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Strengthening Health Security Cannot Be Achieved Without Universal Health Coverage and Effective Primary Health Care – Medical Experts Advocates

…Multiple Stakeholders gathered to discuss Nigeria’s health security

To strengthen health security and a decentralized health system in Nigeria with regards to epidemic preparedness, the Federal Government of Nigeria has been encouraged to not only pay keen attention to strengthening human resources for health security but also set data and accountability structure at the national and sub-national levels. 

Leading the charge at a health security policy dialogue organized by the Nigeria Health Watch in Abuja recently, Peter Hawkins, country representative, UNICEF, spoke passionately about Nigeria’s response to COVID-19 and its preparedness for possible future epidemics. He said: “We can affirm that Nigeria did a remarkable job to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) for instance stretched and brought on its a-game despite the challenges in the sector. Also, many initiatives like the Coalition Against COVID-19 (CACOVID) were timely interventions by the Federal Government and private institutions.

He also added that whilst we got several things right, much more could have been done. Knowing that the pandemic is not over, and we might be at the beginning of many other, there is a need to tighten efficiency within the sector. One of the key areas to focus on is sealing the big black hole in managing human resources as Nigeria is losing its key health personnel to other nations”.

The policy dialogue, themed “Decentralising Health Security, Lessons from COVID-19 featured two panel sessions joined by a plethora of leading voices in the health sector. It dissected issues around Nigeria’s current response structures to epidemics as well as the role of private sectors in strengthening the health security structures at the national and sub-national levels. 

Speaking specifically about strengthening Nigeria’s health security and the sub-national level structure with regards to pandemic preparedness, Dr. Patrick Nguku, Country Director, AFENET, said “We cannot achieve health security across the national and subnational levels if we do not achieve a universal health coverage (UCH) and have a robust primary health care.

Also speaking on the same topic, Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, Director General, NCDC advocated for multi-level collaboration amongst key stakeholders within the states and specific bodies. He said, “part of our Key focus at NCDC is to give keen attention to sub-national support activities. We have seen how collaborations with key bodies like the Red cross have spurred improvements in the sector, especially at the local levels. We will continue to drive initiatives to ensure Nigerian health security is strengthened”

Addressing how public-private partnerships can be strengthened, Dr. Aliu Isreal, National Laboratory Manager, Clina-Lancet Laboratories said “We cannot over emphasis the role of public and private partnership. For players like us in the private sector, solving customers’ challenges sits at the heart of what we do. And as we continue to place priority on meeting the customers’ needs, we are propelled to improve our system or mode of operation. This by extension improves the health sector”. 

The forum had in attendance many leading voices in the health sector including Dr. Ngozi Azodoh, Director Health Planning, Research and Statistics; Dr. Olaolu Aderinola, Head Response Division Department of Health Emergency, Preparedness; Dr. Ifeanyi Nsofor, Senior New Voices Fellow, Aspen Institute Washington DC; Dr. Patrick Nguku, Country Director, AFENET; Dr. Njide Ndili, Country Director, PharmAccess Foundation; Dr. Festus Soyinka, Director, Public Health Ogun State Ministry of Health; Dr. Alex Okoh; Director Public health, FMOH; Dr. Yahaya Disu, Director, Risk Communication NCDC; Niniola Williams, Managing Director, DRASA Health Trust; Dr. Anne Adah-Ogoh, Head of Policy, private and sector health alliance of Nigeria; Dr. Omokhudu Idogho, Managing Director, Society for Family Health; Dr. Emmanuel Agogo, Country Director, Resolve to Save Lives. 

Over the years, Nigeria Health Watch led by Vivianne Ihekweazu has continued to champion policy dialogues that bring together stakeholders from the public sector, civil society, and the private sector to present issues that affect the public health of Nigerians, discuss potential solutions and opportunities for progress, and chart actionable recommendations for policy action.

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About Nigeria Health Watch

Nigeria Health Watch uses informed advocacy and communication to influence health policy and seek better health and access to healthcare in Nigeria. We seek to amplify some of the great work happening in the health sector, challenge the bad, and create a space for positive ideas and action. Through its various platforms, Nigeria Health Watch provides informed commentary and in-depth analysis of health issues in Nigeria, always in good conscience.

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