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Have you ever witnessed a seizure, more commonly known as a convulsion? It causes trepidation to everyone around especially those without any knowledge of it. But guess what? Contrary to public opinion, seizures do not constitute an emergency.

Limb jerking, eye rolling, lip-smacking,  tongue biting and loss of consciousness are symptoms more commonly associated with seizures. At least that is the general consensus but the fact is that these symptoms are traits of just one type of seizure! A seizure could be as subtle as blinking, staring into space or twitching of muscle groups in any part of the body. It could also involve just one limb instead of a thrashing of the whole body.

I chose to write about seizures because of the atrocities I have seen people commit in the name of trying to abort one. I have seen people beat young children or young adults with their fists, slippers, broomsticks, bamboo sticks, ‘koboko’ and even cable wires. I’ve also seen people attempt to force the mouths of convulsing victims open with all sorts of instruments, the most common being a spoon. There have even been cases of people setting fire to the legs of convulsing children or dousing them continuously with water and/or oil. My aim is not to paint a gruesome picture but to bring to light the harmful practices associated with trying to cure this health condition. Yes, because that is exactly what it is! A health condition! In some cases, it is merely a symptom of another disease and not the disease itself. 

Seizures are generally self-limiting. Here are some of the simple steps to take if anyone around you is having a seizure:

  • Clear the area of any sharp object.
  • Put some cushioning if available.
  • Do not try to restrain them or attempt to stop the movements in any manner. It will end up causing more injuries to them.
  • Lay the patient on their side (recovery position). This will help keep the airway patent. On no account should any object be forced into the mouth of someone having a seizure.
  • Most tend to be over in less than two minutes. Once the seizure is over, the person should be taken to the nearest hospital for further evaluation and treatment if required.
  • Any seizure lasting more than 5 minutes is a status epilepticus. This is a true medical emergency and must be handled in a hospital.

I hope this few tips of mine have helped to demystify seizures and will help you be a little more confident of the steps to take when next you encounter a person having a seizure. Who knows, you just may save a life!

***Michael Imeh, a DHI volunteer writes in from Lagos, Nigeria

My anxiety and I (Part 2)

Question: How does anxiety affect your life and relationships?

Amina: Mostly, it’s the worry. I worry about everything and it affects my ability to be objective. It really affects your loved ones, because if for instance, someone tells me they are travelling, I start intensely worrying about them getting into an accident. I’m worrying, it affects my mood, my sleep, everything. And then when this person arrives safely, I don’t feel relief, I just feel ‘bleh’ and it’s difficult to navigate, to be honest.

In relationships, there’s also distrust. Not because I’m suspecting you, but just the constant need for reassurance. And it can be draining for the other person because they are doing their best, but because of these doubts in your head, there’s a problem. Also, it’s difficult to let go when people do you wrong because it becomes a major light you see that person through, you’re just always worried it’d happen again.

Sometimes you’re even scared that people will wake up and just not love you anymore. It’s taken me a lot to be able to call myself out when my thoughts are going in this direction. Though there are many times when I’m not able to catch myself in time.

Question: What coping mechanisms do you have?

Amina: First would be having a third-person conversation with myself. I try to ask myself concrete questions. For instance, if my head is telling me “this your outfit is horrible”, I’ll stop and ask myself “who said so?” And then I talk through it, so I don’t overthink. I saw this online. Ask yourself what is ‘this’ about.

When it has escalated into shaking and panicking, I take time out to do deep breathing exercises. They don’t make the worries go away but they help you become more stable.

Question: What advice would you offer anyone who thinks they may have an anxiety disorder or already have one?

Amina: I would advise that they try to go to a clinic, even if to just see a general practitioner. If you can’t afford therapy, try to research coping mechanisms, do breathing exercises, exercise if you can so your thoughts are clearer.

I really advise therapy, but do your research first because some therapists are horrible. Even if you don’t have anxiety, just go see a therapist, it’s good for everyone. Do research on what you’re feeling, and try to identify your triggers too.

That’s all.

Mental illnesses are a part of many people’s lives, having one doesn’t make you abnormal. Don’t be ashamed to bring up whatever symptoms you might be having with a doctor. This way, nothing stands in the way of your living life to the fullest!

