The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has commended the intervention of some non-governmental organisations like Smile Train, Save the Children, Sight Savers and fhi360 in bridging healthcare gap in Nigeria’s health sector.
Speaking during a media roundtable in Abuja, Chairman of the NUJ FCT Council, Mr. Emmanuel Ogbeche, stressed the need to encourage more investments in Nigeria’s health sector to guarantee the wellbeing of citizens and reduce health tourism.
According to Ogbeche, the intervention of some NGOs in manpower development, infrastructure and other medical supplies has given impetus to development in the sector. He particularly lauded the partnership between Smile Train, a global cleft organisation with the West African College of Surgeons, the National Surgical, Obstetric, Anaesthesia and Nursing Plan (NSOANP), which has resulted in the training of hundreds of personnel in the health ecosystem.
“Interventions like these are rare and deserve our attention and time as journalists to ensure that the awareness reaches the grassroots so that everybody can benefit. As journalists, it’s our duty to create this awareness and end the stigma that’s still associated with cleft in our society,” Ogbeche said.
It is estimated that Smile Train has over the last decade performed more than 30,000 cleft surgeries at no cost to Nigerians as well as assisted healthcare institutions in the areas of manpower development, equipment procurement and maintenance and upgrade across the country.
There has been a clamour from stakeholders for the government to increase healthcare spending and ramp up infrastructure in the sector. Most medical professionals opined that the public spending in healthcare needs to increase from the current 1.2 per cent to at least 2.5 percent of GDP in the next 3 years, much of which should be invested in creating and modernizing the country’s outdated and decaying infrastructure.
Smile Train has addressed the need for quality, child-friendly surgical pediatric infrastructure, partnering with global Scottish charity KidsOR to revamp the aesthetics and equipment in theatres at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, National Orthopedic Hospital- Enugu and Armed Forces Specialist Hospital in Kano. The organization is in the process of building Africa’s first Cleft Centre for Excellence in Ghana, giving Africa’s medical professionals’ education and training to provide the much needed safe and timely care within the local community.
“Several NGOs have designed interventions mostly for children and mothers, but the awareness is little especially for those living in the rural areas. Reaching people with opportunities should be the cardinal goal of development journalism in the 21st century and not just reporting on the economy and politics. We must collaborate with organizations that seek to improve the quality of life of the people at all times even when it is not convenient, as a token of our service to Nigeria,” Ogbeche concluded.
The journalists variously pledged to do everything in their power to promote humanitarian causes as part of their journalistic callings. It was unanimously agreed that health sector coverage must take center stage to help the society with viable information especially in this COVID-19 era.