By Sola Ogundipe & Chioma Obinna
One of the major advancesÂ the Nigerian health sector has witnessed recent times,Â is the enactment of the National Health Bill as well as repositioning of Primary Health Care as vehicle for health care delivery in the country.
Although the Bill is awaitingÂ accent by President Umar Yarâ€™Adua, itÂ has been passed and harmonised by the chambers of the National Assembly. Federal Ministry of Health sources told Good Health WeeklyÂ that when this Bill comes into being, it will ensure that 2 per cent of the national consolidated budget allocated to health isÂ shared between primary health care and the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).
As part of effort towardsÂ reinforcing Federal government attention to reposition primary health care as major vehicle for health care delivery in the country,Â roles and responsibilities of all tiers ofÂ government are being harmonised. Towards this end the Federal Ministry of Health isÂ engaging the Governorsâ€™ Forum to underscore coordination of health within the political system should be with the states.
Closely allied to thisÂ is the repositioning of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and the encouragement for states to establish corresponding agencies or boards to ensure that there is some traction and enable resources reach down to the people and improve access to health.
Evolution of the National Health Strategic Plan is another important activity being witnessed by theÂ health industry.Â It is being put togetherÂ through a bottoms-up approach involving the 36 States making their own plans and integrating with the Federal planÂ to evolveÂ into the National plan.
Federal Ministry of Health sources noted that in the two months the Strategic Plan will be launched, it will form the basis for planning, budgeting and coordination of the nationâ€™sÂ international development partners which will ensure a policy for optimal utilisation of resources.
But by far the most important advancement are the current efforts to increase child survival through programmes aimed at enhancingÂ public education about preventable diseases that affect children particularly those that are vaccine preventable. Good Health Weekly gathered that the drive to increase the uptake of immunisation has continued through innovative actions such as involvement ofÂ Emirs and Community leaders in the North.
The move led by the Sultan of SokotoÂ has yeilded dividend, leading to local and international acknowledgement of the nationâ€™s polio eradication efforts. For instance, at the last ERC meeting, Nigeria was commended for advances made polio eradication.
The countryâ€™s approval to include inÂ its immunisation portfolio vaccines for pneumonia and rotavirus which causes diarrhoeal diseases in children is also significant. According to sources from the apex health ministry, this will enableÂ improvement of chances of child survival and reduce infant mortality.
Closely allied to this is the employment and posting of over 2,000 midwives to theÂ rural areas to increaseÂ deliveries by skilled attendants and thereby reduce maternal mortality. This is in addition to establishment of the national blood transfusion services for a coordinated effort between Federal and State governments to provideÂ safe blood to those who need it.
Meanwhile, the NHIS platform continues to grow with intervention focused on the community insurance scheme which provides free services to pregnant women and children below five. The effortÂ is currently on in 12 States but ultimately the entire country is to be covered.
With one of the largestÂ comprehensive malaria control programmes in the world, Nigeria is committed to distribution of two insecticide treated nets per household and ACTs, prophylaxis for pregnant womenÂ and indoor residual spraying and introduction of larvicides to reduceÂ mosquito population are interventions expectedÂ to reduceÂ morbidity and mortality of malaria by half by the end of 2010.
To date, 14 Teaching Hospitals and seven specialty hospitals have been upgraded.Â The processÂ is continuous and next in line are the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital (ABUTH); the University College Hospital (UCH); the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH) and the National Hospital, Abuja.