Rebecca Ejifoma
As part of efforts to commemorate the Universal Health Coverage Day, a non-governmental organisation, Save the Children International, has called for improved healthcare coverage for all Nigerians.

Giving the call at a media parley in Lagos recently, the Advocacy Officer, Save the Children, Ms Lawrence Adetokunbo, said one of the best ways to achieving this was for the federal government to increase health allocation in the 2017 health budget.

She said the organisation has been pushing for increased national commitment and investment in UHC by building universal, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health services (RMNCAH) at the primary healthcare level, adding that this would positively affect the poor in the society.

Stating that under-five mortality rate is 109 per 1,000 live births; newborn mortality at 34 per 1,000 and 62 per cent of deliveries happen without the presence of a skilled birth attendant in Nigeria, she noted that there were only two skilled health workers for every 1,000 people.

“In 2014, instead of the recommended 15 per cent of the budget by the World Health Organisation (WHO) the government declared eight per cent of its budget was spent on health and out of pocket expenditure on health is 72 per cent of total health expenditure,” she said.

However, she noted that the organisation had continued to collaborate with the governments of Lagos, Gombe and Kaduna states on a number of interventions, including the Health Workers Capacity Building (HCB) project.

“It is driven by passion. HCB is focused on building the capacity of health workers through several bouquets of trainings including Essential Newborn Care, Injections and Vaccines Management Training, Integrated Management of Childhood Illnesses (IMCI), among others. HCB is also committed to ensuring an enabling policy environment for the delivery of improved Maternal Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) services in Lagos.”

“With the United Nations (UN) stating that everyone can access quality health service without financial hardship, Universal Health Coverage is a smart investment and an achievable goal everywhere,” says the Operations Manager, Save the Children Nigeria, Mr. Roy Chikwem.

He, also, called for more commitment to improve healthcare delivery both for mothers and children in the country. “This organisation is calling for increased national commitment and investment towards UHC by building (RMNCAH) services at primary healthcare level as a first priority and prioritising access for the poorest and most marginalised and excluded groups.”

Chikwem, therefore, urged governments at all levels, donors, development partners and stakeholders to guarantee an essential package of RMNCAH services as the first priority for UHC.

“It should establish time-bound equity targets for accelerated progress among the poorest and most marginalised and excluded people so no one is left behind; increase public spending on healthcare to at least recommended minimum levels; fully implement the National Health Act; improve quality, promote respectful and dignified care in health facilities,” he added.