Nigerian health: Circa 1948

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Idly trawling through the internet, you happen upon a short black and white film-clip about Nigeria on YouTube.

The clip suddenly fills your mind with visions of what the Nigerian health system was like seventy years ago.

The narrator is an English Medical Officer who introduces himself as ‘Faulkner’.

As the film opens, Faulkner informs his viewers that his first introduction to the Nigerian system is in Lagos where he has a meeting with the Director of Medical Services, Dr Samuel Manuwa. The date is shortly after the Second World War.

In the footage, Dr Manuwa is a middle-aged man in long-sleeved shirt and tie. He looks quietly authoritative behind his large desk. He welcomes his visitor and proceeds to instruct him on his assignment. The office of the Director of Medical Services is located in a stately old colonial building somewhere on the Lagos Marina.

Faulkner is reporting for duty with another English doctor, whose name is Langdon.

Dr Manuwa rises from his seat and goes to large map of Nigeria mounted on the wall. He explains to each of the men, pointing at the map, the different locations to which he has posted them.

The Nigeria Medical Service, he explains, is decentralized through Regional Offices to Districts, each of which is supposed to have a District Medical Officer. Dr Langdon is to take over a field unit covering a vast swathe of territory in the north of the country. Faulkner, for his part, is deployed to Calabar as District Medical Officer.

The day after the meeting with Dr Manuwa, the two doctors depart Lagos for their new bases. Dr Langdon sets off by train, from Iddo Station, to travel six hundred miles to the North. His travel is guaranteed to be in a reasonably … Read More...