Save the Children Calls on FG to improve health care delivery for mothers and children in Nigeria

Wednesday 11 January 2017

By Lawrence Adetokunbo, Advocacy and communications Officer, Lagos

As part of its prevailing efforts at ensuring child survival and development around the world, Save the Children International joined the global community on December 13, 2016 to commemorate the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day in Lagos, Nigeria. Universal Health Coverage Day is celebrated globally on the 12th of December, and has become the annual rallying point for the growing movement for Health for All. UHC day marks the anniversary of the United Nations’ historic and unanimous endorsement of universal health coverage in 2012.

L-R: Ms. Adetokunbo Diane Lawrence, Advocacy Officer, Save the Children International Dr. Opeyemi Odedere, MNCH Adviser, Save the Children International, Barrister Ayo Adebusoye, Co- Chairman of the Lagos State Accountability Mechanism on Maternal and Newborn Health and Chairman of the Lagos Advocacy Working Group (LAWG) and Mr. Babatunde Folorunsho, Advocacy Adviser, at the press briefing

Universal Health Coverage (UHC) means everyone can access quality health services without financial hardship. The UHC day provided an avenue for SCI to join the growing global consensus to announce to the world that UHC is a smart investment and an achievable goal everywhere, to which countries have committed to, through their endorsement of the Sustainable Development Goals (Target 3.8, under Goal 3).

Among the major problems Nigeria must address to eliminate preventable deaths of mothers and children under five (109 per 1000 live births, according to UNICEF State of the World’s Children report, 2016), in its bid to achieve UHC, is the availability and performance of its health workforce.  

The Area Operations Manager, Lagos and Calabar, Roy Chikwem, urged the country to intensify efforts in improving the situation:   “We need to do more to improve health care delivery for mothers and children in the country as the figures reflect high numbers of deaths among under-fives”.

According to the Nigeria DHS, 2013, 62%of deliveries in Nigeria are without a skilled health worker present. This is nearly 15x higher for wealthy women compared to poor and nearly 7x higher in the south compared with the northwest. There is only 2 skilled health worker for every 1000 Nigerian. In Nigeria, poor health outcomes for newborn babies and under-5 children are due largely to the poor supply and quality of health services delivered, as a result of limited human resources, a lack of lifesaving commodities and equipment, and inadequate infrastructure.

In keeping with, Save the Children’s health advocacy  thrusts in Nigeria an around the world, particularly, the cutting-edge of the Every Woman Every Child (EWEC) global campaign, the UHC day commemoration served as an opportunity to share the urgency of these priorities with members of the public. It was an avenue to put a spotlight on SCI’s call for increased national commitment to, and investment in, UHC, by building universal, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health services (RMNCAH) at the primary health care level as the first priority and prioritizing the poorest and most marginalized groups. The event was marked with a press briefing that featured reporters and editors from both traditional and new media practices. Civil Society Organisation (CSO) partners were also present to tackle the conversation. 

Through the GSK funded Health Workers’ Capacity Building (HCB) project, within the next three years SCI will continue to improve access to lifesaving, quality healthcare by directly building the capacity of 5,000 frontline health workers. HCB also aims to Influence policy change to improve the delivery of quality health services to mothers, newborn babies and children under the age of five in three selected states – Lagos, Gombe and Kaduna. According to Dr. Opeyemi Odedere, MNCH Adviser, the objectives of HCB is to “ensure that health workers are correctly applying improved skills and knowledge in the provision of MNCH services and also to enable a policy environment which supports the delivery of quality MNCH services in the three states by 2018”.

Save the Children leveraged the press briefing to call for increased national commitment and investment towards UHC, by building RMNCAH services at primary health care level as a first priority and prioritising access for the poorest and most marginalised and excluded groups.  SCI’s core message to governments, donors, development partners and all stakeholders is to: guarantee an essential package of RMNCAH services as the first priority for UHC; free at the point of use and accessible to all; establish time-bound equity targets for accelerated progress among the poorest and most marginalised and excluded people, so no one is left behind; increase public spending on healthcare to at least recommended minimum levels; improve quality and promote respectful and dignified care in health facilities; and fully implement the National Health Act.”

UHC Key Messages to the World

1.             UHC is key to ensuring that everyone has access to essential healthcare. Without a commitment to UHC the poorest and most disadvantaged populations will continue to be left behind.

2.             UHC is key to ensuring that essential health services – across the full continuum of care for women, children and adolescents – needed by every family and community are available to all without deterring people by out-of-pocket payments.

3.             Countries must strive to achieve UHC and must prioritise these services. Doing so will require political leadership, commitment and investment

4.             Governments must demonstrate political and financial commitment to UHC, and must increase public spending on healthcare by moving away from relying on private and out of pocket expenditure towards mandatory, pre-paid and pooled funding mechanisms for health.

5.             Governments should increase public spending on healthcare to at least 5% of GDP and reach the recommended minimum of $86 per capita of domestic financing for health

6.             Governments must guarantee an essential package of sexual, reproductive, maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health services in efforts to achieve UHC, free at the point of use and accessible to all sections of the population.

Participants comprising Nigerian Media and CSOs from Lagos state with SCI Staff