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“FROM ME TO YOU WITH LOVE…” by Queen Deraa

In February of 2023, we released our third Open Call: How might we reflect and reimagine wellness in public health as art, letters, stories and poetry? The following is a poetry submission we received from this open call.

“My submission is a true representation of our lives in Nigeria and how negligent we are to our health. It is a wake up call to prioritize our health thus increasing life expectancy, boosting a robust workforce and a healthy population.”

Queen Deraa


An apple daily, they say, keeps the doctors away,

Whole grains twice a day, keeps the calories at bay,

Health says a puff of cigar a day, drags me five inches closer to my grave,

Time mocks me as I cling to the smoke stick,

Laughing at the warning label as my lungs blacken with every tick,

Studies agree that health is wealth; but we traded sound mind for five shekels and twelve,

Fruits and veggies abound but we pine for small chops,

In my culture, obesity is a marker for good life, eating as the heart wants,

Our masses double from zero with a spike in the gram tilting to the two hundred mark,

Health means restraint; but to sugars and sodas we show no constraint,

We engage in a toxic romance with red labels,

Before 30, our thumbs are numb with the torture of needles,

Diseases have similar symptoms, so we use the same pill,

For this reason resistance is on the rise and our options are getting thin,

Every high temperature is caused by malaria and we boil ourselves in salt,

As preventive measures against flu while drinking blood tonics like malt,

Family planning is not ordained by God so we go forth and multiply,

Instead of sex education we gobble up contraceptives and keep bulk supply,

Every old woman is an expert midwife; plying out fetuses with tarnished blades,

Every pregnant woman they touched paid with their lives after a bloody cascade,

Imposters in lab coats dispense poisons in amber coloured flasks,

Leading to more unclaimed bodies in morgues and relatives clad in black,

Health is safety but your eyes wander to anything pretty,

HIV disguised as a devil in agbada, a hottie in a mini,

You’re scared to line up for ARVs because you fear therapy and pity,

You instead increase your body counts and the disease sweeps through the city in a jiffy,

What shall it profit our leaders to build standard hospitals and stop brain drain?

When they take first class trips to hospitals abroad at the slightest sign of pain,

The paint on the hospitals walls peel off out of despair as the walls crack,

Three more strikes, the buildings tumble down with men in scrubs replaced with quacks,

We resort to inexperienced bone-setters when our bones are fractured,

And come to the hospital when it is too late to use bandages or suture,

The gospel of WHO, section 6 cites health as wholeness,

Making the right choices; making peace with our ourselves,

Replacing rusty equipment and saving us from the culture of japa,

Making healthcare affordable so we don’t resort to toxic herbs because of sapa,

Verily verily I say unto thee, good health is more than absence of disease,

It’s a battle to stay alive, not to be counted as deceased,

For ill health, a grim reaper comes only to steal and kill piece by piece,

Know this and know peace.

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