**This concludes Esohe’s piece

My Anxiety and I

One of the most common mental illnesses people struggle with is anxiety. Anxiety disorders are not just about feeling ‘nervous’ or worrying about life; everyone experiences these. However, with anxiety disorders, these feelings are so great that they impair your ability to function optimally in daily life, affect your relationships and even cause intense physical manifestations.

Here’s a personal account of living with an anxiety disorder from this 24yr old Nigerian female, who will we will refer to as Amina.

Question: What does anxiety feel like for you?

Amina: I just start to panic about everything and anything. The first thing I notice is my heart rate, and when I’m anxious, my fuse is very short. So I get really upset in meetings or like physical interactions, and I realise it’s because I was worried about something or that thing was making me nervous. Worry just turns into anger, I can’t really explain how. Then after anger comes with lots of tears and crying.

Question: When did you first notice symptoms of an anxiety disorder and when were you diagnosed?

Amina: I think it’s something I’ve always struggled with. I have High-Functioning Anxiety, so when I go for presentations in school or have exams, I get very nervous beyond normal nerves. I start shaking, get nauseous and I really thought it was normal. Previously I had a colleague who had to hold my legs during exams, just to calm me down telling me ‘it’s okay’ and things like that. I always thought it was normal until I got officially diagnosed in 2020.

Question: Were you ever on medication?

Amina: Yes. But even though it’s unethical, I stopped. I went to the clinic and told them that I just couldn’t be on meds for my whole life. It had been 6 months since I started taking them. The doctor maintained that I still needed some medication but I just didn’t continue.

Question: What’s your experience with therapy?

Amina: Therapy is hard. Because even though I like to talk about my problems, looking at them objectively and trying to figure out solutions, getting critical and all that is hard. At a point, I hated my therapy days because it was just frustrating. Like why am I even having these problems in the first place?! I would cry in panic before therapy.

Eventually, it wasn’t bad. The meds helped a lot. In general, I’d rate it 7/10. One of the key things I learnt is that not everything has a direct cause and effect relationship.  The trigger that produces an effect may not really be the thing, but like your perception of it.

Although, therapy is ridiculously expensive! If I didn’t have health insurance I don’t know where I’d be.

* To be continued

** Esohe, a DHI volunteer, contributes this piece from Lagos, Nigeria

Mens Sana In Corpore Sano

The first time I ever heard this phrase I was a thirteen year old in a Physical Education class. I remember my teacher, Mr. Madu was talking about the Olympic Games and he explained the phrase to mean ‘A healthy mind in a healthy body.’ My recent dictionary search translated it as ‘A sound mind in a sound body.’

What baffles me and secretly delights me is that even as a child starting out on her journey to the turbulent teens (no eye rolling, please), I got the message! We should not only aspire to maintain a body that is pleasing to the human eye (you know those bodies that check all the criteria of Mr. Universe or Miss World) but also give thought to what is beyond the physical. Did I hear someone ask why? BECAUSE they both matter in the wellbeing of man. If you really think about it, Mama Wellbeing makes it way easier for man to blossom; to be at his best and to give his best; to bring forth from what is within (this is my Wole Soyinka wanna-be persona kicking in)

There’s a certain wholesomeness of life when we nourish our minds in the same measure we nourish our bodies. We certainly don’t want to harm our bodies, so let’s not also set up our minds for punishment by neglect. In short, take care of your mind and your body.

Mens Sana In Corpore Sano.

Today’s food for thought:  What are you doing to your body? What are you feeding your mind?

**Ogonna Kanu, a DHI volunteer writes in from Lagos

Mental Health Affirmations for Daily Use

Affirmations are a growing trend in today’s popular culture; but sometimes affirmations are mistaken for ‘phrases of attraction’ like “I am healthy. I accept health” etc that may or may not correspond to reality but encourage you to think positively.

On the other hand, affirmations are about reality. They are truthful statements that remind us of things, which our minds (due to mental illness) can convince us are lies. For example, depressed people are often convinced that they are unloved by others, and would be better off dead; this is often a lie.

Affirmations verbally give you a hug when you need a little encouragement.

