The Medical Agonies of War
The year was 1968 and the war was the Nigeria and the Biafra Civil War. When the town of Onitsha fell to the federal control. My parents relocated us to Akokwa my home village. I was only six years old then and I was quite shy. I remember one sunny day when I strolled to a relief center that caters to village children suffering from malnutrition and kwashiorkor. I lined up to get a ration of the relief food courtesy of the governments of the Republic of Gabon and Ivory Coast. While waiting for my turn in the bosom of hooded trees. I alternated standing on my bare feet on the burning brown sand. crunchbase.com
Sitting in a wheelchair at the corner, camouflaged under the covers of the leaves was an irate ex-soldier amputee. The other kids apparently knew to stay away from him. They called him ‘atingbo’ [a shell shock victim.] Like a hawk, he waited patiently until I got my ration of canned beef and beans. He yelled out at me, and I approached him with trepidation. He grabbed my ration and threw it into the depth of his mouth. “When I was in the war front’—in combat, “he lamented, “I cried for days and nights, but nobody came for me. You can cry all you want’.” he reassured me. With his webbed fingers, he showed me what was left of his left leg and his left forearm. I wept all the way back home, hungrier than ever.
Of course, my ordeal and the soldier’s ordeal, pale in comparison to the human sufferings occurring at places where there are wars; wars that have gone on for decades with no ends on sight; wars fought viciously with the arsenal and logistics of the twenty- first century.
The Nigeria-Biafra civil war lasted only 3-4 years. However, in that period, millions of lives were destroyed.
The retentive ability of the human mind is bewildering. Forty- five years after the war, the scars are still visible; my knees are still bruised from kneeling and praying the rosary for countless number of times. The bombs still fall in my mind, and the horrors remain fresh. Reruns of the nightmares and horrors have not stopped. With every roar of an enemy plane, we would snatch up our newly born twin sisters, and head into the covers of the bush, not knowing if we were going to be blown to smattering. Images of malnourished children with bloated cheeks remain imprinted in my consciousness. I still mourn the death of my cousin whose body was never recovered.
Relieving pain is a multibillion dollar business. Nobody wants to suffer any pain whatsoever. The practice of medicine is predicated on the premise of relieving pain and suffering. There is no doubt of the reality of pain. Medical students and doctors are constantly drilled until they can sport the minutest painful facial expression. Triage nurses are trained and reminded how to recognize and treat painful conditions.
Human pain and misery are the underlying calamity of war. Victims of war suffer tremendous pain. They suffer the pain of emotional distress and physical hurt. They suffer pain due to the loss of loved ones. Pain due to the loss of ability to provide for oneself and to provide for their family the basic human necessities of water food adequate shelter and medicine. .linkedin.com