By Health Sector Reform Coalition
Our attention has been drawn to a statement made by the Minister of Health, Professor Mohammed Ali Pate monitored in The Cable of January 17, 2024. As a concerned entity, the Health Sector Reform Coalition (HSRC) is very keen on contributing its quota to help solve Nigerian Health System problems. We are delighted that the President and the Minister are concerned and are determined to address the problems especially the rising cost of medicaments. Government is concerned that many companies are taking their exits and many more are likely to do so.
The reasons are quite clear. To stop the tide, Government intends to meet with the Pharmaceutical Industries, on ground, shortly and will also be drafting an Executive order to stop the tide. These approaches are quite familiar and it is HSRC’s considered opinion that such steps will not solve the problems in the long run and sustainably. Space and time will not allow us to elaborate on results of Executive orders in Nigeria in the recent past. Executive orders do not address the root causes of these problems—poor status of the Naira, insecurity, infrastructure gap, corruption and high cost of doing business in Nigeria especially because of lack of transparency. Fake drugs will take over the space increasingly leading to bigger problems for Nigerians.
The question we have been asking ourselves is why Nigeria should be the one facing our types of challenges when several countries that are poorer, with higher/similar population (India, Indonesia, Brazil to mention just three) and who may not even have our type of Health workforce, are saner. Malaysia may be much smaller in population than Nigeria but it is a good reference for our analysis because its political history is similar to Nigeria’s. Malaysia’s PHC system is strong—very strong. Its supply chain for medicines and vaccines is close to perfection—Nigerians who have toured Malaysia can testify. Pharmaniaga, the public limited company supplies health facilities with medicaments in a seamless way. The Supply chain is effective and efficient. They have been able to solve the problems highlighted above without issuing executive orders. Malaysia has come up with a system that solves its medicine supply system. Malaysia is not the only country in that category. Can Nigeria not come up with a similar mechanism or any other that will solve Nigeria’s medicine supply chain and to which governments in Nigeria can subscribe? What happened to several initiatives of Nigerian Government during the COVID-19 years?
We in HSRC believe that Nigerian Health System challenges are far bigger than the current stance of government. There is a need for a holistic and home-grown approach. We believe we have all that it takes to solve the problems if we determine to apply ourselves to it sincerely—if the leaders at the highest level will give the right leadership. Like many other sectors, health is in urgent need of strategic interventions. There are a number of questions the Minister needs to answer immediately to start addressing the issues of weak Nigerian Health System. The National Health act has been in existence for close to ten years. Why is it not yet being holistically implemented? There are many important health policies of government at National and subnational levels. Why are many of them being implemented in the breach?
We are not holding the current Minister responsible for lack of implementation before now. However, we will not like to list the current Minister as one of the Ministers who have ignored this important trajectory—that is sincere, holistic and efficient implementation of well-thought-out extant laws and policies to improve the health of Nigerians. We need to stop our culture of policy summersaults whereby every Minister brings his or her idea to the space every four to eight years. We want the current Minister to lead the way.
Health Sector Reform Coalition, Abuja.