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Poor Nigerians still lack access to basic health care – Physicians

As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark the World Health Day 2018, the Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria (APHPN) has…

As Nigeria joins the rest of the world to mark the World Health Day 2018, the Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria (APHPN) has lamented that majority of the nation’s populace, particularly; the poor in both rural and urban areas still lack and desperately yearn for access to basic health care.

A statement issued to mark the World Health Day and signed by the state chairman and secretary of APHPN, Dr Muhammed Sani Ibrahim and Dr. Lawal Ahmadu respectively identified the poor access to basic health care as responsible for the avoidable illnesses and deaths that have continued to prevail in the land.

According to the statement, while Nigeria presently accounts for only about 2percent of the world population, it has one of the highest infant and maternal deaths in the world, contributing more than 10% of global maternal deaths. The reason for these they said centres around the unimpressive implementation of the National Health Act despite its enactment since 2014.

"Whatever we do as a people, we must be guided by the fact that Universal Health Coverage (UHC) which, according to the World Health Organisation simply implies that all people and communities receive the necessary health services that they need to live and function optimally without suffering any financial hardship, is indispensable,” he said noting that this year’s WHD is themed: ‘Universal Health Coverage: everyone, everywhere’.

Universal Health Coverage according to him is a powerful equalizer that ensures health care for all, enhances health security, reduces poverty and promotes gender equality; adding that Nigeria has some of the best legal provisions on health but lacks the will for full implementation. “The National Health Act 2014 provides a framework for the regulation, development and management of our national health system and sets standards for delivering health services in Nigeria. Some of the benefits of the Act include the provision of free basic health services for children under the age of five, pregnant women, the elderly and persons with disabilities irrespective of who or where they are.”

“Additionally, the law bans senior public officers from using public funds to seek treatment abroad, especially for ailments that could be treated locally. Full implementation of this Act will ensure that the mandatory Social Health Insurance Scheme supported by the Act is made available. This in turn will reduce the tendency for individuals and families to be tipped into poverty by the very high cost incurred from out-of-pocket spending on health. However, more than three years after the enactment of this Act, over 70% of health care spending in Nigeria is still borne by direct out-of-pocket expenditure,” he lamented.

The physicians further lamented that in Nigeria, most public hospitals are ill-equipped to handle disease outbreaks such as Lassa fever while private hospitals are expensive for the largely poor population; adding that virtually all the primary health care (PHC) centres in the country offer sub-optimal services due to poor funding, and mal-distribution of healthcare workers.

“Nigeria is yet to find a final solution to most of the health challenges in the country, like the frequent outbreaks of Lassa fever, high maternal and child deaths, poor primary health facilities, poor health emergency responses and many others. This is happening because the Nigerian governments across all arms and tiers do not place priority on the provision of basic health care as claimed,” they said, urging government at all levels to prioritize their spending to ensure access to basic health care to all.

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