By Haruna Gimba
Nigerian youth groups on Wednesday launched a coalition, Nigerian Youth Champions for Universal Health Coverage (NYC4UHC), to demand action from governments at all levels towards the attainment of the Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
Addressing newsmen during the launch of the coalition, Ms Nita Byack George, Chairperson of the NYC4UHC, said the sluggish progress in achieving health for all Nigerians necessitated youths from the six geo-political zones of the country to join efforts in stimulating necessary action at National, State, and local levels towards the attainment of UHC as enshrined by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
She said in the year 2005, former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo directed that UHC must be achieved in Nigeria by 2015.
“In fulfilling this mandate, he facilitated the creation of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). Sadly, thirteen years down the line, less than 12 per cent of Nigerians are fully covered by the NHIS programme, instead of the 90 per cent coverage as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO),” Ms George said.
The chairperson of the NYC4UHC said it is no longer news today that the state of the health system in Nigeria is worrisome and has over the years been characterized with challenges ranging from lack of policy implementation, inadequate and delayed annual budget release leading to poor immunization coverage compromising the lives of Nigerian children.
“Infrastructural decay especially at the primary and secondary care leading to people using out of pocket to pay for health, inadequate human resource for health leading to pregnant women been delivered at facility without a skilled personnel or giving birth at home.
“More young people who constitute the future of the nation are faced daily with diverse health challenges in a system that pays very little attention to their access to quality and youth friendly services such contraceptive and correct health information.
“A lot of adolescents and young people die yearly mostly from preventable or treatable causes such as unprotected sex, HIV/AIDS, prescription drug abuse, unsafe abortions, respiratory infections, etc. Several international and local laws emphasize the need for access to the highest attainable standard of health for young people. Sadly, this is not the case in Nigeria,” Nita George added.
The WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, had in a letter addressed to all Heads of States of member states, including President Muhammadu Buhari in March, 2018 called on all countries to take three concrete steps towards achieving the UHC; unwavering political commitment; prioritized investment of domestic resource; and Strategic planning for health, tailored to national context.
Health Reports correspondent report that it was against this back drop and the need for conscious and deliberate actions towards ensuring that young people are sufficiently included to play a pivotal role in the journey towards UHC that the NYC4UHC was established.
The group a youth led coalition of vibrant, passionate and resourceful young individuals, joined efforts to advocate for quality and accessible health services towards attainment of UHC in Nigeria, established in the month of May 2018 with membership drawn from the six geo-political zones of the federation.
The mission of the NYC4UHC is to engage policy makers and relevant stakeholders to accelerate deliberate actions toward the attainment of UHC through advocacy, media engagement and multi stakeholder partnership, as we envision a Nigeria where everyone can access quality, sufficient and affordable health care.
“Focusing on every issue that hinges on the availability of and access to quality health care services RMNCHA+N, our geographical coverage shall span the 36 states of Nigeria.”
The NYC4UHC taking the cognizance of the Not-Too-Young-To-Run bill called on the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole to create a seat for the young people in the national steering committee of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund, to represent the voices of the young people in issues affecting them as recommended by the Global Financing Facility (GFF) country multi stakeholders guidance note.
“While we commend the National Assembly and President Buhari for appropriating N55.15 billion for Basic Health Care Provision Fund in the 2018 budget, we call on the president to ensure that the money is captured in the statutory transfers schedule in order to protect against budget short falls.
“We also call on donors and partners to invest in the youths in trainings that will enable the youths make informed choices about their sexuality, entrepreneurship, Information and communication technology (ICT), Policy, Advocacy, Governance etc.
“We also call the attention of all well-meaning Nigerian youths join this effort by liking and following our social media platforms using our Facebook, twitter and Instagram handles,” Ms Nita George added.