The Guardian
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Nigeria is on the brink of a health crisis


Dr Francis Ukwuije, senior health economist, Federal Ministry of Health

Despite being Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria’s health expenditure puts it in the bottom third of the ranking of countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2014 this figure stood at $55 per person –  $31 dollars short of the minimum required to ensure proper health services, resulting in the country facing both a health and nutrition crisis. An estimated 2000 children and 158 women die every day because of poor access to basic healthcare and without radical government intervention that number is set to rise.

“Nigeria has a large rural population and many of these people are impoverished,” said Dr Nkem Onyejizu, a doctor working in Kano state. “It is also not news that there are also wide regional disparities in child health indicators in the North East and North West geopolitical zones of the country which have the worst child survival indices. The Nigerian government owes welfare to her citizens especially in the area of health care delivery services.”

Onyejizu, is an avid supporter of the ONE Campaign an anti-poverty organization that seeks to end poverty and death from preventable diseases. The ONE Campaign has partnered with civil society organizations including Nigeria Health Watch, the Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria, Africa-Dev and others to launch a campaign ensuring the government fulfils its commitment to The Abuja Declaration by funding the 2014 National Health Act and allocating 15% of the national budget to health.

15 years ago all African governments made a historic commitment in Abuja to increase health spending to 15% of their national budget. Successive Nigerian governments have failed to deliver on this promise, only 4.37% is allocated to health in the 2016 Appropriation Bill – and the recent National Health Act has not yet been funded nor fully implemented. Meanwhile Nigerians – particularly women and children – continue to die from treatable and preventable diseases.

“We are all hopeful for change,” said Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu of Nigerian Health Watch. “But as responsible citizens, we must learn how to hold our governments accountable for the promised change.

The coalition hopes that the launch of this campaign will raise awareness across Nigeria and pressure the government to take decisive action that could save the lives of millions of Nigerians.

“It’s hard to imagine that in our beautiful country, millions of Nigerians from Lagos to Wawa, from Sokoto to Yola, die preventable deaths every year because of poor investment in the health sector” said Waje, top Nigerian recording artist and ONE’s Strong Girl campaign activist.  “I am asking all Nigerians to join us in calling the implementation of these life-saving plans and promises, starting with the 2017 budget. This is not beyond Nigeria, I know it is doable and we need to support government in rolling out those plans.”

Last year President Buhari and the Minister of Health Professor Isaac Adewole last year reaffirmed their commitment to prioritising healthcare by agreeing to pursue the new Sustainable Development Goals.  Adewole intends to renovate 10,000 primary healthcare facilities offering basic care and President Buhari pledged to establish a Basic Health Care Provision Fund to provide funding for primary healthcare services. These are important steps forward but the major goal for the campaign is for the government to fully implement the National Health Act which could save the lives of over 3 million mothers, newborns and children under 5 by 2022.

Africa Executive Director of the ONE Campaign  Mwambu Wanendeya believes the time is now : “We urge President Buhari to keep his promise to increase the quantity and quality of funding to implement the National Health Act,” Wanendeya said. “And ensure all Nigeria’s children not only survive, but thrive.”

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  • Rommel

    What were the Jonathan achievements for which he was seeking reelection?