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Nigeria bears highest burden of tuberculosis, pediatric HIV – WHO

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says Nigeria currently bears the highest burden of tuberculosis and pediatric HIV. It says the country also accounts for 50%…

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says Nigeria currently bears the highest burden of tuberculosis and pediatric HIV.

It says the country also accounts for 50% of neglected tropical diseases in Africa.

WHO Country Representative, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo made the disclosure during the 6th annual conference of the Association of Nigerian Health Journalists (ANHEJ) organised in collaboration with the WHO at Akwanga, Nasarawa state.

It was themed ‘Universal Health Coverage (UHC): How Can Nigeria Get it Right – the Role of the Media’.

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Represented by Ahmed Khedr, Field Presence Cluster Lead, WHO, he said although the prevalence of malaria is declining from 42% to 23%, the country contributes 27% of global cases and 24% of global deaths.

“Non- Communicable Diseases (NCDs) account for 29% of all deaths in Nigeria with premature mortality from the four main NCDs; hypertension, diabetes, cancers, malnutrition accounting for 22% of all deaths, ” he said.

Mulombo said while the poorest households feel the heaviest impact of these inefficiencies and poor health outcomes as they have limited access to essential health services, the negative externalities pose huge losses to the Nigerian economy.

“There is no single pathway to universal health coverage . All countries must find their own way, in the context of their own social, political and economic circumstances. But the foundation everywhere must be a political commitment to building a strong health system, based on primary care, with an emphasis on disease prevention and health promotion,” he said.

Chairman, National Advocates for Health, (NA4H), Mohammed Usman said less than 5, 000 primary healthcare centres out of the over 30, 000 in the country are functional.

While saying that there have been low budgetary allocation to health over the years, he lamented that the little that is being budgeted is not released as at when due.

He said, “For instance, from 2018 to date over N300 billion allocated for the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCPF) and less than one third have been released. And, looking at the family planning budget amounting to N2.8 billion for year 2021 and 2022, there has not been single release. Thus Advocates find it difficult raising voices for more funding because of the non-release.”

He added that all these factors were hindering the country from achieving UHC.

President of the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ), Hassan Zaggi , said when people in the rural communities fall sick, the first and nearest health facility to them is the Primary Health Centre (PHC), adding that however most people cannot access services at these health facilities because of Out of Pocket Payment.

He said lawmakers at both the federal, state and local government levels should enact relevant laws that would support and improve the attainment of UHC through health insurance.