WHO Calls on Africa, Nigeria to Fulfil SDGs Pledge on UHC

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  • Tips Nigeria to achieve UHC by 2030

Senator Iroegbu in Abuja

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called on all African leaders, especially the Nigerian government to meet up with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) pledges on Universal Health Coverage.

The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, made the call in a statement in a speech delivered by the country representative to Nigeria, Dr. Wondi Alemu.

The statement was in celebration of the World Health Day (marked April 7) with the theme: ‘Universal Health Coverage (UHC): everyone, everywhere’, which aims to reinforce the need for access to health care services for all citizens.

It also marks the 40th anniversary of the Alma Ata Declaration of 1978 which called for health for all by the year 2000.
According to Moeti, African governments had in 2015 SDGs pledged and committed to concrete actions of responsive health systems through UHC in their respective countries.

To this end, he said WHO in the African region is committed to supporting Member States to achieve universal health coverage and the attainment of the SDGs. He noted that UHC helps in assuring access to health care services, irrespective of the status or position in the society.

He said: “We have developed a framework of actions to assist countries in selecting their own path towards achieving both UHC and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We have also developed a flagship programme geared towards providing integrated and holistic support to countries through implementation support, a regional learning programme for UHC.

“UHC means ensuring that everyone, no matter where they live or who they are, can access essential quality health services without facing financial hardship. It is a powerful equaliser that ensures Health for All, enhances health security, reduces poverty and promotes gender equality.”

The WHO Regional Director further stated that effective leadership and high-level political commitment are critical to achieving UHC.
“Adequate and sustained investment in health is necessary for ensuring equitable access to health services. We are calling on countries to strive and improve health governance and information systems to ensure better regulation, planning and accountability to the communities and partners,” he added.

Moeti further noted that several countries in the region, including Burkina Faso, Burundi, Ghana, Liberia, Senegal and Uganda, have demonstrated that removing user fees systematically increases utilisation rates of health services.
He stressed that Rwanda’s health insurance scheme expanded access to quality health services for poor people from 7% in 2003 to 91% in 2010.

To this end, he urged member States to also address the persistent challenge of inadequate health workforce, citing that Ethiopia exemplifies how investment in health workers, and specifically community health workers, contributes to improved delivery of essential health services.

Moeti further stressed on the need to reduce the occurrence of non-communicable diseases, address new threats such as SARS, H5N1, and tackle epidemics like Ebola and cholera.

He also urged the African leaders to address the challenge of anti-microbial resistance and substandard and falsified medicines.
The WHO Regional Director however disclosed that since August 2016, the region has not reported a case of wild Polio virus; compared to 2012 when Africa accounted for 50 per cent of Polio cases globally.

He also noted that “access to treatment and essential services has improved. For the first time, more than half of all people living with HIV in Africa (14 million) have access to life-saving HIV treatment.

“Between 2010 and 2016, new cases of malaria dropped by 20 per cent and there were 37 per cent fewer deaths due to malaria. Moreover, in 2016, the risk of developing pneumonia and meningitis reduced for nearly two thirds of children on the continent because they were vaccinated; compared to only 3 per cent in 2010.”

Also speaking, WHO’s Health Economist, Dr. Francis Ukwuje, noted that the Federal Ministry of Health has identified the primary health care centres as the unit to provide universal health coverage to Nigerians and the vehicle through which it can be achieved is the basic health care provision fund.

To this end, Ukwuje said WHO are providing basic health care services to poor people in the community, and we are pioneering the project in three states including Abia, Niger, and Osun state.

He further hinted that for the programme to be fully implemented, the state health insurance scheme will be established so there won’t be need for payment before accessing health services.

“The federal government is working with partners to ensure the success of the programme”, he added.
WHO has also tipped Nigeria to achieve the Universal Health Coverage by 2030 if it can sustain the ongoing efforts the revitalisation of the primary health care centres across the country.

WHO Country Representative, Alemu, made the declaration in Abuja recently during the walk to mark the 2018 World Health Day tagged ‘UHC: Everyone, Everywhere’.

The walk was from the WHO building to the Ministry of Health, then to the Eagle Square and back to their office. There was also display of songs and various exercises by the staff members who were present for the walk.

According to Wondi, every year, WHO select a theme that helps to create awareness among the populace throughout the whole year, of which the 2018 is to ensure that UHC is achieved in Nigeria and all over the world.

“We will ensure that everywhere Nigerians are located, they will access health care service and ensure that all citizens have access to basic health care service. We therefore, encourage our government and the leaders on the political will to use services that are available and also ensure that comprehensive health services are available,” he said.

He however, noted that Nigeria has made considerable progress since 2014 the country decided to go for universal health coverage, adding that “the government is working towards achieving this mandate through the revitalised primary health care services.
“The president launched a programme which is called community influencers, which is for strengthening health systems among the population ,with the right resources coming into place ,Nigeria will be able to achieve this mandate by 2030.”

He continued: “When we talk about UHC, we should also talk about the quality of service has to be improved, which is why the revitalisation of the existing resources is very important so that people can have access to improved services where ever they live.
“We are also making interventions in some areas such as malaria by providing treated nets that will help reduce malaria scourge. UHC is also about preventive medicine, you don’t have to wait till you are sick before receiving treatment. We place too much emphasis on treatment. It involves living healthy and maintaining healthy lifestyles due to various health services being rendered.”

The WHO Country Representative said “the theme: ‘UHC: everyone, everywhere’, is very crucial at this point in time, whether they have money or not, I hope Nigeria will get to this level”.

Wondi hoped that the states will take it up and from the government side NHIS is working, adding that what will be remaining is to make the services available.

“Nigeria government at the highest level has made commitment at a higher level, and the resources are there, they should be prioritised at high level,” he stressed.

Also speaking, the Health Systems Adviser WHO, Dr. Moses Onogom, noted that Nigeria has clearly set an agenda for UHC through the Primary Health Care (PHC) revitalisation.

“And it has come up with legal quality framework to be able to realise this PHC revitalisation mandate,” Onogom stated.
He commended the National Health Act of 2014, which he said “ensures the basic health care provision fund, which is expected to enable PHC revitalisation to take place”.

According to him, 50 per cent of this money is meant to enable the NHIS scheme at the state level where the State Health Insurance Scheme is purchased through the PHC centres.

The Health Systems Adviser said 45 per cent of the finance will go to enable PHC re-functioning properly, medicine provision and to ensure that the workers are motivated.

This, he said, is to also ensure they have an acceptable level of service at the PHC centres.
Ogonom said the target is to have up to 10,000 PHC facilities working in the next two to three years across the country.