UNDP report on Nigeria – startling findings


Despite the rhetoric about apparent growth in some sectors of the Nigerian economy ours remains one of the most unequal countries in the world. But what does this have to do with health? 

The effect of inequity and health is one of the most explored questions in public health in the UK. Explored in detail in the “Black Report” it remains the cornerstone of every public health physician’s training and a stark reminder that the health of a people is very mostly dependent on determinants outside the sphere of influence of health professionals. One’s health depends on access to a means of livelihood, access to education, transport, clean water etc. More recently in a a major new report led by Professor Sir Michael Marmot, for the World Health Organisation (WHO), he cites findings life expectancy at birth for men in Hampstead, north London, is, on average, around 11 years longer than life expectancy for men in St Pancras, just five stops down the Northern line. The research also shows that a girl in Lesotho is, on average, likely to live 42 years less than a girl in Japan. This points to the gradient in health;  the lower you in access to the basic needs to survive, the poorer your health.

The bottomline for our country is that it does not really matter how much money MTN, Shell, or Zenith Bank inject into the Nigeria’s GDP, if this is not translated into roads, water, and schools….people will continue to die of causes no one else is dieing from….and most importantly, your chances of suffering or dieing is not equally distributed across the country but linked to one’s access to these services. In Nigeria this means that your health depends directly on your wealth – since we have to dig our own boreholes, generate our one electricity and pay-as-you-go for our health care.

Therefore the statement in Nigeria’s latest Human Development Report, released in December 2009 and published for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Nigeria is not an abstract academic one!

The poverty problem in the country is partly a feature of high inequality which manifests in highly unequal income distribution and differential access to basic infrastructure, education, training and job opportunities.” – UNDP Human Development Report, 2008-2009

It is titled: Nigeria 2008 – 2009; Achieving growth with equity

Find the full report here.


This edition of the Nigerian Human Development Report focuses on achieving growth with equity. In its simplest form, this concept refers to growth which enables the largest number of people, especially those less advantaged and poor, to participate in wealth creation and benefit proportionately more from the increased availability of public and private resources. In other words, growth with equity aims for a society which is fairer in the distribution of opportunities and rewards. This approach contrasts sharply with “orthodox” growth strategies which are focused principally on increasing the quantum of wealth in a country and the average level of income of the population. They are less concerned with whether or not the poor gain relatively more (or less) from this increased wealth and whether the gap between the rich and poor either widens or narrows as a result of the “orthodox” growth path.

Growth with equity, therefore, holds out the promise of a faster reduction in poverty and inequality, enabling more of the poor to gain access to productive and stable jobs, improved health and literacy, higher incomes and increased opportunities to engage actively in the life of their communities. As a result, growth with equity helps a society and country to progress from merely raising incomes to achieving a higher level of human development.

Guided by these perspectives, the Report makes three essential points:

  1. that the development debate in Nigeria over the past few years seems to have focused too narrowly on growth for its own sake rather than as a means to improved human development…
  2. that this narrow focus is likely to reduce the prospects of achieving the 7-Point Agenda and the National Vision 20:2020 because it will fail to tap the potential of countless millions of Nigerians who are poor today but can be
    highly productive in the future with the right combination of public and private policies and investments; 
  3. that the most effective development strategy for the future is one anchored on growth with equity. The Report marshals the evidence and provides the analysis to make this central case to Nigeria’s policy-makers, opinion-leaders and general public

Thanks to Malaria Matters for this link! Excellent blog on all matters malaria.


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.

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