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The Silent Killer in the African Culture Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by nina, United States Dec 24, 2005
Health   Opinions
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Just like me, you probably must have heard this a million times by now. When in Rome, you ought to act like Romans. This is one of those things that is easier said than done because old habits die hard.

A friend of mine called me a few days ago and was complaining that her son's doctor would not prescribe some antibiotics for him. She strongly felt that the doctor should have even though she is not a doctor herself and she was really upset that the doctor wouldn't budge. The next thing she said took me back to my yester-years growing up in Nigeria-West Africa.

I grew up without a father; and when I was old enough and finally found out why, I broke down. I cried for my mother for the things she had to endure to raise my older siblings. I cried for my older siblings for raising us, the younger siblings first before raising their own children. And I also cried for my own children because they will never know who their grandfather is or even get to hear stories about him from me simply because I do not have any memories of him.

My father died over 20 years ago and what killed him is still out there well-embedded into the Nigerian culture if not African culture as a whole. I still do not understand why our culture is slow to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of our attitudes towards the modern medical world.

I remember watching Oprah Winfrey's show about the little South African girl that was cut, raped and left to die by a full grown man. I cannot describe the anger, the bitterness that I felt watching that show. I was very disturbed by that act and then, it hit me that he just did not know any better. As terrible as that act was, unfortunately that was not an isolated case. The fact that an HIV patient in the new millennium with all the technological innovations in all areas of life worldwide, still believes that sex with a baby is the cure for HIV is beyond me.

We Africans seem to be catching up in other areas, though. I bet these guys have cell phones, go to the cafe to browse online, know the latest hip songs and movies and other junk tabloid news about some distant Hollywood figures. I see us catching up in the way we dress, talk; relate with one another but when it comes to our health, we throw caution to the wind.

Every street corner in my neighborhood back then had at least two different community drug stores which we called "chemist." For the most part, the owners of these stores did not go to high school but were able to get a pharmacist that allowed them to displayed his/her license in their stores. This is a win-win situation for the owner and the pharmacist because the owner will not get into trouble with the drug agencies and the pharmacist will make some money for that little display. The losers in all this are the communities that depend solely on these chemists. People are notoriously prescribing their own medications and dosages just like they are doing with the herbal medicine, another topic for another day. There are no pharmacists to at least warn the community of the side effects and the other dangers these drugs might pose to them.

This is exactly what happened with my father. He diagnosed his own ailment, prescribed his own medication and was just taking them until the bottle empties and then he got another one, and another one until it was too late for the doctors to save him from the dangers he had put himself into.

Every once in a while someone will throw the poverty card to my face as to why many Africans self-medicate. That's the most popular reason I get all the time and to be honest, they are right to some extent, but only in a very few cases in my opinion. I sure do not want to speak for every part of Nigeria because I am just from one corner. My father self-medicated not because he was so poor that hospital bills would break him. The hospital was almost free then.

Can someone now please tell me why he chose to continuously patronize the drug store when he could have easily gone to the hospital and get the right diagnosis? The reason is simple, he got it all figured out without going to medical school and this is a legacy that has been passed on from generation to generation for too long.

Because one has symptoms similar to what a family member had in the past does not mean you are suffering from the same ailment. There are so many diseases out there that have similar symptoms so don't take your sister’s or brother's medications because you suspect you have the same thing he/she had..

The sooner we stop blaming poverty for virtually everything that goes wrong with us and begin to examine our core values then a better and healthier future generation will emerge. The fact of the matter is this; every drug you take has side effects that range from mild to severe.

Back to my silly friend that forgot for a moment that she is not a doctor and should be thanking the doctor for making the best medical decision for her son. Her comment that set me off was “oh this is one of those moments that I wish I am in Nigeria. I would have just gone to the chemist and buy me some antibiotics.”

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Writer Profile

My name is Eucharia Nina Chika Igwe; I'm a citizen of the world. I love to write, among many other things.

I currently reside in the USA and would one day like to be a Minister for Health. Health and Wellness-related issues are my passion. I strongly believe that a healthy nation is a wealthy nation.

High self-esteem is one of the things that has sustained me. Love starts with oneself and then flows out to the rest of one's environment.

I am a spirit-filled individual determined to make a whole lot of difference in this generation and in generations to come.

I do ask one thing of you: Always give your honest opinion about my writings. It is truly appreciated. Make each day a memorable one. Ndewo!!!


re:the silent killer in the african culture
supreme niger delta youth counci worldwide | Feb 11th, 2006
this article is indeed enquiring especially in a time when the greatest part of africa is still culture bound.Ms Igwe did a marvellous work by exposing the dangers faced by africans in their own creation and entanglement. -mario(suprimoch@yahoo.com)

RobinMariaToye | Feb 3rd, 2006
Thank you for this thoughtful article.

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