Stakeholders in the health sector have expressed concerns that there are still huge gaps in the attainment of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in the country by 2030- a status that would enable Nigerians to access quality healthcare.
The health experts raised the concern at a Universal Health Coverage Experience sharing Forum organised by Christian Aid in collaboration with the Development Governance International Foundation (DGIF) with the theme ‘Effective community Engagement Towards Improved Health Insurance Uptake and Service Delivery’ in Abuja.
Gafar Alawode, chair, and managing partner, of DGI Consult, noted the insurance coverage penetration is still very low as about 90 percent of citizens do not have health insurance. He said there are still gaps in terms of health service input, shortage of health workers, the poor capacity of health workers as well as lingering misconceptions around health insurance in communities.
To fast-track the process towards attainment of UHC, Alawode said there is a need to ensure accountability in the utilisation of available resources in the health sector.
“There is still much to be done to make progress. But even for the little resources that the government is spending, we have to raise the accountability bar to ensure that the money is buying the health of Nigerians. We need to have a metric in terms of how much we are spending, who is getting it, and if there is deviation from what one is supposed to be achieving what happens? Accountability is very important,” he stressed.
The expert further opined that Nigeria needs to build the technical and managerial capacity of health workers, show strong political will in the implementation of the new Health Insurance Act, and embark on community-centred sensitisation to educate the rural dwellers on the importance of health insurance.
In the same vein, Obele Oluchukwu programme coordinator, health and human development at Christian Aid, said it was expedient to UHC at the front burner as elections draw near, and have the aspirants discuss their intent for healthcare.
“We should also come up with innovative and adaptive strategies on making health insurance mandatory, people need to see the benefit of health insurance,” he added.
Speaking on the Universal Health Project for the Nigerian programme funded by Christian Aid, Oluchukwu informed that 1,270 vulnerable Nigerians have benefitted. He explained that the programme being implemented in Nasawrawa, Benue and the Federal Capital Territory since 2020, is designed to create access and uptake of healthcare services.
“This project intends to bring out that aspect of social insurance to help people come under the care of health care service; it helps to reduce the financial difficulty that people go through in accessing healthcare. We set out to do that through community engagement, advocacy action and resource mobilisation.
“We help people at the grass root build trust around health insurance by adopting persons from the vulnerable population and paying for their one year health insurance and with that we can accelerate uptake of healthcare services, that s what this project has done in the past years,” he explained.