile clinic. Team members
spend the first day advertising their presence and services;
on the following days they perform triage on the patients who
come to them from the surrounding area, deciding which they
can handle with the staff and facilities available, and which
patients need to be stabilized for future treatment at a
different location. The treatment provided during the clinic
frequently addresses medical problems that have been
festering for years, Ekiyor said.

RAHI Plans Upgrades for Niger Delta Hospitals
--------------------------------------------- -

3. (U) Ekiyor and Ugbodaga would like to increase the
sustainability of activities by providing selected hospitals
with used medical equipment from developed countries and
staffing clinics with unemployed Nigerian medical
professionals. RAHI has identified over 20 hospitals in rural
communities suitable for this project. All these facilities
have been built, but lack both equipment and staff. RAHI
plans to start with a facility in Bayelsa State which has
recently been refurbished by the Niger Delta Development
Corporation (NDDC). RAHI is seeking equipment from
institutions which are modernizing their own equipment and
would be prepared to donate the replaced equipment to the
project. RAHI anticipates paying for the transport of the
equipment from the donor to the recipient hospital. Among the
equipment needed are boat ambulances, life-support systems,
and surgical theater machinery.

Unemployed Nigerian Doctors to Staff Hospitals
--------------------------------------------- -

4. (U) Ekiyor and Ugbodaga want to make the refurbished and
equipped facilities sustainable by tapping into the large
pool of trained medical professionals in Nigeria who are
currently unemployed. RAHI expects to pay participating
medical professionals only for their travel and expenses.
However, Ekiyor and Ugbodaga are certain that the doctors
would participate as a way to gain experience and to keep up
their skills.

5. (U) In addition, Ekiyor and Ugbodaga noted that there are
more than 5,000 Nigerian medical professionals in the United
States, many of whom they believe would be willing to come
back and work in Bayelsa if security improved and if loans
were available to help them establish private practice.
Ugbodaga estimated that it costs a doctor 1.5 million naira
(approximately USD 13,000), to set up a private medical
practice in Nigeria, but Nigerian banks are reluctant to
provide loans to doctors without collateral.

6. (U) Ekiyor and Ugbodaga are attempting to identify
potential donors of used medical equipment and partner
hospitals in the United States and other developed countries.
Ekiyor intends not to seek funding from Nigerian government
sources because to do so would inhibit the NGO's

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independence, he believes. Although NDDC Managing Director
Timi Alaibe has indicated interest in the project, Ugbodaga
and Ekiyor are concerned that if NDDC were to become
involved, the project would attain too high a profile and
then others would try to find a way to profit from it.

7. (SBU) Comment: Ekiyor, a longstanding contact of the
Lagos Pol-Econ Section, is a knowledgeable interlocutor on
the Niger Delta. However, this is the first information Post
has had concerning the breath of the work done by his medical
NGO. End Comment.
BLAIR

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