Nigeria people’s manifesto: Health

Posted on Thursday, 14 April 2011 16:08

As election season continues in Nigeria, we canvassed Nigerians from across the country for their top priorities. They want their children to protected and their clinics properly funded.

Nigeria will fund primary health-care centres properly, make nutrition a priority and fight malaria.

The health statistics in Nigeria make chilling reading. ­Malaria scythes its way through the population, hitting the most vulnerable hardest. UNICEF says it kills 250,000 children under the age of five each year, a scandal in a country where foreign-exchange reserves topped $60bn in 2008. Mortality levels are among the highest in the world, with life expectancy at 48 years. Preventable diseases find easy victims in Nigeria – and rapid urbanisation is creating fresh problems.

A key demand of all Nigerians is that the corruption and waste in Nigeria needs to be stopped and the national cake shared more equitably, because at a fundamental level, the poorer you are, the more vulnerable you are to infection. “The poverty among these people has to be seen to be believed,” says retired Major General Mohammed Garba, an Action Congress of Nigeria senatorial candidate in Niger State. “In these villages, there are no roads, no clean water, their wards are taught under trees and there aren’t even the most rudimentary health facilities.”?

As incomes slowly rise, Nigerians are spending more on health care, according to Nigeria’s new consumer price index. In the absence of functioning primary health-care clinics, hapless individuals fall prey to quack professionals posing as doctors or auxiliary nurses. Ikenna Mbonu, a pharmacist, warns that counterfeit medicines still flood Nigeria.

A foundation for improving health is better nutrition. “It has been consistently argued that when an individual is employed and earns a decent remuneration, he will not only feed himself but will also feed his family – a situation whose positive spiral effects are in the country’s long-term development interests,” says Lagos activist Yemisi Ransome-Kuti.

Chairman of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria Shima Gyoh says political and governance problems are blocking improvements. “Unless Nigeria greatly strengthens its local government, health care should become the responsibility of state or federal government. If this is not done urgently, the implementation of primary health care will remain deplorable. Lack of understanding of primary health care has caused much damage: it is regarded as an inferior service you adopt when you cannot afford a better one. It is being choked to death.”

Read more from the people’s manifesto on Jobs, Security, Power & water, Land, Reform and Education

This article was first published in the April 2011 edition of The Africa Report.

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