Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The Wife of the Kebbi State Governor, Dr. Zainab Shinkafi-Bagudu, has said health insurance is the only way forward with or without coronavirus (COVID-19).
According to her, healthcare is very expensive to fund out of pocket, especially with cancer patients.
She said this at a webinar “Covering COVID-19: A media series powered by #PreventEpidemicsNaija”
According to Shinkafi-Bagudu, a Paediatric Consultant, a loud voice in the fight against cancer and a child’s right advocate: “Health insurance is the only way forward. It will be difficult to fund our health system without having an effective health insurance system.”
While noting that the COVID19 pandemic hit the entire world unawares, the First Lady who was one of the speakers at the webinar, added that funding for epidemics in Nigeria is inadequate neither is the country prepared.
She said: “We are unanimous about the fact that the #COVID19 pandemic hit the world very unexpectedly. Generally, we tend to not to be adequately prepared for epidemics at the federal level. It is even worse at state and local government area (LGA) levels.
“…We need to speak about funding for epidemic preparedness more. We were somehow prepared for COVID19, but not as prepared as a country the size of Nigeria should be. We need to also strengthen inter-regional collaborations.”
Bagudu rated Nigeria’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic five out of 10, even though her preparedness was inadequate.
She said: “On a scale of 1-10, I’d say Nigeria’s response and preparedness for COVID19 was a 5. Yes, funding was not enough but we stepped up in surprising ways. The biggest lesson is that we need to pay attention and fund healthcare.
The Kebbi’s First Lady also made a case for workers at the Primary Healthcare to be properly trained going forward in order to be equipped for possible future health challenges of this magnitude.
“We need to build human capacity at the PHC level. We need to train PHC workers on disease surveillance as a continuum and not just one-off. We need the right personnel to face any epidemic in the country,” Bagudu said.
Speaking on the state’s preparedness to tackle COVID-19, she said: “We had a reasonably equipped hospital which we quickly transformed to a COVID-19 isolation centre. Our staff were trained by National Center for Disease Control. We had put a lot of things in place which people might not have easily realised.”
The Managing Director and CEO of the Aliko Dangote Foundation, Zouera Youssoufou, speaking on the Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) response said, it has raised N30 billion and is working to achieve three things: increase testing; enable isolation centres and build testing centres and distribute palliatives to about 10 million Nigerians.
According to her, “We have enough money in Nigeria to have a proper healthcare system. There is no reason why we don’t. I think the COVID-19 crisis is an opportunity to put the right systems in place.
“The importance of strengthening our health care system is now clear. We have the skills and money. COVID-19 is a chance to focus on health. It is an opportunity to make the Nigerian health system work.”
Youssoufou clarified that CACOVID is not giving extra-budgetary funds to government. She explained: “We buy what is needed and dispatch as needed.”
Going forward, she advised government to reduce the panic in the system. According to her, COVID-19 is just one of the things happening to us, adding that the country is losing 300,000 to malaria yearly, as well as many women dying during or after child births.
The CEO of the Aliko Dangote Foundation, concluded: “I would advise the government to focus on anything that would go towards opening the economy without risking the country.”
She added: “One of the things we really need to focus on is immunisation. It is key. But what happens when we have enough vaccines, but the PHCs (primary healthcare) don’t work? We need a bigger percentage of Nigeria’s budget to go towards health.”