A tragic incident has rocked Benue State as a staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) , Barr. Steve Iorlumun Ibyem, succumbed to Lassa fever on Wednesday, 27 December 2023, at the Benue State University Teaching Hospital (BSUTH) in Makurdi.
Mr Ibyem, 49, had travelled from Yola, Adamawa State, to Abuja on Wednesday, 20 December 2023 and headed to Makurdi on Thursday, 21 December to be with his family for the festive season. Unfortunately, he fell seriously ill upon his arrival in Makurdi on Thursday and was immediately admitted to a private hospital on Friday, 22 December 2023. Due to the severity of his condition, he was later transferred to BSUTH and placed in isolation.
However, his health continued to deteriorate, with reports indicating multiple organ failures, including his kidneys and liver, complicated by a history of hypertension and diabetes. Samples taken to the laboratory in Abuja were confirmed to be positive for Lassa fever, exacerbating the already dire situation.
Efforts to save Ibyem included the donation of blood by colleagues, and purchase of emergency medicines. However, despite the collective efforts, the situation remained critical, leading to his untimely demise.
A mild drama ensued during the burial ceremony of the deceased at Mbawegh, near Adikpo in Kwande Local Government Area of Benue State. Eye witnesses reported that some elders initially opposed the burial if they did not sight the corpse. Eventually, after deliberations, reason prevailed on the need to observe the national protocols for disposal of bodies in such highly contagious diseases. The body was laid to rest with the accompaniment of medical staff in protective gear, ensuring safety measures were strictly adhered to.
The heartbreaking incident has shed light on the challenges faced by the health sector in Benue State. Concerns about the inadequate facilities, such as the limited availability of dialysis machines, have further intensified discussions around healthcare infrastructure and readiness in the state.
As communities of loved ones mourn the loss of Barr. Steve Iorlumun Ibyem, there is a renewed call for improved healthcare facilities and awareness campaigns to prevent future outbreaks and tragedies. “Things are still ideal in most parts. Benue State is in a bad state. Still gathering my thoughts on what I saw regarding the health sector in my dear state. I never knew it was that bad,” one health expert that wishes to remain unnamed, told AkweyaTV.
“The most annoying thing is that, why would a big federal hospital like FMC have only one dialysis machine? And it can’t be used on infectious cases like Lassa or hepatitis,” a grief-stricken friend of the deceased wondered aloud.