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Health Care In 2015 In Retrospect

Adewole

Adewole

LIKE 2004 when Nigeria was declared Ebola free, the giant of Africa was declared polio-free by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the last quarter of year 2015. The success leaves just two countries: Pakistan and Afghanistan-where the transmission of poliovirus, the cause of most cases of polio, has never been stopped.

Nigeria also recorded a relative success in not having a major prolonged nationwide strike from health care workers, including the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU), except among members of the Association of Resident Doctors (ARD) in some hospitals.

Mid-year election and change of government later on did the magic in discouraging various planned strikes in the sector, as some of the labour unions did not want to be seen as pursuing political agitation in an election year and had to postpone any strike until after election when the Federal Government under the leadership President Muhammadu Buhari also discouraged strikes in strong terms.

For Nigeria, that is where the success in healthcare may have stopped for 2015, a year planned by the global community to halt maternal, infant mortality and other health related mortalities.

According to Countdown to 2015 on Maternal, Newborn and Child Survival report, although the end-point figure of infant mortality rate (IMR) which stood at 58 deaths per 1000 live births in 2014 reflects progress, it is still short of the 2015 target of 30 deaths per 1000 live births.

The report published by the Federal Government stated that Nigeria’s efforts aimed at reducing avoidable child deaths have been met with gradual and sustained progress, adding that the under-five mortality rate (U5MR) has improved remarkably from 191 deaths per 1000 live births in 2000 to 89 deaths per 1000 live births in 2014 as the end-point status with a caveat that “considering the end-point status of U5MR, Nigeria falls short of the 2015 target of 64 deaths per 1000 live births by 28 per cent.”

However, the rate of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) is on the increase so much that a high number of Nigerians are said to be battling various types of NCDs, including cancers, diabetes, hypertension and other heart-related diseases in silence.

Hospitals battled with poor infrastructure and equipment breakdown in the outgoing year. In stead of abating, a high number of Nigerian medical professionals abandoned the nation’s rickety health system to migrate abroad.

Mid-year election and change of government later on did the magic in shelving various planned strikes in the sector, as some of the labour unions did not want to be seen as pursuing political agitation in an election year and had to postpone any strike until after election when the Federal Government under the leadership President Muhammadu Buhari also discouraged strikes in strong terms.

Malaria remained the most significant public health problem in Nigeria in the outgoing year. The economic cost of malaria, arising from cost of treatment, loss of productivity and earnings due to days lost to illness, experts say may be as high as 1.3 per cent of economic growth per annum. The disease is said to be a major cause of maternal mortality and poor child development.

Traditionally, the malaria problem has been seen as a challenge for the health sector alone with little or no involvement by other sectors or the general community. The rational review of treatment policy based on use of Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy (ACTs) approved by national authorities has not helped matters as some patients still report resistance to ACT treatment on malaria.

Health care financing did not fare better as spending in the health sector was largely from out-of-pocket expenditures. Sadly too, enrollees in the nation’s health care insurance were not more than 7,000, a poor rating when compared to the Universal Coverage vision when it was enshrined a decade ago.

There are, however, strong indications that the health outlook in 2016 may present a better outing, judging from the budget just presented by President Buhari where health is expected to gulp N221.7 billion next year as against N20 billion in the outgoing year.



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