Nigeria’s collapsing health infrastructure
Nigeria likes to boast of its status as Africa’s biggest economy, but its health statistics indicate the country is not only far behind its peers and other smaller countries in Africa, but it shows, in a classic way, the callousness of its politicians and government officials who go abroad to treat even common ailments while abandoning the people they govern to die in decrepit hospitals that now serve more as morgues than places for accessing healthcare.
A 2014 World Health Organisation (WHO) report on healthcare delivery, which surveyed 200 countries, placed Nigeria at an abysmal 197th position, just ahead of Congo Democratic Republic, Central African Republic (CAR) and Myanmar. Its verdict was damning: “Nigeria lacks a serious approach to healthcare.”
In 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari promised to end the practice of spending the government’s hard-earned cash on treating officials overseas, especially when Nigeria had the expertise. But three months later, the president himself flew to the United Kingdom to treat a common ear infection, an action the then president of the NMA described as a “national shame” considering that Nigeria had more than 250 ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialists, as well as a national ear centre. Well, the president has continued to frequent UK hospitals and last year, spent more time in the UK than in Nigeria, treating an undisclosed ailment.
Even the President’s wife and daughter have complained about the quality of healthcare available to them at the presidential villa. While the president’s daughter raised alarm that the Aso Rock Clinic, which is supposed to cater for the immediate health needs of the first family, ministers and presidential aides, Mrs Buhari said she was advised by her aides not to bother using the facility but go abroad for treatment if she feels unwell.
If the health facility at the seat of power in the country is that decrepit, what would one expect in other parts of the country? In February, Nigeria was ranked 187 out of 191 countries in the world in assessing the level of compliance with the Universal Health Coverage (UHC), as very few of the populace is health insured, whereas even government provision for health is almost negligible.
Available figures show that Nigeria’s budgetary allocation to the health sector in 2018 was a mere N340.45 billion (less than $1 billion), representing only 3.9 percent of the budget. On a per capita basis, N1,800 ($5) is what the 2018 budget provides for the health of each of Nigeria’s 190 million citizens. This is completely dwarfed by South Africa which proposed a health budget of R205.446 billion ($17.1 billion) in 2018, represents $299 per head when compared to its population of 57million. Yet, Nigeria supposedly holds the title of the continent’s largest economy.
According to the World Health Organisation, Maternal mortality rate in Nigeria is 814, per 100,000 live births only outperforming Chad with 856, Central African Republic; 882, and Sierra Leone; 1360. War torn countries like Somalia and Democratic Republic of Congo even outperformed Nigeria.
Also, while Botswana and Mauritius have the proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel as 100 percent, Nigeria is again down the pyramid with 35 percent, competing with countries like Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Chad.
The statistics get worse, for every 1000 births in Nigeria, 108 infants (and children) die before the age of five, and again, the country sits comfortably close to the bottom of the ladder in Africa.
Data from WHO world health statistics 2017 further shows that over 72 million Nigerians are at risk of malaria, with 380.8 at risk out of every 1000 Nigerians, whereas, malaria has ceased to be a health concern for many other countries. Yet, Africa’s largest economy shares the three bottom slots on the continent with Burkina Faso and Mali.
The figures for cancer are even more mind-boggling. Nigeria has a cancer death ration of 4 in 5, one of the worst in the world. According to the WHO, over 100, 000 people are diagnosed with cancer annually in Nigeria, and about 80, 000 die from the disease, amounting to 240 daily. Furthermore, cervical cancer, which is virtually 100 percent preventable, kills one Nigerian woman every hour while breast cancer kills 40 Nigerian women daily.
What is more, due to the terrible working conditions, Nigerian doctors have been deserting the country in droves in search for better working conditions in other countries. According to the Nigerian Medical Association, more than 40, 000 out of the 75,000 registered Nigerian doctors were practicing abroad while over 70 percent of those in the country were thinking of picking jobs outside. BusinessDay research shows that an average of 12 Nigerian trained doctors register for practice in the UK every week.
While experts are calling for better working conditions and greater investments in medical training, the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, is on record saying Nigeria doesn’t have shortage of doctors and that it can’t even train all its doctors, advising some to take to tailoring, business and politics.
With such standoffish and inconsiderate posture, we do not need a soothsayer to tell us that Nigeria’s health statistics will continue to deteriorate while the government busies itself with the manufacture of alternative facts to look good before its teeming supporters.
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