Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
The outgoing Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, has disclosed that Nigeria is still among the countries with the worst health indices in the world.
He noted that to turn the table, steps must be taken to win the people’s trust, confidence, and acceptance of government health interventions to save lives and reduce illnesses.
Ehanire pointed out that the primary healthcare system is the bedrock of any functional healthcare delivery system, being the citizens’ first point of contact with the nation’s healthcare system.
He said it had been confirmed that between 60 to 70 per cent of what had been driving people to seek health care could be provided near them, in a primary health care centre.
The minister described primary health care centres as a platform to deliver basic preventive, curative, and rehabilitative health care to communities, for public education and enlightenment on hygiene, nutrition, family planning, and child care, among others, being so close to the people.
Ehanire stated these yesterday in a keynote address at the inauguration of South-south Zone Traditional Leaders’ Committee (SSTLC) on Primary Health Care Delivery at the Festival Hall of Government House, Benin City.
He said: “This event marks an important milestone in our efforts to expand and strengthen the delivery of healthcare services to all citizens, particularly in the South-South zone, and at the grass-roots level.
“Nigeria has made significant progress in recent years in improving primary health care services, especially with revitalisation of more primary health care centres, with the policy of the Buhari administration, that aims to leave no one behind. However, we still have a lot of work to do, especially in rural and hard-to-reach areas, where access to healthcare services remains a major challenge.
“Experience teaches us that the government cannot do it alone. This is why in all our primary health interventions, community engagement remains our strategic approach. In this regard, we know that our respected traditional leaders are key to success, because, not carrying the gatekeepers and custodians of our culture and values along, yields no result.”
The outgoing minister also stated that efforts were being made to build a partnership with the monarchs, whom he described as the custodians of community interest, to fast-track ways to promote health and prevent disease among the people, with scientifically-proven ways and means in modern health care.
Also speaking at the event, Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki, who was represented by the Permanent Secretary, state Ministry of Health, Dr. Stanley Ehiarimwian, hailed the health minister, an Edo indigene, for making the state proud, while promising to support the newly-inaugurated SSTLC, to achieve its goals.
The Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, in his remarks, stated that SSTLC was conceived as a zonal coordination platform for paramount traditional leaders from the six states in the South-South zone.
He said: “The intent is for our traditional fathers to meet quarterly, to receive updates on the status of primary health care in their states from the government, through NPHCDA; discuss their states best practices and challenges if any; share experiences on how best each state can improve the quality and uptake of immunisation services (polio, routine immunisation, and COVID-19 vaccination), and other PHC services.
Oba of Benin, Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Ewuare II, who was represented by the Obasogie of Benin, Chief George Ekhator, stated that the health minister was full of vision and wisdom while giving an assurance that Benin Kingdom would fully support the SSTLC initiative.
The South-south Zonal Director of NPHCDA, Dr. Josephine Obayagbona, earlier in her welcome address, described primary health care as the cornerstone of a healthy nation since it was the first point of contact for individuals and families in accessing essential health services.