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NMA admonishes Nigerian Leaders on Health Agenda

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By Ndidi Chukwu

The Nigerian Medical Association said it is worried about the Nigerian citizenry and not happy to see that Political parties appear not to take health very seriously. The Association yesterday called on all political parties to clearly articulate how to tackle challenges confronting the Nigeria Health Sector particularly in the implementation of the Universal Health Coverage in their Manifestos, debates and other electioneering outings.

NMA President, Dr. Kayode Obembe in a press conference in Abuja said currently every Nigerian has the inalienable right to basic health package which can be rolled out through a Community Based Social Health Insurance Programme (CB-SHIP) to be funded by the post MDG agenda framework but expressed worry that “lack of political will” by Nigerian Politicians and leaders has continually deprived the masses of these rights.

As the election approaches, Obembe said the NMA has watched closely the campaigns of political parties, their achievements, manifestos and promises with mixed feelings, he said “it is very disturbing to note that there has not been any precise and articulate pronouncements about the challenges confronting the health sector and how to tackle them”

He noted that despite several prompting by stakeholders in the health sector, “the very disappointing development has not improved” the media conference which the NMA called the last minute effort to persuade politicians to discuss health delivery issues and for the Nigerian people to rise up to the occasion to demand for health care agenda from their next set of leaders, is borne out of the deteriorating state of the Nigerian health sector.

Nigeria has the second highest maternal mortality ratio in the world, 576 women die out of 100,000 live births. Every day, 800 die during pregnancies or childbirth, while 8,000 new born babies die during their first month of life and the NMA insist that the result is unacceptable.

The association also expressed worries at Nigeria’s life expectancy which is at 53 years for male and 54 for female and ranks 181 out of 198 countries in the world. This according the NMA is against the life expectancy of some countries like South Africa which has 55, Egypt 71, Ghana 60, Indonesia 68, Thailand 70, saying “our country has not done well in the area of healthcare delivery”

Nigeria’s infant mortality rate is at 88 deaths per 1000 live births, and child mortality is 143 deaths per 1000 live births “highest in Africa and second highest in the world” the NMA said.

The reason for the trend as observed by Obembe is “lack of financial access to healthcare” he said “unfortunately, Nigeria cannot achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) through taxation because of poverty” as he maintained that 60.9 percent, of Nigerians live in abject poverty.

Since the establishment of the National Health Insurance Scheme, it has only covered only seven percent of the Nigerian citizens, and the NMA blames state governors and local government chairmen for not embracing the scheme, obembe said “when politicians and their political parties describe themselves as grass root based, it leaves one to wonder then if the true meaning of that coinage is not lost on the premise of political razzmatazz” as Nigerians still pay direct out-of-pocket to access health care.

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