WHO urges Nigeria to develop strong primary healthcare system to withstand disease outbreaks

The World Health Organization (WHO) has stressed the need for the government to show political commitment to building a strong health system, based on primary care, with emphasis on disease prevention and health promotion as well as the best defence against outbreaks and other health emergencies.

The global health body urged the media as a critical partner to support efforts to accelerate the achievement of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in the country.

It noted that more than half the world’s population lacks access to essential health services, and almost 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty every year because of the costs of paying for care out of their own pockets.

WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr Walter Mulombo made the call at a 3-day Conference on “Universal Health Coverage (UHC): How Can Nigeria Get it Right – the Role of the Media”, organized by the Association of Nigerian Health Journalists (ANHEJ) in collaboration with the Organization yesterday, called for diligent implementation of the National Health Insurance Authority Act (NHIA) Act aimed at making health insurance mandatory for all legal residents in Nigeria.

Mulombo lamented that Nigeria currently bears the highest burden of tuberculosis and paediatric HIV while accounting for 50% of neglected tropical diseases in Africa.

He noted that Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) account for 29% of all deaths in Nigeria with premature mortality from the 4 main NCDs (Hypertension, Diabetes, Cancers, and Malnutrition) accounting for 22% of all deaths.

He observed that though the prevalence of malaria is declining (from 42% to 23%), the country contributes 27% of global cases and 24% of global deaths.

He stated that while the poorest households feel the heaviest impact of these inefficiencies and poor health outcomes as they have limited access to essential health services, the negative externalities pose huge losses to the Nigerian economy.

Mulombo who was represented by the WHO Field Presence Cluster Lead, Ahmed Khedr, observed that the National Health Act (NHAct) foundation for making UHC a reality, by guaranteeing a basic package of health services for all Nigerians while making available predictable financing through the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund.

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