Here are my top 5 mental health affirmations that can serve as positive anchors to hold on to when things get tough during the day:

1. I am not my diagnosis: Sometimes, we feel inadequate because we have a mental illness. We, then tend to associate negative adjectives of the illness to ourselves, for example, I am defective, I can never be happy, I can’t get better. In these moments, remind yourself that YOU ARE NOT YOUR DIAGNOSIS. You are not defective because you have a mental illness anymore than a shortsighted person is defective for wearing glasses.

2. I am doing my best: When you’re overwhelmed with work or life, it is easy to feel like you aren’t putting in enough effort and that others would do better in your situation. Please remind yourself that this is literally the first life you’ve ever lived! You might make some mistakes but ultimately you’re doing your best with the knowledge and resources you have to manage whatever life throws at you.

3. I am worthy of love and belonging: The fact that you have a mental illness doesn’t make you less of a human being. It really doesn’t. You, no matter what you’re experiencing, are worthy of love and belonging.

4. I am loved and wanted: There are times when we feel completely and utterly worthless, and that the world would be better off without us. In such times, it is important to say these words to yourself ‘I am loved and wanted’. There is always someone/people out there who love us, who would be heart-broken if anything happened to us. It could be family, friends or even total strangers (we never know what positive impact our lives has had on others).

5. I am a gift: Yes you are! Remind yourself of this. No one, absolutely no one, can give the world what YOU can give it. The things you’ll accomplish, your smile, your presence are unique to you. Only you can give the world your unique goodness.

Whenever things get difficult and the days are a bit tougher to get through, hold on to these affirmations for a sense of peace.

  • Esohe Iyare, a DHI volunteer contributed this piece from Lagos, Nigeria

The Eleko IDP Camp Outreach

The June outreach was initially planned for Saturday, June 12th but had to be moved to June 19th for security reasons. We had also planned a medical outreach dedicated to the needs of the children of the camp but had to re-organize such plans accommodate the needs of the mothers who we were sure would turn up en masse. The fundraising and logistics team got to work as soon as the date had been settled on. They contacted our doctors, sourced for funds and donations; and organized transportation and feeding. The group of volunteers assigned for the June outreach were quite eager to play their respective roles, such that in spite of the dull morning weather, everyone turned up!

We arrived the camp at noon and set about the business of the day. The makeshift consulting room and pharmacy unit had been set up earlier; and the children’s Sunday school room behind a church cleaned out for our use.

The IDP women and children trooped in from all corners when they heard we had arrived.

Our DHI volunteer and menstrual hygiene expert, Igeme was on hand to continue her sessions with the women in the children’s room.  While consultations were going on with the doctors, she took the opportunity to introduce recyclable sanitary kits and explained its use to the women. At the end of the short session, the kits were shared amongst the women to use. The menstrual hygiene team was assigned the duty of collate information from the group within the next few months. Such information would be useful for the proposed DHI menstrual hygiene projects billed to start at the end of the year. 

The children also had an activity lined up. As part of the DHI donor appreciation week, they were making cards to express their gratitude to the numerous donors who had been contributing to their welfare. They excitedly drew figures and pictures, coloured and decorated cards for every single donor! They wrote in their own words how much they appreciated every contribution and act of kindness towards them. At the end of the activity we had such a beautiful collection of cards. Each donor received a card and a thank you letter as well. It is hard to imagine the pleasant surprise on their faces when they received the cards. They were truly touched at the children’s gesture.

We handed over bags of clothes donated earlier by some of our donors and watched briefly as their leader co-ordinated its distribution among the women.

It was 3pm already when we packed up and waved goodbye with the hope of getting to our destination early enough for volunteers to make their own way back home.

*** For more information on the outreach, you can read our August 2021 DHI newsletter.

World Humanitarian Day 2021

World Humanitarian Day was first celebrated on 19th August, 2003 in honour of 22 aid workers who lost their lives in the Canal Hotel, Baghdad bomb attack. Since then, it has been celebrated in honour of humanitarians who have lost their lives in the line of duty and to applaud others who continue in spite of risks involved to offer this service. This year’s theme focuses on the impact of the global climate crisis and attempts to push leaders to take concrete action to mitigate against its effect on the most vulnerable persons in society.

