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Tackling The Aftermath Effect Of COVID-19 In The Health Sector

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BY ODIRI UCHENUNU-IBEH 
Many Nigerians, no doubt, are facing unprecedented challenges from COVID-19. The strain on the Nigerian government is extreme, and the impact on Nigerians all over the country continues to grow. The shock from the effects of COVID-19 is some what unusual, as it affects significant elements of both supply and demand.
According to the minister of finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, supply is disrupted due to morbidity and mortality, but also the containment efforts that restrict mobility, the high cost of doing business due to restricted supply chains and the tightening of credit.
Demand, on the other hand, is also falling due to high uncertainty, increased precautionary behavior, containment efforts, and rise in financial cost that reduce the ability to spend. How long the impact would be is still difficult to predict.
The most affected sector, is the health sector. Prior to COVID-19 pandemic, the health system in Nigeria is already in a deplorably moribund state, as the outbreak of the virus in the country further worsen its weak state.
The health system already faces several health challenges such as limited access to intensive care units. There is also a high burden of infectious diseases with emerging viral illnesses such as hemorrhagic fever and Lassa hemorrhagic fever in addition to the “priority infections” HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis, Oyewale Tomori, a professor of virology tells LEADERSHIP.
Though, Nigeria is building intensive care and isolation wards, but in open spaces, football stadia etc, says the Virologist, adding that when COVID-19 is gone, those Isolation wards will be dismantled, while the health system moves from the worse to the worst.
He said the virus which causes COVID-19 disease is an equal opportunity invader, the end of whose tenure Africans do not yet know, as it has come to bulldoze Nigerian health system; render its health services impotent and decimate its health facilities.
“The virus has also shifted our focus from the routine healthcare delivery activities, such as immunization, surveillance, child feeding programme, etc. It is rolling back the gains we made in other areas and when it finally goes, we may have to begin from the scratch to rebuild the system.
“COVID-19 is a rabid destroyer of our fragile health system. However, if we take the opportunity of the lockdown to reflect deeply, COVID-19 may offer us the opportunity to rebuild a resilient health care delivery system, from the ashes of our deplorable garbage health system,” he added.
With the COVID-19 outbreak in Nigeria, Tomori said it is becoming obvious, that the country greatest public health risks and threats are its political leaders, who over the years of unparalleled neglect of the healthcare services, have left Nigerians vulnerable to, and defenseless against, all imaginable diseases.
Now that they cannot run out of the country to seek medical care, the Virologist said political leaders should look inwards and stop under-funding the health sector, so that the end of COVID-19 will not be another lesson forgotten opportunity.
“Our politicians have to redeem their obnoxious and dreadful image by giving the people of the country the healthcare that is affordable, accessible, and equitable,” he added
As they hopefully try to upgrade and repair the damage done to the healthcare systems in the region, Tomori urged them to remember to equitably distribute healthcare facilities all the way from the urban areas to the simple Primary Healthcare Centres at the community level.
While the Federal Government of Nigeria has instituted measures such as increasing access to testing, contact tracing and isolation and implementing social distancing to limit the potentially devastating impact of this deadly virus, collaborative measures need to be in place, to manage the effect of COVID-19 in Nigeria, the vice president of Nigeria, Yemi Osinbajo revealed.
Given the unprecedented nature of this global pandemic, both in its impact and severity, Osinbajo, at a virtual media meeting, organised by the Nigeria Sovereign Investment Authority (NSIA) and Global Citizen, agreed that the pandemic is a challenge that the public sector cannot tackle alone, adding that the virus can only be defeated through carefully coordination and collaborative efforts.
Tackling the aftermath effect of the virus in the country, the vice president said the federal government of Nigeria, the NSIA and Global Citizen, have embarked on a process to set up a new funding vehicle, called the Nigeria Solidarity Support Fund (NSSF).
This stakeholder led-and-resourced mechanism will provide both flexible and rapid response resources to accelerate ongoing efforts to respond to COVID-19 in communities across Nigeria as well as to strengthen health systems in the aftermath of the acute pandemic response, revealed Osinbajo.
