While the current pandemic has revealed its intention of staying around for a long time, the ugly reality of the immediate past of our battles with ill-health on multiple fronts including communicable diseases (CDs), non-communicable diseases (NCDs), tropical diseases (TDs) and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) keeps haunting us.
Front line organizations and institutions tasked with improving health outcomes in the country must commence support to aid the efforts and mitigate the risks and hazards to the Nigerian society by engaging in continually effective actions including but not limited to:
1) Campaigning for an opening of the borders for imports of quality food (basically protein), improve customs and import procedures, eliminate middlemen by finding ways to sell at lower prices to the end consumer.
2) Providing cheap, qualitative and rapid response test kits in abundant quantity and help the quick identification and instant response to infected persons timely and spatially and only in second level with expensive and rare PCR machines and tests, which apparently limits Nigeria’s testing ability significantly
3) Providing the necessary personal and collective protective equipment (PPE&CPE), such as face shields, sneeze guards, quality nose masks, quality disinfectants (sanitizers with above 65% alcohol and medical spirit) and many more at real cost and in sufficient quality to the “exposed professional groups” and sectors identified.
4) Embarking on a massive and concerted sensitization campaign directed at the public to ensure the imbibing of safe and best practices towards limiting spread
5) Engaging the heads of public and private sector institutions, organizations and businesses to extend work-from-safe locations policy in a bit to further reduce citizens’ movement
6) Combat corruption in the Health sector to reduce cost and increase efficiency and quality of service.
In a midterm approach, the exposed sectors need to have health & safety concepts and strategies as well as proper monitoring in regards to COVID-19 mitigation measures and programs while the training of the exposed professionals and essential service providers must be thoroughly planned and executed on a continually effective basis. This could be addressed with ‘train the trainer’ systems to achieve a pyramid-like cascading effect of the knowledge needed.
In a long-term approach, a campaign to support the repatriation of “dormant” Nigerian capital, stashed in offshore accounts by Nigerian entrepreneurs and politicians to be utilized for the public good. This initiative should be supported by FMoF and CBN incentives (tax – and legal amnesties), documented and channeled to support the restructuring and improvement of the Nigerian Health Sector whilst in parallel the ability and processes for investments in the Health sector must be optimized and boosted in combination with a boost in qualification and training of the Health sector workers.
There are organizations which have already started activities in this direction – they should be supported by every stakeholder in the “Nigeria project”.
astute have traced this to years of wrong spending priorities and a cultivated leaders’ attitude of “Dirt can’t kill African man”. Some say financial mismanagement of allocated funds for the health sector paired with unbridled corruption and incompetence further exacerbate the pursuit of those wrong priorities. Amidst the Global COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Government even decided to cut the health budget from N44.4bn to 25.5bn whilst allocating N27bn to the renovation of the Nigerian National Assembly building complex (source: Daily Post 03.06.2020).
It could be time consuming to trace the issues but in order to provide the necessary perspectives, it is essential for one to understand that Nigeria, at its best of times, has only committed 4.5% of its national budget to health, which is less than a third of the Abuja Declaration of 2001which committed to 15% of the Annual National Budget. Worse still, after subsequent years of low budget implementation, it is fair to say that less than this 4.5% gets spent wisely at any given time and even worse, a substantial portion of the released funds end up being misappropriated. Corruption thus significantly undermines efforts to achieve UN Sustainable Development Goal 3, which is to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”.
As if that was not already enough, the COVID-19 crisis met Nigeria with depleted financial reserves in addition to a sudden collapse of Oil prices, cutting the inflow of revenues for the FG financial app