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Youth leaders call for greater investments in medicare to achieve SDGs

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Youths at the Nigerian Commemoration of the United Nations International Youth Day 2016, gathering in Lagos…yesterday   	                         PHOTO: AYODELE ADENIRAN

Youths at the Nigerian Commemoration of the United Nations International Youth Day 2016, gathering in Lagos…yesterday PHOTO: AYODELE ADENIRAN

• Group launches petitions for improved delivery system
• Set to mobilise 100,000 Nigerians to reach policy makers

As part of the International Youth Day celebrations, youth leaders have called for greater investments in health to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).Over 200 youth leaders converged on the Unity Fountain in Abuja at the weekend for a health walk to celebrate the International Youth Day for 2016.

August 12 is International Youth Day as declared by the United Nations. The theme of the 2016 International Youth Day is “The Road to 2030: Eradicating Poverty and Achieving Sustainable Consumption and Production”. It focuses on the leading role of young people in ensuring poverty eradication and achieving sustainable development. DEAN Initiative and ONE campaign converged citizens and youth leaders to narrow down to achieving SDG 3, that is, achieving good health and wellbeing.

The youth leaders convened an open air health rally to campaign for the achievement of the SDGs with a specific call for attention to the health sector and draw public support for the campaign termed “Make Naija Stronger”. It is a health campaign calling for more investments in the health sector to reduce all avoidable deaths in the country.

The leaders asked government to fulfill its promises and save the health system by funding the 2014 National Health Act and by allocating 15 per cent of the national budget to health. Also to champion a better health sector for all citizens and end ravage of preventable diseases and extreme poverty in the country, ONE Campaign Nigeria, an affiliate of ONE Campaign International, staged a health campaign walk at the weekend in Lagos to mobilize Nigerians to petition policy makers to give priority to the development of the country’s healthcare system.

ONE Campaign is a non-governmental international campaigning and advocacy organization that seek end to extreme poverty and preventable diseases around the world by raising public awareness and lobbying policy makers to support policies and programmes that are saving lives and improving people’s futures.The group staged the health campaign walk from the National Stadium Surulere before proceeding to Yaba, singing songs, dancing and sensitizing the people about the need to reach their elected representatives to help develop the nation’s healthcare sector.

Speaking at the event, ONE Campaign Country Representative, Edwin Ikhuoria, said his organization decided to focus on the health sector this year due to the deplorable low quality of healthcare for poor people in Nigeria. He spoke on the tragic death of six medical Doctors who died in auto- accident recently in Ekiti, noting that most of them would have been alive if they had access to oxygen and adequate health equipment to save their lives during emergencies.

Ikhuoria said it is time the Federal, state and local governments provide transparent quality healthcare programmes for Nigerians.According to him, 750,000 Nigerian children die every year below 5 years of age. He said: “it means that for every eight children in the world that die before they are five years, one is a Nigerian. That is unacceptable.”

Ikhuoria argued that countries with higher population figures have less incident of child mortality. “China that has about 1.3 billion people doesn’t have that high number. India with about 1.1billion people does not have that high number of child mortality. For population of Nigeria, that is an unusually high figure,” he said.

He queried the rationale behind the Federal Government fire brigand approach to immunization in the North. “Why is it that the government waited till another polio crisis before commencing emergency immunisation programme for five million children in the North?”

He also took time to criticise the country maternal and child healthcare system saying about 58,000 Nigerians children contracted Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) through their mothers every year in the country. He also raised alarm on the high rate of maternal deaths in Nigeria noting that 158 women die daily of child related issues. According to him, that makes Nigeria one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a child or mother.

Ikhuoria who observed that millions of Nigerians are dying yearly from preventable diseases, lamented that health of the citizens have not been a priority of the government.

He therefore urged Nigerians to write to their elected representatives in government saying it is time to give attention to the health sector.
“We are signing petitions because we don’t want to make noise. We want to be heard by the policy makers. We want to mobilize 100,000 Nigerians to write to their representatives. Nigeria must put health on top of government’s priority,” he said.

Ikhouria also called for increase in health budget in 2017. One campaign later gave free HIV, Malaria and tuberculosis screening to participants.“We cannot fall behind in achieving the SDGs in Nigeria and that is only possible when people are healthy,” says Semiye Michael of DEAN Initiative. “As youth leaders, we are calling the attention of the leaders to prioritize the health of its people, otherwise, no meaningful development can happen when people die of unnecessary causes.” He further stated that “if only youth around the world can unite in one voice, 1.8 Billion is too much a number to ignore and this IYD is dedicated to making their voices heard and should not be taken for granted.”

Dr. Catherine Makwe of YALI Network, Abuja asked all Nigerians to “join their voices in calling for the implementation of the National Health Act, which outlines how a functional health system should operate.”

Also speaking, a campaigner from YALI, Dozie Nwafor, stressed the need for provisions to be made for the Basic Health Care Provision Fund starting from the 2017 budget.
“This should be clearly provided for to allow access to basic health care services for the millions who cannot afford it. If fully implemented, the National Health Act could save the lives of over three million mothers, newborns and children under-five by 2022,”she observed.

Despite being Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria spends relatively little on the health of its citizens and is facing both a health and a nutrition crisis, as women and children continue to die from treatable and preventable diseases. Nigeria’s health expenditure puts it in the bottom third of the ranking of countries in sub- Saharan Africa. Out of 49 lower-middle income countries, only seven country governments spend less per capita than Nigeria does on health.


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