COVID-19: Stakeholders seek ways to promote universal health security for Nigerians

· Health

Stakeholders drawn from the private and public health sector have been brainstorming on ways to effectively decentralise healthcare provision to achieve universal coverage and security on a national
scale.

They are leveraging majorly on lessons learnt from the emergence of COVID-19 in Nigeria and how diverse stakeholders responded to the pandemic.

At the event tagged: Health Security Policy Dialogue, put together by the Nigeria Health Watch, a non governmental organisation with interest in promoting intelligence and providing insights on the Nigeria health sector, on Thursday, in Abuja, most of the participants buttressed the successes recorded in responding to the Ebola Virus Disease and the Covid-19 pandemic, both at national and sub-national levels.

Some of the participants, who formed the panel sessions, took time to dissect some of the key factors that militate against early response to health emergencies, like in the case Covid-19.

They drew allusions to the high rate of migration of health workers to other climes where they feel remuneration is better, abandoning Nigeria to its fate, faulty surveillance and data gathering mechanism amongst other challenges.

Also key at the dialogue session was political will on the part of the government to respond to health issues, funding constraints, port and border control measures, accountability structures and bureaucratic tendencies.

Among panelists who bared their minds on the challenges and proffered workable solutions include: Dr Ifedayo Adetifa, Director General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control NCDC, Peter Hawkins, Country
Representative, UNICEF, Dr Ifeanyi Nsofor, Senior New Voices Fellow, Aspen Institute Washington DC, Dr Festus Soyinka, Director, Public Health, Ogun State Ministry of Health and Dr Alex Okoh, Director, Public Health, Federal Ministry of Health.

Others are Dr Yahaya Disu, Director Risk Communications NCDC, Dr Kemisola Agbaoye, Director of Programmes Nigeria Health Watch, Dr Anne Adah Ogoh, Head of Policy, Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria among others.

They agreed that there was a need for a multisectoral approach to decentralising healthcare delivery in Nigeria, especially with pandemic situations, with effective collaboration between the public and private sectors.

Peter Hawkins, Country Representative, UNICEF said the multisectoral approach of Nigeria in dealing with the pandemic was perhaps the best globally, but harped on the need for accountability and a more structured system of mainstreaming services, especially for donor agencies which have raised concerns over mismanagement of funding to aidpublic healthcare provision.

The UNICEF representative also said getting the states to respond to health challenges needs to be reviewed, particularly as it concerns border control mechanisms.

Dr Ngozi Azodoh, Director, Health Planning Research and Statistics, Federal Ministry of Health submitted that Nigeria’s experience to Covid-19 pandemic has shown that the whole of community and government approach to health emergences is effective and efficient as demonstrated
in the partnership with community and religious leaders, state government, the private sector, donors and CSOs.

She said the country is still challenged with human resources, poor ability to respond to public health emergencies within 24 to 48 hours, logistic management, stockpiling of supplies and silo implementation of initiatives.

“These challenges are nationalistic in nature but are context specific within the 36 states of the federation and FCT. Therefore I will encourage stakeholders to look into these challenges in a
contextualized manner to bring innovative evidence based solutions for these problems”.

On her part, Dr Alex Okoh, Director Public Health, FMOH admitted that Nigeria’s border points are porous coupled with security challenges at the four designated ports of entry, it would take effective
collaboration to keep away health risks, which come from cross border migrations.

Part of this, she noted, must include equipping and financing the port health service centres.

A plethora of other speakers noted that within limited resources Nigeria must get it right in terms of man-power training and development, put in place structured accountability tools, continue to
embrace vaccine intake, bridge gaps for effective collaboration between federal and states and above all strengthen production capacity in order not to compromise the economy whenever pandemic strikes in future..

 

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