With Nigeria recording 12.4 deaths per 1,000 population and third highest infant mortality in the world, presidential candidates in the 2019 election must tell Nigerians their plans on the deteriorating health sector.
Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s president and candidate of the All Progressives Congress will be challenged by Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party. The ranks are swelling, with the likes of ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ campaigner Obiageli Ezekwesili; former CBN deputy governor, Kingsley Moghalu; and former Cross River State governor Donald Duke, among others, fighting for spaces.
But these candidates are confronted with a broken health system that forces the rich to spend $1 billion annually while seeking medical treatment abroad.
The 2017 was marred by outbreaks of diseases such Lassa fever, which occurred in 718 cases wherein 68 persons died. Between January and July 2018, there have been 115 deaths in confirmed cases and 10 in probable cases. Cerebrospinal meningitis was suspected in 14,518 cases, across 181 local government councils, with 1,166 people reported death. Other outbreaks of include monkey pox and cholera. Cancer is responsible for the deaths of 72,000 Nigerians yearly, according to Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA)’s 2019 research.
“Budgetary allocation to health is abysmally low and even the government themselves are aware about this,” Remi Ajekigbe, Cancer Specialist and HOD Radiotherapist and Oncologist at Lagos Teaching University (LUTH), said.
Nigeria has allocated only 2.9 percent of its total budget on health in the last three years, as against South Africa’s 13 to 15 percent over the same period, according to BusinessDay calculations.
South Africa proposed a health budget of R205.446 billion ($17.1 billion) in 2018, representing $299 per head when compared to its population of 57million. Nigeria, on the other hand, home to some 198 million inhabitants, the highest in the African continent, has a health budget of N340 billion ($946 million), amounting to $5 per person, according to BusinessDay calculations.
Data compiled by BusinessDay shows that the South Africa, for four consecutive years, spent 15 times on health more than Nigeria.
While South Africa spent $46 billion on health between 2014 and 2017, Nigeria has only managed $3 billion within the period, despite the former still boasting of being the giant of Africa.
“Corruption depletes the budgetary estimate that has been made,” said Olaniyi Olatunde, a doctor at Araba specialist hospital.
Statistical data polled across several African countries shows that in 2016, Rwanda allocated 18 per cent of its national budget to health, while Botswana and Malawi devoted 17.8 per cent and 17.1 per cent respectively.
Zambia’s was 16.4 per cent, while Burkina Faso was 15per cent. Nigeria which hosted the ‘2001 Abuja Declaration’, where it pledged alongside other member states of the African Union to commit at least 15per cent of their national budget to health, is still at 4.3 per cent, with no trajectory towards achieving the 15 per cent target.
More so, response to disease outbreaks has been poor, with many dying during outbreaks.
Nigeria has only seven radiotherapy machines (for the treatment of cancer), five of which are faulty, health experts say
Doyin Odubanjo, chairman, Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria, Lagos Chapter, said disease outbreaks cannot be predicted but get worse when a country fails to address prevention issues squarely.
Similarly, the pharma sector is struggling with major players unable to sustain production pre-2015 years. Already Swiss Pharma has been bought by an investor after experiencing early struggles, while Evans Medicals has gone under. Incidentally, these two drug makers got the WHO prequalification, which ordinarily should raise the level of their competitiveness. The pharma industry depends on import for over 50 percent of their raw materials while patronage remains a major hurdle to cross. Capacity utilisation is less than 40 percent, say players in the industry.
A chief executive of a pharmaceutical industry told BusinessDay that the industry is struggling and some firms may go under except there are policies to protect existing investors that have pumped N400 billion so far in the industry.
Tags: health sector