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World Bank ranks Nigeria health coverage low

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By Abiodun Okunloye

Exorbitant healthcare expenses have driven many Nigerians into poverty.

Nigeria has been placed at the bottom of the list in terms of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Africa, with a score of 44 in a recent report by The World Bank on health expenditure. The report highlighted that more than one million Nigerians are driven into Poverty due to the exorbitant costs associated with healthcare. Nigeria’s ranking in UHC in Africa is alarmingly low, according to the findings of the report, even though the country has made some progress in its Universal Health Coverage index in recent times.

However, it continues to be one of the lowest-ranking countries in the region. Access to basic health services is still quite restricted, and a large portion of health costs are covered by direct payments from individuals, making it clear that the country’s health outcomes are concerning. Nigeria’s health statistics are not improving at the same rate as other African countries, despite some advancements in recent times. It has seen a slower improvement in life expectancy compared to its neighbouring countries in Africa.

About 77% of healthcare expenses are by individuals.

The report recognized that there has been some advancement in the country, but it pointed out that Nigeria still lags behind others in providing sufficient health care services. All this indicates a shortfall in the accessibility of necessary medical services. The government’s healthcare budget only amounts to 0.5% of the country’s GDP, placing it at the bottom of the list worldwide. About 77% of healthcare expenses in Nigeria are paid out-of-pocket by individuals, highlighting a heavy reliance on private payments for medical services.

Relying heavily on such payment options can have numerous negative consequences, with one of the most notable being the strain it puts on the finances of families. Every year, many people incur high expenses associated with health issues. Many are forced to skip essential medical treatments because they cannot afford the cost. Even for those who do not become impoverished, a significant amount still struggle with overwhelming healthcare costs, with around a quarter of Nigerians facing financial burdens.

Many of the initiatives have not been able to achieve their goals.

In the country, most of the limited public funds for healthcare are focused on secondary and tertiary care facilities. A large part of the budget is used for curative services at these hospitals, neglecting the importance of prevention, public health, and primary healthcare. These areas are not only cost-effective but also play a crucial role in improving health outcomes. The longstanding health coverage problems in Nigeria can be traced back to a lack of Investment in the sector throughout history.

Over the years, Nigeria has seen the government introduce various programs to improve healthcare services. One key initiative was the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), launched in 2005, with the goal of making healthcare more accessible and affordable for the entire Nigerian population. However, the NHIS has encountered obstacles in achieving its objectives, such as low enrollment numbers, administrative issues, and restricted coverage. Also, the Primary Health Care Under One Roof (PHCUOR) policy has frequently faced setbacks caused by insufficient funding and ineffective implementation.

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In order to tackle these persistent problems, it is imperative for the Nigerian government to give precedence to reform. This involves boosting funding, refining the organization and allocation of current resources, and promoting openness and responsibility within the industry. Emphasizing primary care is especially vital as it lays the groundwork for a robust health Infrastructure and has the potential to avert numerous complications from deteriorating into critical illnesses. Moreover, utilizing technological advancements to enhance the delivery of services and allocating resources towards educating the public on preventative care can greatly contribute to enhancing outcomes in Nigeria.


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