Ever since Lisa became my girl friend, my life came aglow, like it has been dead all this while. I woke up every morning, humming while I bathe and prepared for school. During the day, I will laugh at every joke, and play with my colleague and other teachers at the school. And once the day is getting old, I become green instead, with the anticipation of having to see her face again.
Sometimes I will not wait till school is over and I will go and visit her at the clinic. I hated hospital enviroments before, but I began to grow use to them. The scent of spirits and dis-infectants that always drove me near a puke, now made me hungry. Atleast it made me cherish the idea that I would be getting married to a Pharmacist, once we are done with service.
Of recent I visited the clinic. I have always met dying men, sick from Turberclosis; young girls with VVF and attatched stories of early marriage; women and children surfering from maleria and babies with several infant diseases. But this time I also met with an answer, to why there had been decreased pupil attendants in the school.
An this answer is that there are more children in the hospital than there are in the school, due to an epideme that Lisa briefed me, had plagued Mukum. Kwalara-the local word for cholera- has plagued the village.
There had been water shortages before in the history of Mukum. When we first came, we were fore-told the menace. But we were also assured that the new bore-hole might help. But the day we saw the last drop of water from the bore-hole tap, we just knew our hope has seen its last drip. Every one in the village resolved to drinking from the only river in Mukum.
We had rallied the villagers not to drink from the highly contaminated water. Many things might source bacteria and fungus into the water. First, cows drink from the same river, secondly, the river is connected to many sewages. And these are apart from the fact that, bathing, washing and every other utilities connected to water usage, are randomly undertaken at different unpartitioned parts of the river.
But if you tell a monkey not to eat grass, you should make ready his banana. If we tell them not to drink the water, are we going burst water out of a rock for them to drink? Who is the Moses amongst us?
Lisa taught them the many methods of purifying water. She advised them to boil their water after filtration, before they drink or use it for cooking, just to be sure the cellular organisms don’t survive. She also ordered for water purificant from the LGA secertariat. She shared them among the villagers. But the products were either rarely used or they were abused. And there is something about boiling, when you are seriously thirsty, boiling and cooling afterwards may look like processes that take eternity.
At the quarters we drank satchet water. But soon, Mr Ugwu, the owner of the only provission store in Mukum, inflated the price of a satchet of pure water by 100 per cent. We still drank it and encouraged others to copy. But sometimes also, there would be a shortage of the commodity. And at those times, we will consume Dankusa, consoling ourselves with water purification excuses. Therefore, when the cholera pandemia broke out, we were not suprised.
Mukum suddenly began to taste sour. The laughter reduced. The children reduced in number, in the school and in the streets. The music the women played beating the millets turned into a dirge, and the men who chatted aloud on their way from the farm, could no longer muster even a smile. But smiles did not just reduce, it vanished from Lisa’s face.
Everyday Lisa came back from the clinic, she either had tears in her eyes, or a river of tears shut back, untill you ask, “how was the day?”. She lost children to death almost everyday, 3 was the least per week. At first I couldn’t believe the number, till I research cholera on google. I discovered that in 2009, an outbreak in Zimbabwe, claimed 62 lives in one week. And between the space of three weeks, an estimate of 1034 people died in Haiti as a result of an outbreak too. These were cases of high fatality rate, due to the spread of a deadly type of Cholera, specifically cholerea 01. Its obvious Mukum have contracted the same fate.
Lisa told me its very possible for cholera to spread at that speed. Because most houses in Mukum don’t have toilet, and they pass faeces at the sewage that joins to Dankusa. Who knows the quantity of diarrheas, Mukum have consumed and is consuming by drinking from dankusa. The outbreak is inevitable.
To make matters worst, the clinic in Mukum not only doesn’t contain patients, it doesn’t have enough medicine. Even the primary health care in the secetariat are in shortage of anti-biotics.
Lisa said that cholera leads to dehydration and loss of body electrolites, and can even be controlled using oral rehydration salts. However, she said, most of the cases at hand requires the use of some special type of intravenous fluids, specifically prescribed for Cholera.
The thing is there is no Cholera Treatment Centre around, where such medications are found. Even the one there is, at the general hospital in the state capital lack vaccines too. She was frustrated, and I don’t like seeing her that way.