The vice president however commended the promoters of the fund, while reassuring Nigerians that the collaborative efforts will yield the results in combating the virus.
I cannot emphasize enough how urgent it is for a fund vehicle like the NSSF to help the Government in funding Covid-19 response efforts and supply of the necessary, protective and treatment equipment and long term strengthening of healthcare systems, says the minister of finance.
Number one priority in terms of fiscal response, according to Ahmed, is ensuring frontline health-related spending to protect people’s wellbeing, to take care of the sick and slow the spread of the virus.
She however said the partnership with NSIA will provide the right vehicle for fund management and disbursement transparency in support of the Government’s Covid-19 response.
Chairman, NSIA, Mr. Jide Zeitlin, said the unprecedented challenge posed by the virus demands that the organisation embrace flexibility as never before on partnership with the right organizations to help mobilize support for the fund as well as building sustainable systems in the communities.
Zeitlin said, “It is important for us as a board and an organization to support collaborations to ensure Nigeria can respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. There will be many lessons to be learned. COVID-19 has shone a light on the pressing need for cross-sectoral partnerships that spark transformative systemic shifts in our health system, our food system and beyond.”
Bringing good governance process and oversight to the fund management practice is of utmost importance to us, says the chairman, while assuring that all necessary processes, procedures, resources and policies are in place within the fund management structure to allow the fund vehicle to carry out its obligations and deliver its intended outcome.
Managing director, NSIA, Mr. Uche Orji, said the NSIA’s mission is to drive sustained economic development for the benefit of all Nigerians, by enhancing the development of Nigeria’s infrastructure, and providing stabilisation support in times of economic stress.
Orji said the COVID- 19 pandemic has placed an unprecedented health, social and economic stress on Nigeria, adding that the organisation is thrilled to partner with Global Citizen in launching the NSSF, as the Fund Manager.
In outlining NSIA’s infrastructure investment strategy, the managing director said NSIA took a long-term approach to intervening in the healthcare sector. “Our goal had been to create model tertiary healthcare facilities designed and equipped to international standards to reduce the foreign exchange burden of medical tourism and develop domestic expertise in tertiary healthcare.
The Solidarity Fund will enable the expansion of primary health care, thereby improving access, building capacity, and enhancing the resilience of the nation’s health delivery, especially in rural and underserved communities, he added.
Chairman of Global Citizen Nigeria, Mr. Tunde Folawiyo, said Nigeria’s recovery from this deadly pandemic requires the commitment of everyone, adding that the NSSF will help to rebuild the country to a more responsive and resilient Nigeria in the aftermath of this disaster.
As Global Citizen embark upon its work in Nigeria, it will mobilize Nigerians, Nigerians in the diaspora, global partners, together with the philanthropic and private sectors in the country’s fight against COVID-19, says the chairman.
“This is why Global Citizen is honored to collaborate with the NSIA to launch a campaign later this month, which will engage each of us as Nigerians to do our part, take action and help mobilize support for this critical effort, and time in our nation,” he added.
Vice Chairman of Global Citizen Nigeria, Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, said the NSSF is being established to provide immediate and long-term support in the fight against COVID-19.
He said the Fund, created by Nigerians for Nigeria, will target four core COVID-19 response, mitigation and recovery areas including supporting the most vulnerable, strengthening the domestic healthcare systems, expanding access to rural and community focused universal healthcare and re-skilling and re-tooling for Nigeria’s Renaissance post COVID-19.
While the COVID 19 pandemic manifests primarily as a global health challenge, Aig-Imoukhuede said it is clear that its impact far exceeds the health sector.
“We believe that to effectively support Nigeria’s response efforts and to emerge from this as a more resilient nation, our efforts must take an integrated, systems approach at the center of which is a mandate to support our most vulnerable communities.
“Our efforts must ensure that we are able to envision and meet the demands that will emerge in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is imperative as the nation adjusts to the realities of a changing economy, transitions to a “new normal” and embraces the Nigeria of the future,” he added.
 

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