What Nigeria needs to achieve health security


Health experts drawn from the private and public health sector, have again stressed that Nigeria cannot achieve without universal health coverage and effective primary health care system.

They raised the concern in Abuja at an event tagged, Health Security Policy Dialogue, put together by the Nigeria Health Watch, a non-governmental organisation. The experts brainstormed on ways to effectively decentralise healthcare provisions to achieve Universal Health Coverage and security.

While leveraging mainly on lessons learnt from the emergence of Covid-19 in Nigeria and how diverse stakeholders responded to the pandemic, the experts bared their minds on the challenges and proffered workable solutions to the country health sector.

Participants at the event buttressed the successes recorded in responding to the Ebola Virus Disease and the Covid-19 pandemic, both at national and sub-national levels. Some of the participants, who formed the panel sessions, took time to dissect some of the key factors that militate against early response to health emegencies, like in the case Covid-19.

Speaking at the event, Country Representative, UNICEF, Peter Hawkins, hinted that the multisectoral approach of Nigeria in dealing with the pandemic was perhaps the best globally, but harped on the need for accountability and a more structured system of mainstreaming services, especially for donor agencies which have raised concerns over mismanagement of fund to aid public healthcare provision.

Hawkins opined that getting the states to respond to health challenges needs to be reviewed, “particularly as it concerns border control mechanisms.”

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According to him, “We can affirm that Nigeria did a remarkable job to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for instance stretched and brought on its a-game despite the challenges in the sector.

“Also, many initiatives like the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) were timely interventions by the Federal Government and private institutions. Whilst we got several things right, much more could have been done. Knowing that the pandemic is not over, and we might be at the beginning of many others, there is a need to tighten efficiency within the sector.

“One of the key areas to focus on is sealing the big black hole in managing human resources as Nigeria is losing its key health personnel to other nations,” Hawkins noted.

Also speaking on the same topic, Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Ifedayo Adetifa, advocated for multi-level collaboration amongst key stakeholders within the states and specific bodies.

He noted: “part of our Key focus at NCDC is to give keen attention to sub-national support activities. We have seen how collaborations with key bodies like the Red Cross have spurred improvements in the sector, especially at the local levels. We will continue to drive initiatives to ensure Nigerian health security is strengthened.”

Director, Health Planning Research and Statistics (FMoT) Ngozi Azodoh, disclosed that Nigeria’s experience to Covid-19 pandemic has shown that the whole of community and government approach to health emergences is effective and efficient as demonstrated in the partnership with community and religious leaders, state government, the private sector, donors and CSOs.

She said the country is still challenged with human resources, poor ability to respond to public health emergencies within 24 to 48 hours, logistic management, stockpiling of supplies and silo implementation of initiatives.

“These challenges are nationalistic in nature but are context specific within the 36 states of the federation and FCT. Therefore, I will encourage stakeholders to look into these challenges in a contextualised manner to bring innovative evidence based solutions for these problems.”

In her closing remarks, managing director, Nigeria Health Watch, Vivianne Ihekweazu, stated strengthening health security cannot be achieved without universal health coverage and effective primary health care.


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