A short letter to our presidential candidates


Dear Presidential Candidates,

While you argue about the most banal issues such as zoning arrangements, single or double terms, north and south etc and all the other issues that do not matter to the average Nigerian, and indeed simply insult our intelligence we want to offer you some publicly available data on health that might help you decide on what you really should be thinking about at this time.

You will need to understand what is happening to the health of the people you seek to serve. Dear Sirs, you will need to learn from the mistakes of our former presidents who appropriated all the funds in the health sector to white elephant projects – like that awarded to VAMED by our beloved ex president; Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. Our former president awarded on our behalf, to a single firm; VAMED, a N9.5 billion ($65 million) contract to supply medical equipment to twelve medical centres in the country. Yet, he had barely left office when our subsequent President had a “catarrh”, and was promptly ferried abroad, to Germany again at the expense of the same Nigerians that had paid VAMED! Despite the investments, none none of us Nigerians can point to any of those facilities as a beacon of hope for health care in our country.

So we suggest you let us know your plans to address some of these most basic indices of our development as they relate to the health sector. If you find these difficult to understand please seek out the competence to assist you. They are not insurmountable.

What are you going to do to give Nigerians a chance at a fulfilled life. We currently have a life expectancy at birth of 47 years. Many of us Nigerians might not still be alive between the time this blog is published and the April elections.

What are you going to do about the sad fact that 75 out of every 1000 live deliveries die before they are one. These are not abstract numbers, but the children of  families that you expect to turn out in April to vote for you.

What of our mothers? 500 of our mothers still die in every 100,000 deliveries. In their grief, will they come to vote?

We could go on and on, but it is just too painful. All the official data from the National Demography and Health Survey of 2008 is available for you.

Click here for a report. Read it! Please

And if you thought there was no money for the health sector, think again! You might not have noticed that N131 billion was budgeted for the sector in 2010. But Sirs, to make things easier for you, we have found the data for you from the budget office of our Federal Ministry of Finance for expenditure on health by the Federal Government alone. Again, we implore you to study this. 
See below a simplified table detailing health expenditure between 2008 and 2010. 
Our great country spent only 3.2%  of its national budget on health at the federal level in 2010. Of this, 83% was spent on paying salaries! There is no better indicator of our priorities lie!
Dear Sirs and Madams, our beloved late president said he wanted to make our country one of the 20 largest economies in the world by the year 2020. We are not sure if you buy into his Vision 2020 as it was fondly referred to, or if you want to create your own vision, but we dare to suggest that none of this will be possible if you do not pay more strategic attention to the health sector.
We hope you do start listening to the people. Its not about your ambition, your zone, your right, or even your good luck. Its about our lives. Listen to us. 
May the debates begin!
Not to miss a story on the Nigerian sector – follow us on Twitter!

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead

Chikwe Ihekweazu is an epidemiologist and consultant public health physician. He is the Editor of Nigeria Health Watch, and the Managing Partner of EpiAfric (www.epiafric.com), which provides expertise in public health research and advisory services, health communication and professional development. He previously held leadership roles at the South African National Institute for Communicable Diseases and the UK's Health Protection Agency. Chikwe has undertaken several short term consultancies for the World Health Organisation, mainly in response to major outbreaks. He is a TED Fellow and co-curator of TEDxEuston.

Leave A Reply