So its World Health Day today and the theme, “Universal Health Coverage: Everyone, Everywhere” is appropriate and timely. In this year’s campaign, the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling on world leaders to live up to the pledges they made when they
Now, achieving universal healthcare is a laudable goal. However, one cannot give what one does not have. A man must first feed his family before undertaking to feed the community for as the Igbo saying goes, ana esi n’ uno malu mma puo na ama (our physical appearance is a reflection of our inner beauty). The Nigerian State is in no position to campaign for universal health coverage since she is unable to meet the healthcare needs of half of her population. Since Independence, the country, due to political instability, corruption, limited institutional capacity and an unstable economy has been unable to effectively address the country’s numerous public health challenges. The elephants in government continue to feed fat on the nation’s resources at the expense of the vulnerable population most of whom are children, pregnant women, people living with disabilities, the elderly, the displaced, the unemployed, the retirees and the sick. In a few months’ time, Nigeria will be fifty nine. Yet, the health challenges facing the country from the beginning like maternal and infant mortality, malaria, HIV/AIDS, healthcare financing, brain drain, doctor-population ratio, population-bed ratio, and incessant strike by medical personnel are still very much with us. How then can she campaign for prompt, universal, accessible healthcare when it is still a fantasy in the country?
Today, as we celebrate World Health Day, I, on behalf of other concerned citizens of this country ask with the renowned Nigerian musician, King Sunny Ade, which way Nigeria? Are we not tired of spending billions of naira annually on medical trips abroad? Are we not tired of losing our wives and mothers in childbirth? Are we not tired of watching our children die from malaria? Are we not tired of losing sick relatives because the hospitals they were rushed to have no room to accommodate them? Is the Nigerian government not tired of paying lip service to the problem of funding the healthcare sector? Isn’t it time they put our money where our mouth is? Why can’t our government focus on delivering functional primary health care centres in all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria?
Finally, a healthy nation is a wealthy nation. Achieving a functional healthcare system nationwide is not mission impossible. Nigeria should reflect on her health and healthcare system and deliberate on how to achieve the goal of national healthcare.
Featured image source: The Financial Express