THE World Health Organization (WHO) has said more than half of the world’s population lack access to essential health services.
The organization said health is a right for all, irrespective of economic and social standing, adding that poverty should not be a barrier for people to get the health services they need.
WHO Country Representative Walter Mulombo said at the Sixth Annual Conference of the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHeJ) in Akwanga, Nasarawa State, on Thursday, December 8, that the poorest households felt the heaviest impact of inefficiencies and poor health outcomes because they had limited access to essential health services.
The three-day conference has the theme, ‘Universal Health Coverage (UHC): How Can Nigeria Get it Right? – the Role of the Media’.
Mulombo explained that almost 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty yearly because of the costs of paying for care out of their pockets.
Represented by the agency’s Field Presence Cluster Lead, Ahmed Khedr, Mulombo rued the low universal health coverage for health and investments in health in Nigeria.
However, he lauded the Nigerian government’s efforts since the enactment of the National Health Act (birthing Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF)) and the Presidential Summit on universal health coverage in 2014.
He also described the National Health Insurance Authority Bill signed by President Muhammadu Buhari in May this year as a landmark effort to make health insurance mandatory for all legal residents in Nigeria and designating states as the implementers of health insurance.
The Act created the Vulnerable Group Fund to cater to over 83 million poor and vulnerable citizens.
Mulombo said UHC helps everyone access quality promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative health services at an affordable cost, without the financial hardship of paying for care.
He added, “In Nigeria, healthcare is financed predominantly by households, who pay for healthcare out of their pockets. With out-of-pocket healthcare expenditure at 70.5 per cent of the Current Health Expenditure (CHE) in 2019, General Government Health Expenditure as a percentage of the GDP was 0.6 per cent, while Government Expenditure per Capita was $14.6 compared with WHO’s $86 benchmark for universal health coverage (UHC).
“Currently, the country bears the highest burdens of tuberculosis and paediatric HIV while accounting for 50 per cent of neglected tropical diseases in Africa. Although malaria prevalence is declining (from 42 per cent to 23 per cent), the country contributes 27 per cent of global cases and 24 per cent of global deaths. NCDs account for 29 per cent of all deaths in Nigeria, with premature mortality from the four main NCDs (Hypertension, Diabetes, Cancers, Malnutrition) accounting for 22 per cent of all deaths.”
Mulombo opined that there was no single pathway to UHC, as all countries must find their own way in the context of their own social, political and economic circumstances.
“But the foundation everywhere must be a political commitment to building a strong health system, based on primary care, with an emphasis on disease prevention and health promotion.
“Such health systems do not only provide the best health outcomes; they are also the best defence against outbreaks and other health emergencies. In this sense, UHC and health security are truly two sides of the same coin.”
He said if well implemented, the Nigerian BHCPF would provide a great opportunity to turn political commitment into tangible gains while rallying development partners and the private sector around revitalizing primary health care as the foundation of UHC.
Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's the ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022. Contact him via email @ email@example.com.