HELPING THE POOR: Let’s Focus On The Basics First

9 Sep

I REFER to your report on the plan to provide Kota Marudu with wireless Internet service (“Kota Marudu goes wireless” — NST, Sept 2).

Working in Kota Marudu as a government medical officer has shown me how lucky I am. I am lucky to be educated, to have access to information and to have a job that pays well. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for many of the people in Kota Marudu.

Take Mrs P, who came to me when she was 38 weeks into her sixth pregnancy. She is from Paitan, a remote district in Sabah. Kota Marudu is the nearest town where she can get obstetric care.

That was the first time she could afford medical attention. Mothers should receive attention in the first trimester of pregnancy. Mrs P was in the final trimester.

Mrs P, who is illiterate, has three living children. Two others died at birth.
Mrs P delivered all her babies by herself because the nearest midwife (non-medically trained) is more than a 30-minute walk away from her home. There are no trained midwives in Paitan.

Mrs P’s husband works in a small farm, earning RM50 a month for a family of five. In Kota Marudu and many districts in Sabah, the lack of transportation prevents the people from gaining access to medical care. Also, where there is a local transport service, the charges are so exorbitant the people can’t afford to use it.

Mrs P and her family are just one of many poor families in the Kota Marudu region.

Their predicament does not stop at exorbitant travel fees. We have villages in Kota Marudu with roads that cannot be accessed during the rainy season.

Transportation gives people access to healthcare facilities. When sick people are immobilised by distance, inaccessible roads or lack of money, their access to medical services is delayed.

Sometimes, by the time they get to a doctor, their condition would have deteriorated so much that nothing can be done to save them. This is true for many patients from Kota Marudu.

Education is the only way to make the people of Kota Marudu more aware of the need for medical services. No doubt the wireless Internet service in Kota Marudu would benefit the students, teachers, lawyers and government staff who live in Kota Marudu.

It appears that our system, be it health, education or transport, tends to target and benefit those who already have access to modern facilities rather than the neediest.

What are we doing for the people in Kota Marudu who do not live in town and others in remote areas?

We have 16-year-old school dropouts who are mothers of two and pregnant with their third child.

We have a real problem of illiteracy in Kota Marudu. Do you blame these people for being ignorant of their rights as citizens of this country when they don’t even have access to education?

It is embarrassing that people like Mrs P have to live the way they do. We should stop trying to break records by baking the biggest curry puff and whatnot.

We should stop sending people to space when people in places like Kota Marudu are dying of tuberculosis, malaria and other preventable diseases because they lack knowledge or can’t get access to healthcare.

We talk about wireless Internet service but there are far more important issues to deal with. Our First-World facilities are no comfort to the long suffering people of Kota Marudu.

New Straits Times

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