In their determination to get the country’s health sector back on track, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire and stakeholders in the health sector met to rub minds on on how to improve the primary healthcare in the country.
At the meeting on recently in Abuja, to commemorate the World Pneumonia Day and World Prematurity Day organized by Save the Children, the stakeholders expressed concerns over the lackadaisical attitudes of government towards improving the primary healthcare centers across the country.
They charged the government to revamp health centers across the country to cater for the needs of people at the grassroots.
Assuring the stakeholders on a renewed effort of government, the minister said the ministry was working to establishing primary healthcare centres in every political ward to increase access to health services in the country.
He said World Pneumonia Day was set up by the Global Coalition against Child Pneumonia as far back as 2009, to raise awareness on the underrated childhood killer disease and advocate for affordable solutions that will save millions of young lives from Pneumonia.
According to him, pneumonia takes the life of one child every 20 seconds somewhere in the world; an even more potent killer than mortality from HIV/AIDS, malaria and measles all combined.
“ While most deaths from Pneumonia occur in developing countries, up to three-quarters of the global mortalities is thought to occur in Nigeria and fourteen other countries.
“ Indeed, WHO estimates Nigeria witnesses about 143,000 under-five deaths annually, due to this disease which translates to 392 under-five deaths per day.
“Most of these deaths occur in Nigeria due to ignorance or lack of access to healthcare facility ;that is why we decided to establish primary health care centres in all political wards so people won’t have to go up to five kilometer to access a hospital.
“If this strategy is worked out and if stakeholders too can help us build primary healthcare centres it will benefit everyone and bring services to people since that is the challenge .’’
Ehanire said that the ministry was also working on introducing community health advisers who would be recruited from communities and assigned to households to care for them.
He said these advisers would always visit homes to ensure people were healthy and make referrals in case of emergencies thereby curbing deaths .
He said that their services included ante-natal among others adding that the ministry was also looking at working on efficient transport system and mapping out ambulance services in the country to help convey sick people to the hospital .
The minister said that mapping of ambulance was ongoing adding that the private sector would also be drawn into this to assist and then be refunded later .
He said that all accredited and assigned ambulances would be paid “with this strategy,number of deaths would be reduced as most people dies due to delayed access to healthcare .’’
He said that as deadly as the conditions could be, pneumonia and prematurity could be defeated if consistent and integrated approaches were adopted to prevent, protect and care for the children.
He said that the Nigeria Integrated Pneumonia Control Strategy and Implementation Plan, brought together all critical services and interventions to create healthy environments, promote best practices proven to protect children from pneumonia.
He said that the ministry remained committed to scaling up high impact interventions and advocacy, like routine immunization, perinatal care, exclusive breast feeding, Kangaroo Mother care, human resource and capacity development, to curtail major childhood killer diseases.
While expressing worry about the healthcare system in the country, Save the Children’s Chief of Party, Dr. Isa Adamu, specifically said health care financing is necessary in achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC).
“Pneumonia has direct relationship with immunization and the environment. Government at all levels must find way of reaching out to address these challenges. We should work towards ensuring that our small communities hospitals are providing health services to the people in the rural areas. We should ensure that people have the best care they need at all times.”
While speaking on nutrition, the Chief of Party called on government to implement policies that are aimed at sensitizing the people and giving them the right information about nutrition.
“Women must be sensitized on the kind of food to eat when pregnant and how they can feed their children. We must sensitize them on exclusive breast feeding and the kinds of food that is necessary for them.
Also speaking, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Chief of Health and HIV, Dr. Sanjana Bhardwaj, said Nigeria contribute to the highest number of global pneumonia child deaths.
She addd that Nigerian children made up the highest number of those who died, with an estimated 162,000 deaths in 2018 – 443 deaths per day, or 18 every hour.
“In Nigeria, 19% of child deaths were due to pneumonia in 2018, and it was the biggest killer of children under-five in 2017.”
Bhardwaj said pneumonia claimed the lives of more than 800,000 children under the age of five last year globally, with one child every 39 seconds, according to a new analysis.
On his part, President of the Peadiatric Association of Nigeria, Dr. Eki-Udoko Fidelis, expressed worry over Nigeria’s growing population.
“We need to plan for our population. You cannot develop when you don’t plan for your population. Government need to develop policies that takes care of our growing population.”
Fidelis also expressed worry with out of pocket payment at the hospitals.
“In develop nations like United Kingdom, government pays part of the bill for its people. So long as we maintain this system of payment, people will keep dying. We need to redirect our efforts and priorities towards developing the healthcare centers to provide care to people at the grass roots.”