One year of consolidation of healthcare services in Nigeria.

By Tahir Ibrahim Tahir Talban Bauchi.

When Prof. Muhammad Ali Pate was appointed as Minister of Health and Social Welfare by Mr. President, It was evident that the health sector was going to gain a lot from his many laurels. As a worldwide renowned medical professional whose years of International experience had gained him recognition from bodies such as the World Health Organisation, and affiliation with GAVI Alliance, it was a given that Prof. Pate would have the support and commitment of these huge health development partners, as he set out to reposition Nigeria’s healthcare delivery systems. To fully comprehend where we are and where we are headed, Prof. Pate embarked on a people’s voices survey. This enabled him with the experiences and expectations of Nigerians, the burden and evolution of diseases, the state of healthcare infrastructure, human resources, financing, and the overall state of health in Nigeria. With this, he built a health agenda on four pillars, which would build human capital, and improve health and well-being of our people so as to drive future prosperity in our country, intandem with the Renewed Hope Agenda.

The first was to improve the governance of the health sector, which requires collaboration between the Federal Government, State governments, development partners, and civil society. A strategic compact was signed with all the 36 states of the federation and FCT, as Mr. President unveiled the health sector renewal investment initiative. Development partners pledged 3 billion dollars as a reflection of their commitment to Mr. President’s health agenda. 932 million dollars grant was signed with GFATM, another 200 million dollars from a philanthropic foundation, while expecting an additional 60 million dollars in grant. 150 million dollars was announced by GAVI Alliance, in addition to the 1 billion dollars facility governed by an MOU signed with Afrexim Bank to unlock the healthcare value chain. More resources are being mobilised to this end.
Regulatory frameworks within the sector are being strengthened. Bodies such as NAFDAC, Pharmaceutical Council, Medical and Dental Council, Nurses and Midwifery Council are being repositioned and reinvigorated, while engaging health professional associations and unions, to foster healthy working environments.

The second pillar focuses on improving population health outcomes. This is a shared responsibility between the Federal and State governments. On the Federal Government’s part, the health ministry is reviving 8300 primary healthcare centres across the country, with a view to expanding and upgrading to 17,000 centres in the next 3 years. 260 billion is made available for the revitalisation of these centres through IDA financing and the BHCPF. 120,000 frontline healthcare workers are being retrained. Training guidelines and curriculum have been reviewed and upgraded already. Atleast 1400 primary healthcare centres are now equipped to provide skilled birth attendance and atleast 2400 health workers including doctors, nurses and midwives have been recruited to provide services to Nigerians across the country. No less than 5 million Nigerian children have been vaccinated against diphtheria using pentavelant vaccine, and more than 10 million children received the diphtheria and tetanus vaccines. Another 5 million children have been vaccinated against measles, while 4.95 million girls have received HPV vaccines to protect them against cervical cancer. We are witnessing substantial upgrade of health care institutions across the country, covering 33 tertiary hospitals receiving 179 specific important equipments, with 201 infrastructural projects executed. Health workforce is being revamped by doubling the intake capacities of our educational institutions with enrollment into medical and nursing schools rising from 28,000 to 64,000.

The third pillar looks to unlock the healthcare value chain. A rigorous effort is being made to domesticate production so as to create employment while retaining value. An executive order will be in place, that would enable Nigerians to import raw materials and produce some items locally, including syringes, needles, generic pharmaceuticals, test kits and long lasting treated nets for Malaria. One of the world’s largest bed nets manufacturer is committing to set up production in Nigeria. A Brazilian company has already committed 240 million dollars to establish a generic manufacturing plant in Nigeria. Three more entities are setting up the production of test kits with one already operational in Lagos. Policy changes initiated are providing a shift from the over 25 year old tradition of importing all these items.

The fourth pillar is focusing on health security. The NCDC is central to this role, as its strength in being able to prevent diseases from spreading is key. Its efforts in the containment of the outbreak of lassa fever, and the spread of meningitis with the provision of the pentavalent vaccines have been commendable. Approval has been granted by Mr. President to give contingent financing to the NCDC, allowing for prompt action during crises. The One Health Steering Committee comprising health, agriculture, environment, and water ministries, is in full effect, to provide the approach to preventing disease outbreaks. A reassessment is being made to our approach to Malaria with a goal to accelerating its eradication. This approach includes better case management, affordable medicines, optimised delivery of tools, careful introduction of vaccines, community engagement and data systems. With the broad-based approach of infrastructural and human capital development, while unlocking the healthcare value chain, backed by government policies and commitment to improved healthcare: our development partners would certainly do more in providing the much needed grants and investments to significantly drive our healthcare initiatives and goals for the next three years.

Tahir is Talban Bauchi.

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