Yesterday, April 7, 2021 was observed by the global community as the World Health Day (WHD) even as the Covid-19 pandemic has not stopped its ravage humanity.
The WHD is the flagship on the calendar of the World Health Organisation (WHO). In 1948, the WHO held the First World Health Assembly and decided to celebrate April 7 of each year, with effect from 1950, as the World Health Day. The World Health Day is held annually to mark WHO’s founding, and is seen as an opportunity by the organisation to draw worldwide attention to a subject of major importance to global health each year.
The Day is acknowledged by various governments and non-governmental organisations with interests in public health issues. It is one of the numerous official global public health campaigns marked by WHO yearly, among which are World Tuberculosis Day, World Immunisation Week, World Malaria Day, World No Tobacco Day, World Blood Donor Day, World Hepatitis Day, World AIDS Day, World Oral Health Day, World Heart Day and World Diabetes Day. However, the WHD is all-encompassing in the sense that by embracing the Day and observing the basic rules of healthy living, the challenges posed by these afflictions would be reduced to the barest minimum.
The theme for this year’s commemoration was “Building a Fairer, Healthier World”. This year’s slogan has been carefully chosen to draw the global attention to the critical need for the various governments across the globe to ensure equality and fairness in healthcare delivery, leaving no one behind.
Nigeria joined the rest of the world to commemorate the day amidst the lingering challenges posed by the pandemic and the strike action embarked upon by the Resident doctors across the states.
Sadly, the story of the country’s healthcare delivery under successive administrations has not been palatable. The sector has been defined by disruption of the system through frequent strikes by health workers over poor pay/working conditions, power tussles among medical personnel and lack of required equipment to work with.
These have triggered off the exodus of some of the best brains in the sector. Nigeria with its dilapidated health infrastructure and lack of commitment to the wellbeing of the populace has been in the reverse gear and the nation has been caught off guard in the ugly situation the Covid-19 has foisted on us.
Way back in 2001, Nigeria hosted other African Union countries in Abuja where they pledged to spend 15 per cent of their annual budget on healthcare services. But more than 19 years down the road, we have not come close to reaching that set target in what is famously known as the Abuja Declaration. The nation’s annual budgetary allocations at all levels of government have not gone beyond single digits. Most African nations have not fared better than Nigeria in budgeting for the health sector.
Consequently, critical drugs are hardly available. Patients diagnosed with ailments are handed prescription slips and asked to go to the pharmacies to purchase them at costly prices. In most cases, such patients end up in the hands of quacks that dispense adulterated or expired drugs.
Although it has been argued in some quarters that spending more on health does not necessarily lead to better outcomes, the insignificant allocations that are available at all levels of government in Nigeria face mismanagement in the hands of corrupt officials.
“Health is wealth” is a time-honoured axiom. Nigeria must, therefore, confront head-on factors militating against healthy living. Chief among them are poverty, poor access to medicare and ignorance. But above all, poverty is a major link to poor health owing to lack of development. By promoting development, poverty falls and the overall health of a given population improves. Many nations of the world, Nigeria inclusive, suffer health insecurity, thus constantly giving room for outbreaks of new, existing and mutating diseases.
The government should challenge itself by reinventing the healthcare sector to enable the citizenry have access to essential/quality care and financial protection. This will not only enhance their health and life expectancy, but also protect them from epidemics, reduce poverty and the risk of hunger, create jobs, drive economic growth and promote gender equality.
The Covid-19 onslaught has exposed the underbelly of even the most advanced countries. Nigeria has failed to leverage on the experiences thrown up by the pandemic to get it right in the healthcare sector.
Nigeria is blessed with brilliant brains in many spheres of medicare as exemplified by their exploits overseas where elite Nigerians troop to for medicare. All that is required is to create the conducive environment for our health caregivers to perform optimally. What is more, the 2030 target set by the WHO for attainment of Universal Health Coverage will be a mirage at the rate our health care sector is being poorly managed.