The next day, I was in the school teaching a shrunken number of students, whose faces even, am not guaranteed to continue seeing in the nearest future. I was irritated, every corner in Mukum now smelt a foul fish odour, even the class. A symptom of cholera, Lisa said.
Some of the pupils were already having symptoms. I rushed two to the hospital from school, that day. At the clinic, I saw Gowon, seriously down with the ailment. His was an acute case. From the way Lisa discribed the severity of his case, it was clear to my imagination, that if Cholera is a journey pass 7 seas, then Gowon has crossed the last sea, and can smell death from wherever he is. His symptoms have lasted four days before admission, and he has lost too much body electrolites already.
Grief was so profuse in me, that it shut words from coming out of my mouth. The only words I could muster was, “Gowon is not dying”.
Lisa just stood, down trodden, and looked like everything synonymous to frustration. She was greatly saddened at her handicaped ability in helping her patients; there are no vaccines, not even the drip or anti-biotics they managed, everything is at a zero quantity level.
“Where?”, she asked me, as I led her to the golf that was to take us to Maidugiri.
“Maidugiri”, I said, as I opened the back door of the car for her to enter. “Mr Nuhu said the general hospital at maidugiri has a CTC”.
“You are not serious. That’s another state from here”. She wondered.
“Do you have anything else doing here apart from folding your hands and watching those kids die?”. She frowned. The driver started the car. Kunle was rushing towards us, so also was Mercy, who had followed me down to the clinic that afternoon.
“We are going too”. They declared. And in 15 minutes, we are outside Mukum, heading for Maidugiri.
Soon the car was temporary fixed, and we continued the endless journey. I was thinking about Gowon.
His brother must have resolved to stealing because of him. He must have wanted to transfer him to private hospital, where treatments costs lives valued in money; having lost confident in the clinic. What a sacrifice? I thought. I had loved Chijoke as much, but wasn’t able to save him the day he was murdered.
Some gun men had chased me down to our street on my way to pick my kid brother from school, that fateful afternoon. Two men had alighted an hilux, the moment I slowed down a bump. One pointed a gun at me and tried to pull the trigger, but I reversed and James-bond the car back on the main road. Their hilux gave me a chase.
Once I was home, I locked my self inside, knowing fully well that nothing, even the slimmest bullet can sneak in. Moreover, the house is entirely bullet proofed.
It was 2pm, my parents were still at work, and my only sibbling should be on his way home from school after he didn’t see me.
We live in a GRA, and the neighborhood have been insensitive to the comotion so far. But they all came agog when a gun-shot sounded outside on the street. Before they all came out, the assailant were gone, and my only sibbling just lay lifeless on the street.
I had shook him vigorously that day, as I shouted his name, expecting a miracle; may be my scream would call him back or my vibration would stir his life back to activity. But it seem such things hardly happens in the absence of a pastor.
Though my mother put all the blame on my father, because it obviously seem one of his political adversary, was only getting back at him. But I blamed myself; my cowardice had cost me my brother’s death.
But Mubarak is doing the opposite. He is not running away from protecting his brother. When Chijoke was in danger, what did I do? Nothing. And now, its like I am bargaining for a second chance, competing in his love for his brother, because we are both on the same mission, to save Yakubu.
And like we anticipated, the first crow had crowed, before a sign-board reading, MUKUM THE HOME TOWN OF ALH DANKWABO YUNUSA appeared from the darkness. Our headlight made the letters legible. Dankwabo is supposed to be a very popular senator in the national assembly.
We arrived at Mukum, finally. I rushed into the clinic with the vaccines, others following, as if 1 more minute wasted would end the story.
We saw the children, they were all typical of the images of African children on CNN. They had the sunken eyes, skulled head with skin not better than the rags on it. Their overrall appearance was kwarshiortic. Lisa even said the disease was more deadly on the children because most of them are also suffering from mal-nutrition.
I saw all the children we left behind but Gowon. The nurse on duty said the boy has been taken home for burial.
The world stood still for a while, and if there was any clock that time, I was sure it was not ticking. I also felt something drop in my rib cage. It sank deeper through my ribs. And I felt an emptiness that place my heart has been. It was like Chijoke just died again.
For the first time I cried instead of consoling Lisa. Tears just flowed freely, like they have been bondaged for long.
Three days after, I was rushing to the toilet. The fifth consecutive one in 30 minutes. I was vomiting also. Lisa looked worried, she wondered if I have contracted kwalara.