Concerns at Ministry of Health over minister’s whereabouts
THERE are concerns in Abuja on the whereabouts of the Minister of Health, Dr. Alhassan Khaliru, as he has been absent from his office at the Federal Ministry of Health for some weeks even though he is not on official leave.
Ahead of May 29 hand over date, there is a circular from the Head of Service of the Federation cancelling all leave for top Federal Government functionaries.
Meanwhile, there is global concern over rising cases of heart diseases in children. Concerned by the development, the World Health Organisation has stressed the urgent need to strengthen health services to tackle Rheumatic Heart Disease (RHD), a neglected and preventable disease in children.
At the Federal Secretariat building housing the Federal Ministry of Health in Abuja, the initial hushed whispers on Dr. Khaliru’s whereabouts have turned loud. The question asked by the workers is, “where is the minister?” “Why hasn’t anybody seen him for weeks now?”
Apart from being absent at public functions at the Ministry, he has also not been regular at the weekly Federal Executive Council meeting including the one held on Wednesday.
The Guardian also learnt that Khaliru is also absent at the on-going World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.
The World Health Assembly is attended by delegates from World Health Organisation (WHO) member states as well as representatives from many agencies, organisations, foundations and other groups that contribute to improving public health. Member states approve resolutions in committee before formally adopting them in the plenary session at the end of the Assembly.
Minister of State for Health, Fidelis Nwankwo, an engineer, has been in charge of the ministry and its activities for some weeks now. He is leading Nigeria’s delegation to the ongoing World Health Assembly.
Officials of the Ministry were however unwilling to speak on the whereabouts of the minister as at the time of going to press.
The WHO raised concerns on rising cases of heart diseases in children at a seminar on Rheumatic Heart Disease in Adolescents organised by the World Heart Federation at the World Health Assembly in Geneva.
WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, noted how RHD, caused by rheumatic fever, is the most common acquired heart disease in children in many countries of the world, especially in developing countries.
“It is estimated that at least 15.6 million people are currently affected by RHD with a significant number of them requiring repeated hospitalisation and, often unaffordable heart surgery in some years later,” she noted.
She stressed that the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) features prominently in her priorities and is a major public health problem that requires urgent attention.
She observed that WHO’s Package of Essential Non-communicable diseases intervention (WHO PEN) which had been developed to strengthen the capacity of frontline health workers to detect and manage major NCDs early is the basic tool for addressing NCDs.
Her words: “The inclusion of RHD management in the WHO PEN protocols is a valuable opportunity to integrate this often forgotten NCD into primary health care delivery systems.”
The WHO chief welcomed the recommendations of the expert group on RHD convened by the World Heart Federation, the Pan African Society of Cardiology, and the African Union Commission and pledged WHO’s commitment to support countries in the establishment of RHD surveillance systems and the integration of primary, secondary, and tertiary RHD interventions into health care services.