The Chief Executive Officer, Sterling Bank Plc, Abubakar Suleiman, expressed the need for digital intervention in the health sector, adding that the invention of technology will enhance data gathering to stimulate accessible healthcare services in Nigeria.
According to the Legatum Institute’s Prosperity Index of 2018, Nigeria is seventh worst in the world in basic health, health infrastructure and preventative care, just ahead of war-torn Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This picture of our healthcare is hard to reconcile with Nigeria’s current status as Africa’s largest economy.
Over 70 per cent of Nigeria’s 195 million people live in rural areas with little or no access to primary healthcare. This means that most people receive poor treatment or no treatment at all for road traffic accidents, malaria, HIV, chest infections, heart disease, diarrhea and complications from pregnancy and childbirth. These ailments, which are Nigeria’s leading causes of death, are all preventable or treatable.
Sadder still, we lead the world in maternal mortality; one in five women who die at childbirth worldwide is Nigerian and Bill Gates recently described our country as “the most dangerous place in the world to give birth.”
Nigeria federal government spends less than 6 per cent of the national budget on health and only a tiny fraction of that on primary healthcare. Even more dismal 1-3 per cent at the state and local government levels. The recent roll-out of the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund and a federal government plan to revive 10,000 primary healthcare facilities across Nigeria will help to revitalize this important system.
The 2019 allocation to healthcare is 4.1 per cent of the national budget. Just over a quarter of that will go to primary healthcare – mainly for the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund and childhood vaccines – adding up to approximately N82 billion.
World Health Day is near (April 7) and this year’s theme is universal health coverage. Nigeria’s state and federal governments could make the day a truly meaningful one by pledging to invest at least 15 per cent of future national budgets on health and 60 per cent of that total on primary care as affirmed during Abuja Declaration of 2001.