Friday, March 19, 2010

Kidnapping Discouraged My Colleagues From Coming to Nigeria to Assist in My Free-Medical Healthcare Programme

Lagos — Dr. Anuma Kalu Ulu is a Nigerian born medical doctor based in New York, USA in this Interview with UDO ONYEKA, Ulu speaks on issues bordering on health care and why he set up a clinic in his community, where patients are treated free.


Let us know about your Foundation?

I set up the Kalu Ulu Memorial Foundation in honor of my late father Mazi Kalu Ulu who was a philanthropist of utmost integrity. This foundation was set up in USA in March 25, 2009, to co-ordinate all my Philanthropic and humanitarian activities under an umbrella organization. Prior to that, since 2004 I have been coming back to Nigeria every year from December to February to offer free medical service to my community in Arochukwu Abia state. I set up the foundation to stream line activities of the Foundation.

What does this medical service entail?

It is all encompassing. What I do is that I buy medication and diagnostic equipments which I use in the clinic I have set up in my village to treat of kinds of diseases. I have set up a clinic. There was a health centre in my village that was sort of abandoned, I acquired it and I now make use of the clinic. I treat patients in the clinic on a daily basis.

I give them free consultation, free medication, free testing. If they are people that have cases that is beyond the clinic, we take such people to the General Hospital and we pay for the bill.

What do you think is the monetary cost of this project?

When I talk of cost it will be both direct and indirect. Direct in the sense of what spend in running the programme and indirect in the sense of what I sacrifice or lose by coming back home to do this. I know what I make a month as a medical doctor in the US. I work as an independent practitioner, I get paid when I work. If I add what I lose by leaving my job and what I spend, and I actually not only give medication, I give cash donation to many of the patience that indigent. I will put the expenses at a conservation $150, 000 every year. This is what should have been in my account every year if I wasn't doing this programme. And I have been doing this since 2004.

What motivated you to render this service to your people?

Like I mentioned earlier my late father Mazi Kalu Ulu taught me everything I know about philanthropy. He taught me to give to the less privileged. Apart from that I feel that I t is a good thing to assist someone that is in need. But family, because my elder brother Mr. Kalu Ulu, who served Abia state as Commissioner for Local Government was very selfless as a commissioner and he empowered so many people in my community. I might say I am towing the line of my father and elder brother.

I feel happy putting simile on the faces of people and I will continue it as long as God gives me the strength.

How do you see Health care service in Nigeria. What is your assessment of our health care facilities?

Medical services in Nigeria is very poor. And I tell you, a lot of us in Europe and America, I mean medical doctors, are aware of this. I have discussed with some of my friends over there and we all have agreed that something must be done. I might be the only one who has started it for now but I have a couple of colleagues who have the interest to come and change the medical practice here in Nigeria. But because of insecurity and lack of infrastructure some of them want some things to be fixed before the come back home.

However I want to tell you that the worst hospital in the US is better than the best hospital in Nigeria in terms of facilities and infrastructure.

Some of our best medical institutions. National hospital Abuja. I have been to couple of other highly rated medical centres in Nigeria and I know the facilities that are in those hospitals.

What do you think is the reason why the best brains in medical practice are leaving the shores of this country?
I will say it has much to do with job satisfaction and then adequate remuneration. Over there in developed world there are equipments and structure to practice your trade and at the end you are compensated adequately. I think the government should take a second look at the health sector and how to finance it effectively. There are the urgent need to 'put in more money into the health sector.

And I believe when we do the right thing there is hope. I have been speaking to a couple of my colleagues and infants all of us are burning in eagerness to come and change things for the better in the health sector. I must tell you a lot has changed in my community, since I began this free medi care services. Every year my people look forward to it and a lot of them their health conditions has improved.

Prior to this programme people have been dying of stroke, heart attack and so on, sudden death. But before now they were attribute these diseases to witchcrafts and so on. But with advent of this programme the traditional chief of my community told me that they used to a scribe these sudden deaths to local deities and I have actually come to enlighten them that most of the deaths could have been prevented through adequate healthcare.

Now the cases of stroke in village has nosedived unlike what was the case before I began the programme. There have not been any new incident of stoke in my community. This is a place where we have up to 10 to 15 cases for stroke every year. Their health condition has improved because they are very religious in taking their medication. I also provide them education about their condition. I have advised them to disregard myth and superstition and face science and people have taking it up and there has been good result. When I started in 2004 the incident of high blood pressure in my community was over than 90 per cent, but now it is less than 10 per cent.

But with the expansion of the programme into other communities I see the diseases that I used to see in my community when I started. Diseases such as Asthma, high blood pressure Ulcer and so on. And it is my intention to reduce this incidence to the barest minimum.

What is your vision for the Kalu Ulu Memorial Foundation?

My foundation is called Kalu Ulu Memorial Foundation and the website is or When you go on the website you go to the founder section you will see the goals of t he foundation were they are enumerated and these are the things I need to achieve.

Firstly my intention is to raise enough money to provide access road to my community.

We have a three kilometer untarred road that is impassable during the rainy season and I need to link it up to the main trunk. My intention is to see that this road it worked on. Then I intend to provide an endowment fund of at least N20 million for small and medium entrepreneurs where they can obtain soft loans and interest t free loans as a sort of financial empowerment. Also I want to provide scholarship for indigent students and for brilliant students that do not have anybody to cater for their education.

I am thinking of making sure that the clinic operators throughout the year. In this regard I will arrange for Youth Corp members who are doctors to be posted to the clinic for the primary assignment every year. Before then I will provide good accommodation, good allowance to act as an incentive for them. After which I bring surgical equipments and other hospital items to equip the health centre to hospital level so that they can do surgery and take care of my people free of charge.

What is the way forward for our health sector?

The way forward is multifaceted. There has to be socio-economic and political stability in Nigerian. When we have f these and then the head will be beyond reproach then things will begin to move normally. When people are given money to execute contracts like building of hospital and schools they will do it and then there has to be roads, passable roads to hospitals. There has to be good security because over there in the US when you are sick you can call the ambulance from your house and they will be there within five minutes even with police escort to take you to the hospital. If a policeman see you on the road and your injured it is his job to take you to the hospital, if he can not do it he will radio t he ambulance and they will be as quickly as possible. So all these things has to be in place . Also those of us who are physicians in desporal need to show more commitment and come back and try to give back to the country so that we can advance medical technology.

Also importantly government has to provide enabling environment for professionals in the health sector. And then when the environment has been created such as power, security then people outside the country will be willing to come back home to contribute their own quota to the development and growth of the health sector.

What about the news about kidnapping especially in the South east. Did the news discourage you from coming back home?

It affected my programme because last year I planned to come home with about 10 expatrite medical doctors. They wanted to come to Nigeria to assist in what I am dong in my community.

They gave me support, some of them even brought donations of clothings, medication. They were eager to join me in the trip to Nigeria. There were a couple of colleagues that wanted to come and we have already made arrangements. You know this age of internet and World Wide Web, they read about the kidnapping in Nigeria and especially the South east where I come from.

So at a stage they began to develop cold feet and that was why I didn't come back with any of them. That was how it affected me.

When I came back I used some local doctors but I believe when next I am coming back I will come with some of them.

Also importantly government has to provide enabling environment for professionals in the health sector. And then when the environment has been created such as power, security then people outside the country will be willing to come back home to contribute their own quota to the development and growth of the health sector.

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