Oluwatobiloba Jaiyeola

Public health experts have urged governments at all levels in Nigeria to prioritise health security, noting that it is essential to achieving human security.

The experts, New Voices Fellow at the Aspen Institute, Dr. Ifeanyi Nsofor; United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins and the Managing Director of the Nigerian Health watch, Vivianne Ihekweazu stressed that health security must be seen as a national issue.

The experts spoke on Thursday at a virtual Policy Dialogue on Health security, organised by the Nigerian Health Watch.

Speaking during the virtual session, Dr. Ifeanyi Nsofor, stated that it has become imperative for governments at all levels to prioritise health security to protect the health of the nation, stressing that leaders at federal, states and local levels need to take on a more active role in securing the health of Nigerians.

The public expert noted that the health of Nigerians depends on all the tiers of government, adding that citizens must begin to ask the right questions and hold their government representatives accountable for the state of public health facilities and outcomes in their environment.

He said, “Nigerians must know that our health depends on all the levels of governance and must begin to ask the right questions and hold their governments accountable for their health outcomes.

“There has been a lot of success on the national level with the COVID-19 response, but we want to see these gains used to strengthen our health security in Nigeria at the subnational level to protect all Nigerians.”

Also speaking at the dialogue, Peter Hawkins, stressed the importance of surveillance in response to disease outbreaks. 

Hawkins said health security is all about surveillance, noting that it is good that health surveillance in Nigeria is strong. 

He, however, stated that Nigeria’s health surveillance has started to drop as the COVID-19 pandemic progressed.

“One of the major challenges that Nigeria faced during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic was getting state governments to respond effectively to address the outbreak. The states are important because proper responses from the state level were crucial to fighting the pandemic,” he said.

According to the UNICEF representative, to make reasonable progress, the Nigerian govt needs to make improvements in certain areas.

He said, “Three areas we need to improve so we can do better going forward are governance, data, and decentralised financing.

“Governance is saddled with the accountability of the human resources & the top priority should be getting the human resources right.”

“Physical responsibility and physical decentralisation are a problem in Nigeria. Every state should take responsibility for their contributory funding for their health security, and all this starts from annual planning,” he said.

Speaking in the same vein, Vivianne Ihekweazu said, “Health security is a national issue that must be prioritised by all levels of government in Nigeria.”

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