• Thursday, April 25, 2024
businessday logo


The way forward on Nigeria’s healthcare delivery

Making a case for the health sector

It is no longer news that the Nigerian healthcare sector is suffering the same fate as the education sector. However, the recent leg surgery done by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo in an hospital in Lagos, a clear departure from what was obtainable, calls to mind that if there is the Will to do right there will always be a way.

In advanced nations, this wouldn’t stir interest but in Nigeria where public officeholders largely manifest adversely in contrast to public interest, it should.

Over the years, at any slight illness, those in authority go abroad with public funds which chiefly accounts why healthcare centres are left in ruins, abandoning the led to their fate in home facilities. As government is about the people, the Vice President’s action therefore is a step that must be sustained for a turnaround. This accounts why Section 14 (2) of the 1999 Constitution as amended, clearly states: “It is hereby, accordingly declared that (b) … the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.”

Thus, synergy had better gather momentum in public interests as proper development of infants is essential

The nation’s leader, Muhammadu Buhari is more or less a foreigner as far as healthcare is concerned. In fact, the bills on his medical trips to London, crew alongside the aircraft aggregately should fix the State House Clinic for government officials.

Unfortunately, it is on record that on October 9, 2017, President Buhari’s wife, Aisha, cried out over the deplorable condition of the State House Clinic. Meanwhile, nothing has changed since the outcry.

However, writing-off preceding administrations, it was justifiable to begin with overseas healthcare after inauguration, but unacceptable to sustain it to the end. Nonetheless, for severe cases, foreign healthcare is maybe appropriate.

What we’ve seen so far apparently shows that public officials are largely and grossly insensitive, and do not understand what leadership is all about, hence, their healthcare and education of their loved ones overseas.

Back to healthcare, the government must pay compelling attention to the healthcare sector for a strong and healthy nation, which contributes to the gross domestic product (GDP). For emphasis, healthcare includes breastfeeding on account of its sundry and compelling health benefits. Thus, to promote compulsory breastfeeding, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared August 1 – 7 annually as the World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) for awareness and advocacy.

During a field trip to Lagos State recently, a report by Olubunmi Braheem, state nutrition officer, Ministry of Health noted the 2022 – WBW in the state was impactful. From the intensive advocacy for exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) practices, the state reportedly launched breastfeeding toolkits for creation of breastfeeding spaces in workplaces, outlined activities to support nursing mothers, and advanced it with a symposium – focusing on healthcare actors and community actors.

Some of the health centres, where the breastfeeding toolkits for creation of breastfeeding spaces in workplaces were launched, are now reference points. However, outside those health centres, the grassroots seriously need more sensitisation.

So, beyond the WBW activities, the challenge is sustainability of the promotion alongside plan implementation to meet the target. It is therefore expected that there should be success stories during the coming year’s WBW for evaluation. In a joint statement by UNICEF executive director, Catherine Russell, and WHO director-general, Tedros Ghebreyesus on the occasion of WBW – 2022, the global bodies emphasised: “As global crises continue to threaten the health and nutrition of millions of babies and children, the vital importance of breastfeeding as the best possible start in life is more critical than ever.

Read also: HealthCare financing is very possible in Nigeria by financial institutions, says Ike-Okoli

This World Breastfeeding Week, under its theme – Step up for breastfeeding: Educate and Support, UNICEF and WHO are calling on governments to allocate increased resources to protect, promote and support breastfeeding policies and programmes, especially for the most vulnerable families living in emergency settings.

“During emergencies, breastfeeding guarantees a safe, nutritious and accessible food source for babies and young children. It offers a powerful line of defense against disease and all forms of child malnutrition, including wasting. Breastfeeding also acts as a baby’s first vaccine, protecting them from common childhood illnesses. And protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding is more important than ever, not just for protecting our planet as the ultimate natural, sustainable, first food system, but also for the survival, growth and development of millions of infants.”

The statement notes further that fewer than half of all newborn babies are breastfed in the first hour of life, leaving them more vulnerable to disease and death. And only 44 percent of infants are exclusively breastfed in the first six months of life, short of the World Health Assembly target of 50 percent by 2025, and to equip health and nutrition workers in facilities and communities with the skills they need to provide quality counselling and practical support to mothers to successfully breastfeed.

In addition to these is protecting caregivers and health-care workers from the unethical marketing influence of the formula industry by fully adopting and implementing the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes, including in humanitarian settings; and implement family-friendly policies that provide mothers with the time, space and support they need to breastfeed are likewise requisite.

These ugly trends alongside needed interventions necessitated UNICEF and WHO crying out, demanding from governments, donors, civil society and the private sector to step up efforts to prioritise investing in breastfeeding support policies and programmes, especially in fragile and food insecure contexts.

This outcry is noble and deserves attention. Thus, synergy had better gather momentum in public interests as proper development of infants is essential, according to Chimezie Anyakora and Ofure Odibeli in an earlier article in BusinessDay.