World Health Day (WHD) is commemorated every 7th day of April under the aegis of the World Health Organization (WHO). The day is set aside to appraise the indispensable roles played by Nurses and Midwives in particular and other health practitioners in providing universal health care around the world and to remind world leaders their roles to keep the world healthy. For 2020, the message is simple: “Giving People Access to Health Care Without The Prospect Of Financial Hardship.”
There is no better time than now to discuss the health of a nation with the aim of making health care not only accessible, qualitative but affordable for all and sundry following the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. This global health threat outbreak has really exposed the weaknesses and pitfalls of many governments and heads of state especially in Africa as regards to health. It has indeed shown that most countries have not only fallen apart health-wise, but have displayed misplaced priorities; Nigeria is not an exemption.
With the tagline “Support Nurses and Midwives”, it is conspicuous even to the blind that Nigeria was not prepared to contend any health emergency given the COVID pandemic unlike other developed economies like, UK, US Germany etc. Reports which exposed the dearth of facilities, equipments and personnel needed to take care of persons affected by COVID -19 in the country, some high ranking officers in the country were not able to survive COVID-19 for reasons not far fetched. It’s indeed ludicrous for the giant of Africa.
In an interview with a medical practitioner, Dr Christopher Ejike Ihenacho, he said the problem of Nigerian medical sector is complex, from inadequate/outdated equipments and facilities to dearth of manpower, lack of power supply, dilapidated roads which causes delays during exigencies, lack of motivation/poor welfare packages for medical practitioners, lack of research and development et al. All these are caused as a result of meagre funding which has led to mass exodus of best brains otherwise known as brain drain.
Dr Ihenacho observed that, Nigeria is yet to meet up with the minimum 15 percent of its national budget to be earmarked for health sector as agreed by members of Africa Unoin (AU) in 2001, know as Abuja Declaration. Kudos to Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for its efforts; however, more are left undone.
He said “we cannot do anything if we are sick, even if you have enough to eat, you must be healthy and sound in body and mind to function. Our health is sine quo non for our wealth. Don’t forget that the government’s inability to budget commensurate amounts for health is not because of paucity of funds, no, it’s out of misplaced priorities and the cruelness of hearts. How can a country which claims to be giant of Africa relegate its health sector, are they not ashame of leaving the country for other developed countries for medical care, as you can see the pandemic has exposed so many things in the health sector, those countries we run to for medical attention, are they not fixed by human beings like us, do they have more resources than us, the difference is in leadership. Are you not aware that lsreali nationals and other diplomats were evacuated out of Nigeria all because we don’t have what it takes to take care of them during this COVID-19 period, but when this pandemic is over, you will see them coming back because they are only after our money.
“You should know how many billions Nigeria spends on medical tourism yearly. If the Nigeria resource controllers do not turn to a new leaf now, I mean now, if this kind pandemic occurs again, am afraid, but we must learn from this epidemic. We must learn with a reverse gear by way of introspection and realign our steps before we miss both legs.”
Be that as it is, the government at all level must rise to the occasion and take responsibility. Our Nurses and midwives must be encouraged in all ramifications, medical doctors must be motivated to stay in Nigeria and save Life as we have best Nigerian medical practitioners overseas, they shouldn’t be discouraged by words or actions, Nigerians need more health practitioners owing to our percular environment. Institutions of higher learning must ensure they churn out more competent medical graduates, all hands must be on deck to support and encourage our health professionals both implicit and explicit.
Who can tell what will become our fate if this kind health threat happens again? Philanthropists who donated billions and other resources to curb this pandemic are advised to be proactive by deploying same to build hospitals and other social amenities for the people especially for those in the hinterland because prevention is cheaper than cure. If the national budget must be adjusted, the health sector shouldn’t be tampered with because of its responsibility. We must make hay while the sun tarries.