Nigeria, like many other Low-and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs,) has made Universal Health Coverage (UHC) its primary policy goal, as stated in the 2016 National Health Policy statement.
However, there is a very slow pace of deliberate actions both at the National and Sub-national levels towards attaining UHC with very low coverage of quality, equitable, accessible, and affordable healthcare services.
Considering the foregoing, the 2021 Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Summit, organized by the UHC Forum 2023 in partnership with the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Chatham House of the UK, and several development partners brought together several political leaders and other important stakeholders including traditional rulers for the purpose of deliberating on how to put health and health security on the political front burner towards the 2023 general elections.
Distinguished personalities were present at the event including the former Senate President of Nigeria, Senator (Dr) ‘Bukola Saraki; the Senate Committee Chairman on Health, Senator (Dr) Ibrahim Oloriegbe; the Deputy Governor of Nasarawa State, Dr. Emmanuel Agbadu Akabe, the Emir of Shonga, HRH Dr. Haliru Yahaya; the Executive Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Prof. Nasir Sambo; the Country of PharmAccess Foundation, Mrs Njide Ndili, and other stakeholders.
Given her welcome address, the Chair of UHC 2023 Forum, Chief (Mrs) Moji Makanjuola spoke on the importance of reaching the grassroot with primary healthcare through effective communication, especially using local languages to gain and sustain trust at the community level to key-in into health programs such as health insurance schemes. “In our messaging and interaction, we must start looking at the people at the grassroot level and we must try to get them to buy-in the things that will improve healthcare delivery. A lot of misunderstanding happens when we do not carry people along. We should start thinking of using our local languages to communicate our message. We have seen a success story in India’s health system over the past few years because they were able to communicate with people in their local dialects,” said Chief (Mrs) Makanjuola.
Speaking at the event, the President of the 8th Senate, Senator (Dr) ‘Bukola Saraki said Nigerian leaders at the national and subnational levels need to take healthcare delivery for all its citizens more seriously if we must achieve UHC. He said: “As a medical doctor, this is a topic that is close to my heart. It is a topic that I believe that we all need to get on board to ensure that more Nigerians have access to healthcare coverage”. He also stated that, “to achieve development, the Nigerian population must be healthy. If we can get healthcare coverage right as a nation, we will be doing a lot for our citizens. However, the people that truly matter, the political leaders and decision-makers at the national and sub-national levels should be the ones at summits like this one to discuss what their manifestos and plans in the healthcare sector are for the Nigerian people.”
In a panel discussion on “articulating a health agenda and obtaining commitments for enhanced prioritization of health in Nigeria”, which was moderated by the Country Director of PharmAccess Foundation, Mrs Njide Ndili, questions were posed at the representatives of the Governors of Delta, Kaduna, Osun, Nasarawa and Ekiti on issues around how they would prioritize improving more funding for health, especially through insurance.
Ndili during the panel discussion spoke about the importance of good leadership and political will in building a strong healthcare system for UHC. She said: “The amount of funding coming in from developmental partners and donors is shrinking therefore the expectation is local resource mobilization with fund commitment from the government. Our political class needs to take ownership and take responsibility for the healthcare sector. When we take ownership and build a clear strategic accountability process, then donor funding will follow to support. Our political class must be very deliberate about developing strategies and implementation because it takes careful planning and serious commitment to achieve UHC.
Contributing on the panel, the DG of Delta State Contributary Health Commission (DSCHC), Dr. Ben Nkechika spoke on how the strong political will of the state government had helped in enrolling over 1million Deltans in the state health insurance scheme. In his contribution, the Emir of Shonga in Kwara State, HRH (Dr.) Haliru Yahaya, spoke on the relevance of traditional leadership as a useful mediation between the grassroot and the political class, in helping to communicate the message of both sides to each other.
The Universal Health Coverage Summit is a multi-sectoral workshop organized by UHC 2023 Forum conducted at the federal level, bringing together the representatives of major political parties, the media, policy advocates and development partners and other relevant stakeholders in the health sector to forge a consensus and form a coalition towards a narrative-changing course of action geared towards setting Nigeria on the trajectory of UHC. A communique of action was developed, presented, and adopted at the event of the summit for appropriate implementation.