Undoubtedly, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has caused significant loss of lives, disrupted livelihoods and undermined well-being throughout the world. As of June 22, 2020, Nigeria has recorded over 20,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with over 500 fatalities, making the country the second largest epicenter in Africa.
The current COVID-19 health emergency has also underscored how weak and unprepared Nigerian health system had been over the years and the negative impact this can further have if confirmed cases plateau beyond control on our already very weakened system especially at the most basic level, the primary healthcare centers. In the last three decades, Nigeria’s health system has faced numerous barriers that have continued to undermine its effectiveness to deliver better healthcare services to the people evidenced in the appalling health indices of the country.
Strong health system is predicated on a number of variables including sound policies, human resources for health, infrastructure and adequate funding amongst others. As 2020 World health statistics notes “The COVID-19 pandemic not only draws into focus the need to rebuild resilient health systems with increased access to quality health services, lowered financial cost and a strengthened health workforce, but also calls for the provision of services such as routine vaccinations and basic hygiene and sanitation.”
One of the lessons so far from the COVID-19 pandemic is the fact that the health sector is as important as the economy. The question therefore remains what can be done differently to make our healthcare system better after the pandemic? To emerge from this health crisis stronger, we must pay more attention to our overall public health capabilities. If this current health emergency ends like the previous one before it with little or no sustainable improvement in the working conditions of healthcare workers, facilities and healthcare services, then, the health sector would have missed such a historic opportunity to lead holistic thought process and sustainable actions towards improving the country’s health sector.
To this end, Good Governance Team (GGT), a Nigerian civic advocacy platform, strongly believes strengthening our healthcare system would require multi-stakeholder, multi-sectoral collaboration across governmental (Ministries of Health, Finance, Power, Budget, National Assembly, etc., and subnational governments) and non-governmental (civil society, NGOs, think-tank, academia, media, etc.) institutions, including development partners and private sector. Paradoxically, COVID-19 offers us a great opportunity to strengthen Nigeria’s healthcare system to deliver better health services and improve the health outcome.