Mr Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), says the COVID-19 pandemic is still around as shown in Nigeria and other countries across the globe and the pattern it will take is hard to predict.
Mustapha, who is also the Chairman, Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) on COVID-19, said this when he gave a keynote address on “Safeguarding Nigeria against the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Journey So Far’’ at a two-day Primary Health Care Summit on Friday in Abuja.
It was reported that the PHC summit, organised by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has “Re-Imagining PHC in Nigeria’’ as its theme.
It aims to galvanise stakeholders to invest and collaboratively implement a PHC revitalisation strategy for the country.
The summit is also geared toward launching a historic programme to transform the under-resourced, weak PHC system by leveraging private sector, international agencies and government collaboration.
The SGF, who cautioned Nigerians against letting their guard down, added that sustained observance of the COVID-19 protocols would enable the country to conquer the variants.
He added that there had been good progress on the country’s vaccination campaign rate.
He said “while we continue to embrace and implement globally adopted prevention strategies, we advise that you continue to observe the protocols for prevention of the spread of COVID-19, namely hand washing, social distancing, wearing of nose mask (especially in public), among others.
Mustapha added that amidst the global shortage of the COVID–19 vaccines, the vaccination drive in the country progressed in different phases, expanding the eligible target population to include all adults aged 18 years and above.
He said “till this day, Nigeria recorded 255,092 confirmed cases of COVID-19 infection and 3,142 deaths. When compared with global figures, Nigeria has been able to curtail the spread and detrimental effect of this deadly virus in spite of overarching challenge of a weakened health system.
“Over 67.9 million doses of four types of COVID-19 vaccines (AstraZeneca, Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson) were received through support of the COVAX facility and governments of other countries and we are expecting close to 47 million doses by the end of 2022.
“Similarly, we have reached over 10 million Nigerians with both first and second doses of the vaccines.’’
The SGF, who said that the virus came with challenges but had given the country ample opportunity to invest in its health infrastructure, added that Electronic Management of Immunisation Data (EMID) system had strengthened the country’s ability to collect and manage real-time information on COVID-19 vaccination coverage.
The system, he added, enabled the country to monitor and take informed decisions on COVID-19 vaccination rate, noting that “the vaccination card that is linked to the EMID system made it easier for Nigerians to resume international travels, reduce travel restrictions and measures such as quarantine and COVID-19 testing upon arrival and at departure.
“You will agree with me that these digital innovations significantly supported COVID-19 case detection, response, control and management in Nigeria.’’
Sen. Ibrahim Oloriegbe, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, said Nigeria must address the issue of human resources to get its healthcare right.
He said that “with what we have, we are not achieving much in healthcare; we must rethink our systems and it starts by removing every bottleneck that hinders effectiveness.
“I have suggested through the legislation that we create special capitalisation of remuneration for health workers just like we have for other sectors that provide essential services in the country.’’
The chairman told stakeholders at the summit that “as we talk about health, we must bear in mind that health does not work in isolation.
“We must consider other social determinants of health such as education, WASH, and electricity to ensure effective healthcare system in the country.’’
The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said that the country’s goal is to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and it begins with the transformation of PHCs.
He said “the Federal Government is looking at what works for Nigerians of all ages, wealth and backgrounds. To prevent leakages, we must jointly implement health funding at the federal, state and local levels.
“We must commit to healthcare systems that satisfy the needs of individuals in communities while also being affordable. The subnational level should shift its focus to investing in PHC.’’
The minister added that the underperformance of the health sector in the country was not equal to under investment, “but the PHC Summit aims to address this imbalance and chat the course for more public and private sector collaborations.
“Government wants to ensure health services that meet the needs of Nigerians as close as possible to where they live at affordable cost throughout their lives.
“We have brought partners, friends and leaders of thought and government here today to declare that it is time for action in transforming PHCs by engaging communities in health-related social and behavioural change communication in diverse subjects.
“We engage in public, family and personal health and hygiene, nutrition, reproductive, maternal and child health, immunisation and much more.’’
He said that as stakeholders, there was the need to develop an appetite for change, “a change that directs attention and investment over the next few years to where the current greatest need and gaps are in the health sector of the country.
“This will be at the grassroots level.’’
Ehanire, therefore, called for stimulating conversations and commitments toward adopting projects that would transform the country’s PHCs to new specifications and pledges to support schools of nursing or health technology for manpower buildup.
Recall that one of the highlights of the two days 2022 PHC Summit was that government, partners and committed Nigerians signed a pact to re-invest in Primary Health Care through the Re-imagining PHC initiative.
The summit brought together national leaders, top government officials and leading private sector executives to present ambitious and attainable plans that will lead to tangible and large-scale changes to Nigeria’s PHC system by the year 2030.