By Haruna Gimba
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Youth Leaders in Nigeria have urged government to invest in equity enhancing strategies to restore crumbling services for women, newborns, children and adolescents.
The call was contained in a statement issued by Dr Aminu Magashi Garba, Coordinator of Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN) to mark the annual World Health Day.
The annual celebration for 2021 is being held at the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic which continues to threaten the improvement in health and social services.
“The theme for this year’s World Health Day is ‘Building a fairer, healthier world’ which reminds us of a need to invest in equity enhancing strategies to address the needs of the most vulnerable.
“COVID-19 has exacerbated inequities, putting at risk hard won gains that have been made over the past decade,” says Helga Fogstad, Executive Director of the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health (PMNCH).
“Ensuring that women, children and adolescents are protected from the disproportionate indirect social and economic of the pandemic and associated financial crisis will require action from all stakeholders,” adds Fogstad, who is strongly committed to human rights, public health and gender issues.
It added that Nigeria is among 10 countries around the world that recently heeded the call, and recently made major commitments to prioritize investments for the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents.
“The West African nation has pledged $2.3 billion during 2020-2028 for strategic interventions that protect the reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, adolescent and elderly health and nutrition through access to family planning services; immunization; and nutrition programmes.
“Today youth leaders, campaigners and representatives of civil society organisations from across Nigeria are meeting to deliberate on the progress of improving the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents in Africa’s most populous nation,” it said.
Magashi further stated that Nigeria has the largest youth population in Africa, adding that since the eruption of COVID-19 pandemic, the group has been negatively affected more than others due to the disruptions of essential health, nutrition and social services.
He said: “The World Health Day 2021 is aimed at building a fairer and healthier Nigeria,” says Hon. Muhammad Usman, Chair of the National Advocates for Health (NA4H).
“I am therefore calling on both federal and state governments to improve budgetary allocations and timely release of funds for health interventions, particularly for family planning, nutrition, primary healthcare – including the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund – and the national health insurance for universal health coverage.”
The AHBN coordinator said participants discussed recent trends in maternal, newborn and adolescent health in Nigeria, and opportunities for parliamentarians, including National Legislative Assembly’s committees on health and finance, to contribute towards better health for women, girls and adolescents.
“Young people account for over 60% of Nigeria’s population,” says Oyeyemi Pitan, Convener of the Nigerian Youth Champions for Universal Health Coverage (NYC4UHC).
“Therefore, the government, both at the federal and state levels, must invest in the health of young people by ensuring that all primary healthcare centres are adequately staffed, equipped and functional to provide access to sexual and reproductive health services, mental health services and essential life-saving drugs and commodities,” Pitan remarked.
He said in 2020, PMNCH issued a 7-point Call to Action in response to the devastating effects of COVID-19 on the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents.
It called on leaders to protect and prioritize their rights and health during the COVID-19 response and recovery by strengthening political commitment, policies and financing for vital health services and social protections, particularly for the most vulnerable.
While speaking on statistics on health in Nigeria, the statement said the World Health Organisation (WHO) said about 20 percent of all global maternal deaths occurred in Nigeria, “with over 600,000 maternal deaths and about 900,000 maternal near-miss cases between 2005 and 2015 respectively.”
It observed that a woman in Nigeria has a 1-in-22 lifetime risk of dying during pregnancy, childbirth or postpartum/post-abortion compared with the lifetime risk of 1 in 4900 in the most developed countries.
“Nigeria’s large population size and high women, children and adolescent (WCA) morbidity and mortality means that the country’s progress can significantly shift the development in Africa and globally.”
On the state of child health, the statement added that the latest UNICEF “Levels and Trends in Child Mortality” stated that Nigeria recorded an estimated 858,000 under-five deaths in 2019.
“With about 7.4 million children currently born annually in Nigeria, improved policy and investment in infant and child health is crucial to prevent an increase in under-5 mortality.”
While on access to WASH in schools, Dr Magashi said about a third of all schools (33%) have basic water supply services while 26% of schools provide access to basic sanitation services.
“As little as 3% of schools have girls’ toilet compartments that has provisions for menstrual hygiene management. Handwashing facilities are not available in 76.4% of schools while about one in ten schools (10%) have access to basic hygiene services.”