Droughts, famine, floods, cyclones, heatwaves, wildfires, erosion are outcomes of the increased frequency and intensity in the change in climatic conditions and they hit hardest at the world’s poor who depend largely on agriculture and natural resources to survive. In periods of droughts and famine, farm produce dwindles leading to less availability of food to eat, less produce for farmers to sell and the skyrocketing of food prices. Rivers and lakes may dry up or may overflow causing fishermen to struggle to earn a living. Dwindling resources translate to competition and ultimately conflict. Communal clashes such as the Fulani herdsmen and Benue indigenes over grazing land will continue to abound in such circumstances.

Unfavourable climatic events may cause persons or communities to move. People search for better living conditions or are forced to flee in order to save their lives. The recent massive earthquake in Haiti has led to heavy loss of lives and property; wildfires have ravaged cities in Greece and the US; and floods in Germany and Belgium have taken their toll.  Coming closer home, the drought in Southern Madagascar is causing severe hunger amongst its poorest inhabitants; an unusual dryness is reported to be persistent in Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya; and heavy rainfalls recorded in various parts of Nigeria has caused severe damage to lives, homes, infrastructure, crops, animals and livelihoods. These are just few of the disasters suffered globally in 2021.

Conflicts also make people flee. As stated earlier, lack of resources lends its own contribution to survival of the fittest and the need to fight. In conflict areas, people are pre-occupied with keeping safe. When the motive is to save lives, they move to other communities. The receiving community is forced to stretch its own resources and this may breed some hostility towards the ‘guests’. Displacement is another crisis on its own which leaves people helpless and traumatized; and is a strain on governments whose responsibility it is to cater for its citizens. There are about 2.5million displaced persons in Nigeria. Clashes and natural disasters can proudly lay their own to this displacement crisis.

While we celebrate our day as humanitarians, we should think of the little ways we can help to reduce the effect of climate change in our own part of the world.

One major target is to reduce the use of fossil fuels – oil, carbon and natural gas, replacing them with renewable and cleaner energy sources. As Nigeria has been identified as the biggest importer of fossil fuel powered generators in Africa and one of the greatest transmitters of greenhouse gases, switching to solar power instead of generators is a great, first step. We can tackle pollution by using our cars less. Using other forms of transportation such as walking, cycling and use of public transport will make a difference.

Giving up or reducing our intake of meat and dairy products is another welcome measure. Cattle are one of the greatest emitters of greenhouse gases. We can choose to be either vegetarians or flexitarians. Flexitarians do not completely give up but reduce their intake of animal proteins. In the long run, cutting down our intake of animal proteins is a health benefit as we end up reducing carbon in our diet.

Using ultra clean smoke stoves to cook instead of engaging in open air cooking promises to be a novel and fantastic experience. Open air cooking requires the use of biomass (wood, agricultural waste or charcoal). The method releases black carbon into the atmosphere and is harmful to health. It also gives rise to deforestation – another undesirable practice that harms the environment.

Letting our voices be heard. Speaking for and about change in daily habits that harm the environment to our friends, colleagues and families.

These are small changes that collectively make a huge difference.

Happy World Humanitarian Day!

***Ogonna Kanu, a DHI volunteer wrote in from Lagos

Agbo: To drink or not to drink?

The essence of this article is not to discredit the role local herbs have in the healing world today. It is to create an awareness of the many hidden dangers they may pose to unsuspecting users. Especially if they are taken without seeking advice from a medical practitioner.

One day, walking home from work, I saw a few men hailing a woman to approach them. She had a large bucket on her head. The bucket contained smaller plastic bottles, all with different colours of liquids. One of the men complained of a ‘stomach ache.’ She smiled and poured him a cup from one of her bottles. Another said he had ‘malaria’, she opened a different bottle and poured him a drink from there.

The truth is these concoctions may have some use in the treatment of some ailments. It does make sense as most pharmaceutics are made from plants and plant extracts. There is however, an emphasis on extracts. The plants are tested and only the efficacious components are used in producing medications.
This is not the case for a lot these local mixtures. There are no random controlled trials carried out. There are no regulatory bodies to checkmate any excesses. There is no way to determine appropriate dosage or possible side effects. All these automatically render whatever good these mixtures have to offer void. Why? Simply because it ends up becoming a case of solving one problem and creating a few more in the process. There is enough evidence from research to suggest that these herbal mixtures may contribute to kidney and liver diseases, especially since many of them are alcohol based.

