WHO urges Nigeria to implement new health insurance law – – Businessday

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has urged the Nigerian government to urgently implement the new National Health Insurance Act to enable millions of Nigerians to access healthcare and reduce extreme poverty in the country.
Walter Mulombo, the WHO country representative in Nigeria, 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 out-of-pocket payments to access healthcare.
The latest National Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) Report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that 133 million Nigerians are poor because of a lack of access to healthcare, and education, among others.
Molumbo, who was represented by Ahmed Khedr, WHO Field Presence Cluster Lead, noted that 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.
He said this at a three-day conference on “Universal Health Coverage (UHC): How can Nigeria get it right – the role of the media”, organised by the Association of Nigerian Health Journalists (ANHEJ) in collaboration with the WHO.
He noted that the NHIA laid a firm foundation for making universal health coverage a reality, and it caters for over 83 million poor and vulnerable citizens.
“What is most critical at this time is to ensure diligent implementation of these laws towards accelerating access to their well-intended dividends to the people,” he said.
Molumbo expressed concern that healthcare is financed predominantly by households, who pay for healthcare out of their pockets. With healthcare out-of-pocket expenditure at 70.5 percent of the Current Health Expenditure (CHE) in 2019, General Government Health Expenditure as a percentage of the GDP was 0.6 percent, while Government Expenditure per Capita was $14.6 compared with WHO’s $86 benchmark for UHC.
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He further expressed concern that Nigeria currently bears the highest burdens of several diseases to include tuberculosis and paediatric HIV, while accounting for 50 percent of neglected tropical diseases in Africa.
“Although the prevalence of malaria is declining (from 42 percent to 23 percent), the country contributes 27 percent of global cases and 24 percent of global deaths. NCDs account for 29 percent of all deaths in Nigeria with premature mortality from the 4 main NCDs (Hypertension, Diabetes, Cancers, Malnutrition) accounting for 22 percent of all deaths,” he added.
The WHO representative further pointed out that there was no single pathway to UHC, and all countries must find their own way, in the context of their own social, political and economic circumstances.
“But the foundation everywhere must be a political commitment to building a strong health system, based on primary care, with an emphasis on disease prevention and health promotion. Such health systems do not only provide the best health outcomes; they are also the best defence against outbreaks and other health emergencies. In this sense, UHC and health security are truly two sides of the same coin,” he stressed.
Earlier, ANHEJ president Hassan Zaggi in his welcome address expressed worry over the poor state of Primary Healthcare Facilities in the country.
According to Zaggi, when people living in rural communities get ill, the first and nearest health facility to them is the PHC but unfortunately, most of them cannot access services as they pay from their pockets.
“The annual conferences afford us the opportunity to leave our base and our usual schedules to reflect and take a critical look at current and nagging issues in the health sector.
“As we all know, most Nigerians live in the rural areas and poverty is most endemic among the rural people. This affects their health seeking behaviour because of out-of-pocket expenditure.”
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Business Day, established in 2001, is a daily business newspaper based in Lagos. It is the only Nigerian newspaper with a bureau in Accra, Ghana. It has both daily and Sunday titles. It circulates in Nigeria and Ghana
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