I walked into a pediatric unit of a teaching hospital in Nigeria a few years ago to review a patient. On the first bed was a lifeless child. He was brought in dead a few minutes earlier by his parents. His mother, "Bisi", wept uncontrollably. While in tears, she recounted how difficult it was for them to borrow money to get to the hospital. Although they got some money from a chief in the community, the two-year-old baby died before they got to the hospital.
Kunle’s story touched me deeply. Kunle’s case typifies the plight of many poor people in Nigeria and the rest of sub-Saharan Africa: The financial burden of illness makes many families poorer. People are afraid to go to hospitals because they may not be able to afford the cost of the health services they need. They prefer to buy drugs over the counter, or visit a local herbalist, who will charge little or nothing to provide poor health service.