Ehanire: Nigeria Loses Over $1bn Annually to Medical Tourism

  • Over 2,300 under-five children die daily in Nigeria, says Saraki

Senator Iroegbu in Abuja

The Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has revealed that Nigeria loses about $1 billion every year as a result of medical tourism.

This is even as the Founder-President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA) Mrs. Toyin Saraki, disclosed that over 2,300 under-five children and 145 women of children bearing age die every day in Nigeria

Ehanire’s revelation is coming at a time when President Muhammadu Buhari’s frequent medical trips abroad are causing discomfort among Nigerians, especially in the face of ongoing industrial action by the health workers.

The Minister, in a statement saturday by the Media Aide to the Wife of the Senate President, Ms. Veronica, made the remarks while being interviewed, following Mrs. Saraki’s keynote speech at the recent high-level Future of Health Summit, organised by Forbes and CNBC Africa.

“Nigeria loses up to $1bn every year to medical tourism, as a result of the loss of faith in our medical system, at various levels. We must foster an enabling environment where knowledge reparation in health is promoted and Nigerian Health workers in diaspora can return home,” Ehanire said.

In the same vein, the former Kwara State First Lady drew attention to the challenging condition of mother and infant health outcomes in Nigeria.

She stated: “Around 20,000 babies will be born in Nigeria today; each one of them a blessing. Today, however, we will also lose about 2,300 under-five year olds and 145 women of child-bearing age.

UNICEF rightly points out that although the rate of newborn deaths has improved, to 37 per 1000 births, this national average hides the differences between our 36 states and the slow progress in some of them.

“While these figures are already startling and should constitute a national emergency, Nigeria’s growth rate of 3.2 per cent annually means that our nation will, according to USAID, reach a population of 440 million people by 2040. As a nation which is currently unable to keep its mothers and children safe and healthy, we must urgently seek solutions to the scale of the challenge we are about to face.”

In her keynote speech titled ‘The Role of Technology in Improving Mother and Child Healthcare in Nigeria – Raising Quality Standards For Health Care, Putting People First’, Mrs. Saraki called for more widespread use and digitization of Personal Health Records (PHR).

The Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) said digital technology can, at its best, ensure quality and standards of care are improved and maintained – the ability to track, trigger actions and provide accountability empowers midwives and other health workers to lead the way with quality care, adapting to their own situational awareness.

She continued: “Without a public centralised health database for many families to rely upon and keep them informed of the necessary health processes in a child’s first thousand days of life, the WBFA’s Personal Health Record came as an innovation that placed this knowledge directly into the mother’s hands, and empowered her to provide, analyse and follow-up on her own data – to be in control of her own situational analysis.

“The digitisation of the PHR to inform similar nationwide efforts by qualified midwives would place Nigeria at the forefront of improving maternal and infant health outcomes. It would be fitting to achieve that here in Nigeria, where the idea for a home-based record was developed and has since been successfully deployed in countries like the UK and Japan.”

Mrs. Saraki highlighted the video training deployed by the WBFA at Gwagalada School of Nursing and Midwifery in Abuja as an example of technology transforming healthcare development in Nigeria.

She also cited the WBFA’s training partnership with Johnson & Johnson and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine as the global standard of ‘hands-on’ teaching which is saving lives and helping mothers and infants to thrive.