Kano’s Mysterious Deaths: Communities, Experts Speak Out

Kano’s Mysterious Deaths: Communities, Experts Speak Out

Mohammed Dahiru Lawal, Khadija Ishaq Bawas, Ismail Alhassan Adamu

AREWA AGENDA – Leaders and grave diggers of various communities as well as medical experts in Kano have lamented the increase in death rate around the city which according to findings may have doubled or even tripled what is usually the norm since Kano announced its index case of COVID-19.

Reports were rife Tuesday across various platforms that over 150 people have been buried in various cemeteries across the state capital between Friday and Saturday last week, thereby heightening fears that the deceased must have died as a result of strange ailment.

With exponentially increasing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases everyday, there are palpable fears that unreported and unconfirmed cases of the virus may have spread across communities, leading to these deaths.

Number of Death Per Day Overwhelming – Grave Diggers

Going round some notable cemeteries in Kano, undertakers who double as grave diggers confirmed that there has truly been a spike in recorded deaths per day in their respective cemeteries, making their job of grave digging so overwhelming that they almost always spend the whole day at the graveyards these days.

At the Farm Center cemetery in Tarauni Local Government Area of the state, an undertaker who pleaded anonymity confirmed that there is an increase in mortality rate which has been the case since lockdown was imposed in the State.

“This has been so for about two weeks now, ever since the heat season came in,” he said.

When asked if heat has always been responsible for this kind of death, he confirmed that this year’s case was ‘different’.

According to him, there have been about 35 burials at the Farm Center grave in the last three days cutting across both genders between ages 30 and above.

At the Maigeza Cemetary, Kofar Mazugal in Dala Local Government Area of the State, a grave digger who identified himself as Umar Yahaya Gabari told AREWA AGENDA that between Friday, Saturday and Sunday, about 17, 19, and 23 bodies were buried at the cemetery respectively, mostly elders across genders who succumb to death after either brief or protracted illnesses.

“In fact, the one you just witnessed, is about the 20th for today (Monday) and we had a case yesterday where we buried two people died almost the same time in one compound.

“We are getting overwhelmed with work, if not for my Colleague here, Sule Umar who gave me the support I needed, I would have absconded today. With this current situation, we need more hands,” he revealed.

At the Dandolo Cemetary in Goron Dutse within Kano Metropolis, the undertakers who pleaded anonymity stated that usually the cemetery buries between three to five bodies at most per day, but since the lockdown in the State, they have not buried less than 10 in one day.

No Government Support

At some of the cemeteries visited by our team, a number of burials was witnessed with gatherings that disregarded prevent measures such as social distancing. It was also observed that the undertakers were working without COVID-19 Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) such as face masks and gloves. When asked, they stated that despite what they are going through, they have not gotten a single support from government, not even “a sachet of pure water,” Umar Yahaya Gabari quipped.

Community Leaders Speak

Speaking to some community leaders on the matter, Mallam Ibrahim Ahmad Musa in Kaulaha, Imam of Gwazaye Jummah Mosque who looked like he was in his late forties, told AREWA AGENDA that they were at the Abattoir cemetery in Kofar Mazugal to bury some of his subjects. He confirmed that as an Imam, he has been performing more burial rites lately.

On whether he thinks the deaths are linked to COVID-19, Imam Ibrahim said these are mere speculations.

According to him, “Once there is a pandemic, whether as a result of it or not, people will still die. And if I remember vividly, we have witnessed something similar before where we will bring a body to the grave but before dawn among those who buried the previous dead, we will record another death.
“As Children, we have seen a case whereby in one street in the neighborhood, we will record a handful of deaths around the same time.
“Perhaps, this is a case of another pandemic different from the coronavirus because experts have repeatedly explained symptoms of the virus but among those we bury lately, some just pass away suddenly without any illness,” he added.
He urged faithfuls to depend on Allah with a lot of repentance and testification of faith while waiting for their appointed time of deaths.

Also speaking, another community leader who identified himself as Sharu Naziru said as far as he is concerned, pandemic is a thing on one hand and death at appointed time is another, “once it is one’s time to go, there is nothing we can do about it whether it’s as a result of a pandemic or not. We pray for Allah’s protection against this virus and we will continue to abide by regulations imposed to curb spread and we call on all Muslim faithful to do same so that we can all survive together.” He said.

Noting that pandemics are not new to man he called on the government to have mercy on the poor and be just in discharging their duties.

