The Jawuro Fulani of Oro-Ago land in the Ifelodun Local Government Area of Kwara State, Alhaji Umaru Sori, on Sunday said no fewer than 74 people in the 15 Fulani settlements of the town had died of a strange illness.
The Punch had last Friday broken the story of the strange illness, which was said to have killed 70 people, predominantly Fulani settlers, in the community.
It was gathered that rattled officials of the Kwara State Government, as well as the Transition Implementation Committee Chairman of the Ifelodun LGA, Alhaji Mukaila Ayinla, visited the community on Friday.
However, the state government said there was neither an outbreak of any strange illness nor death of 70 people in the community.
The state Commissioner for Health, Alhaji Suleiman Alege, on Friday told journalists in Ilorin, that the report of deaths was a rumour.
He had said there were epidemiological processes for reporting a suspected disease outbreak in the state, adding that if any occurred, the state health response team would be the first to swing into action.
Alege stated that the Ministry of Health had on Thursday deployed a team in the Gaa Okuta community, adding that the team found no evidence of any strange illness or any casualty.
He also claimed that members of the community said there was no outbreak of any disease in the area or any record of death.
But the Fulani leader, Sori, who conducted some journalists, including our correspondent, around some of the affected settlements, faulted the state government’s claim.
He said no fewer than 74 people had died of the strange illness.
He also showed journalists a new burial ground at the Obu area, off Oreke Road, Oro-Ago, newly allocated to the Fulani to bury those that died as a result of the strange illness.
It was observed that there were 12 newly-dug graves; 11 for adults, while one was for a young person.
Three other victims – two girls and one young man–who had been attacked by the strange illness, were presented to the journalists.
The names of the females were given as Hauwawu Dogo and Aisha Yakubu, while the male victim was not identified.
The Fulani leader stated that some dead victims were also buried by the roadside after they died on the way to hospitals in Lafiaji, Omu-Aran and other places.
He listed some of the dead victims to include Muhammed Irua, Umaru Dodi, Wety Sajo (female), Hauwau Bagu, (female), Adijatu Abubakar (female), Muhamed Gide, Umaru Dogari, Umaru Babangida, Usman Babangida, Aliu Namabila, Delu Umar, and Aishatu Aliu (female).
He pleaded with the Federal Government, the Kwara State Government, the Ifelodun LGA, the World Health Organisation and other humanitarian bodies and philanthropists to come to the aid of the people living in the 15 Fulani settlements.
Sori said, “My people are dying in Oro-Ago. Within one month, 74 people have died. Some people are also sick now. There are no drugs in hospitals in Oro-Ago to take care of my people.
“I want to beg the Federal Government to help me take care of my people. We don’t have doctors in the General Hospital, Oro-Ago. The Federal Government should provide doctors at the General Hospital, Oro-Ago. The victims usually have headaches; then they vomit blood, and they die.”
Four men who lost their children also called on the government and donor agencies to assist the community.
The four men are Mohammed Ibrahim, who lost a son, Ide; Tahu Adamu, who lost a son, Shehu; Abubakar Michede, who lost a daughter, Hadizah; and Alhaji Umaru Babuga, who lost a daughter, Fatimah.
The Community Health Officer, ECWA Health, Clinic and Maternity Centre, Oro-Ago, Mr. Philip Obayan, said some Fulani people had brought sick persons to the facility.
He stated that many of them complained of vomiting blood and black substances, adding that he referred them to the General Hospital, Omu-Aran, for better treatment as the ECWA facility had no capacity to deal with the illness.
He said, “We had some patients in June; some from Ahu, some from Obu, Ajegunle and other neighbouring villages. When I came in June, we lost one old woman. They told me that she was vomiting and passing stools. I diagnosed her for diarrhoea and placed her on admission. But on second day, her vomit was blackish. I was going to refer her to a bigger hospital, but she died in the night.
“Other cases, as soon as they come, I referred them to the General Hospital, Omu-Aran.
“From my preliminary investigation, the people had yellow fever or virile hepatitis.
“The people who live in the town are not affected. However, the people who stayed in the bush and villages, such as the Fulani and these people that cut trees, are affected. One of them recently brought his child; I confirmed that the boy was dead.”
But the commissioner for health said reporting health issues through the media was not a normal procedure.
Alege said, “We were there on Friday and we discussed with the Oloro of Oro-Ago, Oba Tafa Dada. Our state epidemiologists and WHO officials were also with them.
“The process of reporting health issue is not through the press. But we have taken samples from the community to the laboratory and the preliminary report will come out by Tuesday.
“I will advise that if any further issues come up, they should report to the appropriate quarters. We still see the claim as a rumour until the result of the test comes out.”