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12 years and we are still writing Health

by hr

It is always an exciting moment to me whenever this column is marking its anniversary. We are 12 years in this work and we are more committed than before to continue being a portal for health information and advocacy .The survival of this column also signifies the relative peace and health on both the part of the writer and the editors. It is also a marker for a healthy working relationship between me and the management of Daily Trust Newspaper. And most importantly it is also a marker about the survival and endurance of Daily Trust as one of the respected and influential newspaper in Nigeria.

This column advocates to policy makers, senior government officials, development partners and civil society organisations for a better health systems and improved quality of care through the use of evidence to influence decision making and planning. The last couple of years I have being privileged to attend many local, continental and international meetings all over the world which provided the chance to have access to strategic reports and information which had tremendously enriched what I usually published here.

We are marking our 12 years anniversary when Nigeria is about to enter election mode to elect our governors in 36 states and our president that will lead us in another round of 4 years. This signifies that we have to intensify our advocacy and sensitization to ‘will be our leaders’ and their cronies to focus in providing quality of care to Nigerian citizens.

The election mode and the declaration that Nigeria has become the largest economy in Africa create both opportunities as well as challenges for the country.  Currently, an insufficient amount of funds is allocated to health sector and even the meagre resources isn’t utilise efficiently.  The health sector this year is at its lowest moment with the Federal Government of Nigeria sacking 16,000 resident doctors and suspending residency training not too long ago although they have being reinstated as well as the on-going fierce battle of supremacy among health workers unions for power and recognition leaving out the “patient” helpless and frustrated.

We are now less than 500 days for the attainment of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), serious calls and fast actions are required to address the shortfalls in investment in maternal, newborn and child health. It is still fresh in our mind that Nigerian Government specifically committed to;

  1. Reduce Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) from what it was previously to about 250/100,000 by September 2015.
  2. Commit to achieving the goal of a contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) of 36 % by 2018. Achieving this goal will mean averting at least 31,000 maternal deaths.
  3. Ensure the availability of Reproductive Health Commodities including lifesaving drugs for women and newborn in our secondary and primary health care facilities
  4. Passage into law the long awaited national health care bill which will boost financial commitment and allocation to primary health care and insurance scheme leading to improved universal coverage.

The 2013 National Demographic Health Survey (NDHS) had scored Nigeria poorly in many health indicators. Our MMR is put at 576 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births which wasn’t significantly different from the ratio reported in the 2008 NDHS of 545/100,000. It has even gone up rather than gone down. W.H.O’s 2013 published maternal death estimates also corroborated the 2013 NDHS as it reported Nigeria’s MMR as 560/100,000. The antenatal coverage for at least one visit was put at 60.6% and for four or more visits was put at 51.5%. These Percentages signifies that almost half of the women population were disenfranchised and it raises the question of equity and coverage in health care. The % of births attended by skilled health personnel was put at 38.1%, it was very poor and a red card for Nigeria being the largest economy in Africa.

We have to sustain the voice and to be raising critical questions to promote accountability in the health sector. Iam using this anniversary to call our leaders to do more, because of the following reasons;

  1. Nigeria is one of the 10 worst places in which to be a mother, and has the second highest number of newborn deaths worldwide.
  2. One woman out of every 41 Nigerians faces a lifetime risk of death in childbirth. This is in contrast to Ethiopia, where one woman out of 67 faces such a risk.
  3. Currently, only 15% of Nigerians married or in-union aged 15-49 use any modern method of contraception. These numbers are shockingly low, and in stark contrast to Ethiopia where the rate is 27%. In Bangladesh 52% of women married or in-union aged 15-49 are using modern methods of contraception.
  4. The estimated number of maternal deaths for 2013 is 40,000.

In conclusion it is another time to sincerely thank the management of Daily Trust including its editors for allowing me to write on this page and pray for the paper’s sustainability, growth, expansion and development.


This article is 1st published in Daily Trust Newspaper of 4th November 2014 by Dr Aminu Magashi Garba, Coordinator Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN). He can be reached at healthweekly@yahoo.com and followed @HReporters

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