The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged the Federal Government to prioritise the health of all Nigerians in the face of rising health challenges.
Speaking during the 6th Annual Conference of the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ) yesterday in Akwanga, Nasarawa State, the WHO country representative, Walter Mulombo highlighted that more than half of the world’s population lack access to essential health services.
According to the global health body, this development has pushed almost 100 million people into extreme poverty annually, due to the cost of paying for care out of their own pockets.
Represented by the WHO field presence cluster lead, Ahmed Khedr, Mulombo said healthcare in Nigeria is financed predominantly by households who pay for healthcare out of their pockets.
According to him, about 100 million people across the globe are pushed into extreme poverty every year because they pay for care out of their own pockets.
“With healthcare out-of-pocket expenditure at 70.5 per cent of the current health expenditure (CHE) in 2019, general government health expenditure as a percentage of the GDP was 0.6 per cent, while government expenditure per capita was $14.6 compared to WHO’s $86 benchmark for universal health coverage (UHC).
“Currently, the country bears the highest burdens of tuberculosis and paediatric HIV, while accounting for 50 per cent of neglected tropical diseases in Africa.
“Although the prevalence of malaria is declining (from 42 per cent to 23 per cent), the country contributes 27 per cent of global cases and 24 per cent of global deaths. NCDs account for 29 per cent of all deaths in Nigeria with premature mortality from the four main NCDs (hypertension, diabetes, cancers, malnutrition) accounting for 22 per cent of all deaths.”
Although he conceded that the pathway to Universal Health Coverage (UHC) is slim, Molumbo emphasised the need for leaders to prioritise health for all by ensuring that everyone has access to health.
He added that until something is done, the negative externalities pose huge losses to the Nigerian economy.
“There is no single pathway to UHC. All countries must find their 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. Such health systems do not only provide the best health outcomes; they are also the best defence against outbreaks and other health emergencies. In this sense, UHC and health security are truly two sides of the same coin.”
Molumbo, who affirmed the continued support of the WHO, urged participants to utilise the opportunity of the conference and come up with ideas that will help in promoting the health sector.