Often when third world countries such as Nigeria, Nepal, India etc are referred to the primary thoughts people have of the country are dangerous, dirty and daunting. Many of the volunteers upon discovering they would be going to Nigeria experienced shock, fear and even the consideration of not going at all. This fear was further reinforced by talking to family members. Personally, hearing responses such as “are you sure you want to go there?” and “Make sure you keep to yourself people out there are dangerous” with many other volunteers hearing “you’re not going there!” simply solidified my knowledge of the fear that the world has of developing countries. This fear much like most fears come from the unknown.
Very few people choose to visit developing countries unless you or family members have heritage from these countries and thus know very little about what these locations are truly like. News articles about crime and violence happening in these countries only propagate this fear of the developing world. I too feared the country, but upon visiting and meeting people from this country I decided to write this, to raise awareness for developing countries, to tell the world that it’s not as bad as everyone believes. If members of the community could understand the truth about developing countries, the likelihood of major poverty running through countries like Nigeria could decrease, with more people wanting to visit the country.
Whilst in Nigeria, one of my main experiences were with the medical services. Despite them not being equipped with the most recent up to date medical apparatus, they had the essentials in order to test and give a diagnosis, this being whilst staying in a tiny town. Despite this being looked down upon by members in the UK, when really thinking about it, does it really differ from small areas of it? Some people within in the UK have to travel miles and miles in order to receive medical treatment, so how does this differ from Nigerian medical facilities?
This being said during my time in Nigeria I was also sent to a larger medical facility in the capital city, Abuja. This facility was much larger and better equipped for dealing with emergencies. However, due to the stigma around Nigeria, members in the UK still didn’t trust these facilities because the UK can “offer better treatment” but in my experience this is not true as I had this illness before going to Nigeria for several weeks and was told by UK staff that nothing was wrong without carrying out any tests, however in Nigeria I was sent to a specialist consultant who did his best to try and get to the bottom of what was wrong after all this time, suggesting I get an endoscopy done in order to get a better idea of what was going on. Both doctors in the UK and Nigeria have been through training and are in the same position, so who can really say you will get better treatment? One thing I remember vividly was that a member of the UK staff said to me I must return home for a requested medical test for many reasons, one being that the environment could be unsterile and therefore further irritate my illness and make it much worse, two being that the doctors could be lying in order to get money. Whilst both are potential possibilities, the idea that the “unsterile environment” would make me worse came as a shock to me when I was staying in the capital city, in a perfectly clean hospital. This comment was due to the misconception that because its Nigeria the environment is not as clean. This is within a professional medical facility that honestly looked and treated me better than any facility I had been seen at in the UK.
Another thing I experienced dealing with the UK medical team was the instant judgement that the test results were wrong, be this malaria testing or trying to give a diagnosis for my illness. The lack of faith that the doctors in Nigeria could be equally as good as they are in the UK shocked me. Whilst tests such as that for malaria can undoubtedly be difficult, you’d think in a country such as Nigeria where malaria is more prominent they would be more equipped to dealing with these tests. Nonetheless, this lack of faith persisted, making volunteers go for several seem-ably unnecessary tests, even travelling for several hours in order to go to Abuja hospital for the same test that was carried out previously and ending with the same results.
Upon arriving back in the UK, I went to a hospital in London, to see if they could work out the diagnosis of my illness. Not being given treatment that was successful and not being in Nigeria long enough for these tests to continue, and the UK medical team restricting the tests I was allowed, the doctors took blood tests and came to the same conclusion the Nigerian doctors had. However, they believed it is less severe and said I needed to take medication ‘for months and months and months’ until the pain began to fade, yet the medication the doctor wanted to prescribe I had already been given, it having made my illness much worse. This spoke great volumes about the so-called better quality of medical help in the UK, with this further reinforced when the doctor refused to accept me telling him about the medication, stating this medication to be the one I had to take. Furthermore, upon returning to university and going to a different doctor to try to get to the bottom of my illness, showing both medical reports from Nigeria and London, the doctor agreed with this medical treatment, but suggesting the Nigerian medical report more accurate than the one from London. Who, therefore, can really say one is better than the other?
A major problem in the UK medical system is the waiting list to see a doctor. When illness occurs, you phone either your local GP or the NHS, and appointment dates can vary, from being seen within a few weeks to a few months. This wait could be the reason people’s illnesses get much worse. In Nigeria when you were sick you went to the doctor and was seen that day, tests carried out and most often given your results on the same day. It is undoubtedly true, therefore, that there are problems with all locations, with all medical facilities. Yet even if you removed the country names, the majority would still believe the cultural stigma that medical treatment is better in the UK. But why?
This is all, of course, subjective. There is no answer to which medical system is better- both have problems- but the stereotype that the UK is in some way better than Nigeria and other third world countries because they are ‘developing’ is false and therefore the ultimate thought that needs to be eliminated.
You cannot judge a country on one location, one person, one event. Crime rates in London are continuously increasing, and if we only focused on this area, would anyone want to visit? This is much the same as in developing countries like Nigeria; not all areas are filled with crime and violence. Nigeria is undoubtedly very different from the UK; lives are harder, laws are different. That being said, I experienced the positives too, the beautiful landmarks, the amazing views and the remarkable people. What, therefore, really makes Nigeria in any way different to the UK?