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Nigeria’s Health Minister express concern over ‘brain drain’

by Haruna Gimba
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By Iyemah David

Nigeria’s Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Professor Muhammad Ali Pate, has expressed concern over weakness of health systems in developing countries like Nigeria, attributing it partly to the loss of trained health professionals to developed nations.

He said this at the opening of the 77th World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva, where he highlighted “health poverty” as a major problem in many developing nations.

He said “health poverty affects half of the world’s population, depriving them of access to basic healthcare such as immunisation and maternal health services.”

The minister made the remarks as global health community converged on Geneva, Switzerland, for the 77th World Health Assembly (WHA 77) from
may 27 to June 1 with the theme “All for Health, Health for All.”

The gathering serves as the primary decision-making platform for the World Health Organisation (WHO) and brings delegates from its 194 member states every year.

The health minister disclosed that hundreds of Nigerian health workers migrate annually to more advanced countries like the UK, Canada, and Saudi Arabia in search of better working conditions and quality of life.

He added that “from 2015 to 2022, over 5,000 Nigerian medical doctors moved to the UK alone.”

Prof Pate said that in spite of Nigeria’s subsidised medical education, many professionals decide to leave the country after their study.

He emphasised Nigeria’s commitment to rebuilding its health system through increased domestic financing, expanding primary healthcare, and strengthening public health capacities.

He urged international health partners to align with Nigeria’s priorities and support its sustainable national systems.

The minister advocated for Pandemic Treaty and review of International Health Regulations, stressing the need for a fair agreement by the end of the year.

Reflecting on lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, he called for renewed political will, global solidarity, and investment in addressing health inequities, saying “no country can tackle challenges alone in an interconnected world.”

Exodus of healthcare professionals, especially doctors, pharmacists, and nurses to developed countries has been on the increase in Nigeria.

With a doctor-patient ratio over five times worse than the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation, Nigeria has continued to lose hundreds of doctors annually to brain drain, a large number of them to the United Kingdom.

Various statistics show that over 5,000 Nigerian medical doctors migrated to the UK between 2015 and 2022.

The continued emigration of health practitioners has led to shortage of skilled health workers in the country, which has negatively affected the quality of healthcare services provided to citizens.

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