Nigeria and WHO join forces to tackle UHC hurdles

Nigeria and WHO join forces to tackle UHC hurdles

NIGERIA — The World Health Organization (WHO), in collaboration with its partners, is supporting the government of Nigeria in finding evidence-based and sustainable solutions to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by 2030.

Nigeria, as Africa’s most populous nation, contends with major challenges, including poverty and disease, with almost 90 million Nigerians living in extreme poverty among its 200 million people.

The Nigerian health system, which is multifaceted and interconnected, faces significant challenges in financing.

Less than 5% of the population has any form of health insurance coverage, posing a high risk of impoverishment due to health expenses.

Notably, out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditure represents about 75% of total health spending in the country, with Nigeria carrying one of the world’s highest burdens of reproductive, maternal, neonatal, and child health conditions.

Tragically, approximately 4,000 Nigerians die from malaria every week, predominantly small children and pregnant women, constituting 31% of the worldwide total.

Furthermore, Nigeria has close to 2 million people living with HIV, ranking third globally, and the highest number of people with tuberculosis (TB) in Africa.

Additionally, the country faces an increasing incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), accounting for an estimated 29% of deaths in Nigeria in 2016.

In line with the global commitment towards universal health coverage (UHC), Nigeria is making efforts to reduce out-of-pocket (OOP) expenditure, enhance access, and improve the quality of health services.

This collaborative effort aims to accelerate existing government initiatives, ensuring that all Nigerians, regardless of age, status, or geographic location, have access to comprehensive and quality health services without facing financial hardships.

To reinforce this commitment, December 12 is designated by the WHO for governments to renew their dedication by demanding efficient investments in health to progress towards UHC.

As part of the activities marking Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day, a 3.5-kilometer UHC commemorative walk, “Walk for Health,” took place in Abuja on December 12, 2023.

Professor Mohammed Ali Pate, the coordinating minister for health and social welfare, Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, the WHO Country Representative, and Minister of State for Health, Dr. Tunji Alausa, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, were among those in attendance.

The walk also attracted heads of agencies, representatives from civil society organizations, the media, and health sector partners.

Professor Pate emphasized the commitment of the President Tinubu-led administration to enhance the health of Nigerians through positive health transformation, ultimately leading to the realization of UHC.

Minister Pate stressed that health is a fundamental human right, and the Federal Government, through the Federal Ministry of Health, remains steadfast in delivering equitable and optimal health outcomes for all Nigerians.

Furthermore, Minister Pate highlighted that the National Health Insurance Authority has mandated everyone to be enrolled, ensuring free access to a package of essential health services at the point of use.

He believes that this move will attract investments to expand the quality of healthcare services through primary healthcare systems and hospitals, expecting states to complement federal efforts for a healthier society.

He asserted that good health is core to harnessing Nigeria’s greatest asset—its human capital—and emphasized relentless efforts to ensure that all Nigerians have access to improved-quality health services without financial hardship.

Concluding his remarks, Minister Pate advised Nigerians to take care of their health by engaging in exercises to stay fit and consuming nutritious food.

Dr. Mulombo, on his part, highlighted that the purpose of the walk was to create awareness and remind everyone that the world is lagging in providing Universal Health Coverage, expressing the need to accelerate health for all and emphasizing that now is the time for action.

Dr. Mulombo stated that WHO, alongside other partners, will support the country in finding solutions to most of its health challenges. He further projected that the new investment initiative will provide hope for changing the course of health in Nigeria, emphasizing the global impact of successful implementation.

This bold plan to accelerate Nigeria’s journey towards universal health coverage (UHC) aims to bring better health and care to every Nigerian.

Successful implementation will require unprecedented collaboration between Federal and State governments, and between the government and development partners, including the Global Fund, with an unrelenting focus on superb execution and delivering outcomes.

While UHC is often described as the objective, arguably it’s more a means than an end, since UHC is how we achieve the ultimate SDG 3 goal of health and well-being for all.

Given the scale of Nigeria’s population and the weight of the disease burdens, achieving significant progress here could save millions of lives and shift the global trajectory of the fight against the deadliest diseases, particularly malaria.

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