In summary, before taking any herbal concoction, seek the advice of a doctor.

** Contributed by Michael Imeh, a DHI volunteer

Healthy Diet = Healthy Living (Part 2)

Extra tips on balanced diets and healthy eating

Did you know?

  • Deficiencies in some key nutrients such as vitamin A, B, C and E, and zinc, iron and selenium can weaken parts of your immune system.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight and eating a balanced diet that’s low in saturated fat and high in fibre found in whole grains can help to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • A healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy can help to reduce your risk of heart disease by maintaining blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • High blood pressure and cholesterol can be a symptom of too much salt and saturated fats in your diet.
  • Eating a portion of oily fish  such as salmon and trout each week can also help to lower your risk of developing heart disease. The high levels of omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish are good for heart health.
  • A diet rich in calcium keeps your teeth and bones strong and can help to slow bone loss (osteoporosis) associated with getting older.
  • Calcium is usually associated with dairy products, but you can also get calcium by eating sardines, pilchards or tinned salmon (with bones); dark green vegetables such as our local spinach, kale and broccoli; calcium-fortified foods such as soya products, fruit juices and cereals
  • Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Make sure you get outside (your body gets vitamin D from the sun) and have plenty of foods containing vitamin D in your diet  such as oily fish and fortified cereals.
  • Eating a healthy diet that includes lots of fruit, vegetables, whole grains and a moderate amount of unsaturated fats, meat and dairy can help you maintain a steady weight. Having a good variety of these foods every day leaves less room for foods that are high in fat and sugar – a leading cause of weight gain.
  • Together with exercise, eating a healthy diet in the right proportions can also help you lose weight, lower your cholesterol levels and blood pressure and decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes.

*This concludes the article

** Elochukwu Emeasoba, a DHI volunteer wrote in from Benin City


Do you know that a healthy lifestyle is as important as the dreams we hold dear? Do you want to achieve more in your professional, social, psychological, as well as in other spheres of life? Yes? Then, read on and find out suitable ways to thrive while leveraging on a healthy lifestyle.

The key factor for healthy living is planning. Why? Because eating balanced meals require adequate planning. Food ingredients are supposed to be readily available, so as not fall into the temptation of eating junk. Moreover, in planning one is able to improvise meals based on the season or monetary circumstance. For instance, a person had plans on eating the following meals tomorrow:

Breakfast – Toasted bread with sardine and tea/yoghurt

Lunch – Semovita and okro soup with red/white meat

– Jollof spaghetti with boiled/fried egg

If this person plans ahead for meals, the chances of actually getting to eat these meals will be greater.

A meal plan consisting of typical Nigerian meals sourced from the Internet.

Planning helps one to eat a balanced meal every time. It seems to be popular culture in Nigeria not to eat balanced diets. Our excuses range from lack of time to lack of money for such ‘elaborate’ meals. Funny enough, planning meals ahead of time solves 95% of the many health crisis ravaging individuals worldwide. This is because people tend to eat whatever comes their way when hungry without considering the benefits or side effect.

Here are some things I found out in the course of my research:

•Opting for a balanced, adequate and varied diet is an important step towards a happy and healthy lifestyle.

•Vitamins and minerals in the diet are vital to boost immunity and healthy development,

•A healthy diet can protect the human body against certain types of diseases, particularly non-communicable diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, some types of cancer and skeletal conditions.

•Healthy diets can also contribute to an adequate body weight.

•Healthy eating is a good opportunity to enrich life by experimenting with different foods from different cultures, origins and different preparation methods.

•The benefits of eating a wide variety of foods are also emotional, as variety and colour are important ingredients of a balance diet.

…...and what are the benefits of eating well?

A balanced diet provides all of the following:

  • Energy you need to keep active throughout the day
  • Nutrients you need for growth and repair,
  • Helps you to stay strong and healthy and helps to prevent diet-related illnesses such as some cancers
  • Helps you to maintain a healthy weight.

***To be continued

** This article was contributed by Elochukwu Emeasoba, a DHI volunteer.