Youth leaders and civil society groups across the country have enjoined government at all levels to invest in equity enhancing strategies to restore crumbling services for women, newborns, children and adolescents.
They made the call in a statement ahead of this year’s World Health Day. The theme for this year is ‘Building a fairer, healthier world’.
This year’s celebration of the day comes at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic which continues to disrupt health and social services for adolescents, women and other vulnerable groups.
Experts said since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted, the listed groups have been negatively affected more than others due to the disruptions of essential health, nutrition and social services.
Nigeria is among 10 countries around the world that recently heeded the call, and made major commitments to prioritize investments for the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents.
The West African sub-region had earlier pledged $2.3 billion in 2020-2028 for strategic interventions that protect the reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, adolescent and elderly health and nutrition through access to family planning services, immunization and nutrition programmes.
Helga Fogstad, Executive Director of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH) said the COVID-19 has exacerbated inequities, putting at risk hard-won gains that have been made over the past decade.
“Ensuring that women, children and adolescents are protected from the disproportionate, indirect social and economic effects of the pandemic and associated financial crisis, will require action from all stakeholders,” Fogstad, who is strongly committed to human rights, public health and gender issues,” said.
Hon. Muhammad Usman, chair of the National Advocates for Health (NA4H) called on both federal and state governments to improve budgetary allocations and timely release of funds for health interventions, particularly for family planning, nutrition, primary healthcare – including the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund and the national health insurance for universal health coverage.
Oyeyemi Pitan, Convener of the Nigerian Youth Champions for Universal Health Coverage (NYC4UHC) said young people account for over 60% of Nigeria’s population.
“Therefore, government, both at the federal and state levels, must invest in the health of young people by ensuring that all primary healthcare centres are adequately staffed, equipped and functional to provide access to sexual and reproductive health services, mental health services and essential life-saving drugs and commodities,” Pitan said.
Youth leaders, campaigners and representatives of civil society organisations from across Nigeria are meeting on World Health Day to deliberate on the progress of improving the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents in Africa’s most populous nation.
Topics of discussion include maternal, newborn and adolescent health in Nigeria, and opportunities for parliamentarians, including national legislative assembly’s committees on health and finance, to contribute towards better health for women, girls and adolescents.
The statement said in 2020, PMNCH issued a 7-point Call to Action in response to the devastating effects of COVID-19 on the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents.
It called on leaders to protect and prioritize their rights and health during the COVID-19 response and recovery by strengthening political commitment, policies and financing for vital health services and social protections, particularly for the most vulnerable.
However, experts say a lot still needs to be done and that stopping preventable deaths of women, girls and children must remain a top priority.