On his part, Imam Jamilu Fagge said, “We buried one earlier, when we got home, we came back with another body and before we returned home, we got the news of another death.”

Imam Jamilu who said some were sudden deaths concurs that the massive rise in mortality is indeed akin to a pandemic, calling upon Allah to bring an end to it.

Experts React

Speaking to AREWA AGENDA on the matter, Professor Isa Sadiq Abubakar, Director Center for Infectious Diseases Research and member, Kano State Task Force on COVID-19 said the rising mortality can be attributed to two factors. One is Psychological and second is disruption of some medical services due to the health sector crisis arising from the battle against COVID-19.

Professor Isa who is also the Chairman Risk Communication Committee on COVID-19 Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, AKTH said, “People are not busy these days so day concentrate on analysing Information and coming up with theories which may not really paint the true picture of things and because we are facing an epidemic never experienced in the past, people tend to believe anything that ignites panic and fear which may not augur well for the battle against this epidemic.”

The Team together with Professor Isa Sadiq Abubakar, Director Center for Infectious Disease Research and member of COVID-19 Task Force in Kano shortly after the interview.

He stated that the second factor as a result of the Health Sector crisis due to the battle against Coronavirus has brought about some distabilities as “People with chronic ailments who rely on comfortable health system to take care of them are not necessarily getting such support e.g people with chronic Kidney and Liver issues, Hypertension with its complications, Stroke, Diabetics, Cancer and so many other conditions.
“Sicklle Cell Disorder, Meningitis and Lassa Fever are also big considerable factors with Meningitis and Lassa Fever likely to be another case of rising epidemic in this times, that is why there is change in the way we see the number of people being buried.”

He assured that as much as possible, cases of COVID-19 are being investigated and addressed in the state.

Dr Abdulaziz tijjani who is a medical health care policy Manager at a Government Clinic in Indiana, United States of America corroborated Professor Isa’s psychological theory. He however noted that, “The COVID-19 task force and our health and public health workers are working incredibly hard to identify cases of COVID-19 in the state. However, it should be expected that there will be underreporting of cases in Kano State, given that we only have one testing center that can only test a limited number of suspected cases per day.”

Similarly, Dr. Mustapha Hikima said, “A lot of people are dying of many diseases. One of the reasons is that to a large extent, services have been scaled-down in most hospitals for fear of contamination and spread of COVID 19.
“Some emergencies like hypertensive ones may only be detected in outpatient departments. Therefore, with the OPD services markedly reduced, a lot of these emergencies will be missed. The fear of COVID 19 leads to denial of services for other ailments. If one has symptoms of pneumonia which typically are like that of COVID, he has every chance to die of it- either because he’s afraid of presenting or rejected by health workers.
“And then on the background, there’s Lassa fever, also affecting many people, even killing more than COVID 19 presently. Only that our attention is not there. Malaria has always been there. So do other common diseases.”

He further buttressed that, “I lost a cousin yesterday due to renal failure. The young man died at Barau Dikko hospital Kaduna. I had to intervene for him to be accepted at their emergency. He would’ve died at home and people would suspect COVID 19”.

Also speaking, Dr. Ibrahim Musa who corroborated the two experts pointed out that, “This is by means saying that we don’t have spiking of COVID-19 ongoing in Kano. The mortality of COVID-19 is linked to the severity of symptoms, which is seen in 1 out 6 cases. The majority of the cases have mild to moderate symptoms or no symptoms at all. To solve this puzzle, we can use verbal autopsy to interrogate how and why those people died during this period. This can give us a clue if the deaths are directly or indirectly related to respiratory distress syndrome.”

Kano Test Center Reopens

The COVID-19 test laboratory center at Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital (AKTH) has reopened barely 24 hours after suspension of operation.

The Center was Tuesday closed following the shortage of reagents as confirmed by Director, Center for Infectious Disease Research, AKTH, Professor Isa Sadiq Abubakar.

Abubakar who is also spokesperson of AKTH, explained they just received reagents from Abuja and the Center is being fumigated and ready for operations immediately.

Efforts Not Enough…

Despite restrictive measures, adequate efforts are not being put in place to curb spread. As people still interact without observing social distancing or even kitting up with Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), Government should intensify investigation into the cases of rising mortality in the state and as a matter of urgency provide PPE to all essential service workers including undertakers at the graveyards.

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