December 27, 2019

Nigeria’s Health Sector: Where Is It Going?

Brain Drain

Good health is wealth—that is why it comes at a price. According to PolicyAdvice, close to $670.1 billion is spent on health insurance alone. Also, the citizens’ well-being determines the rate at which a country will advance both politically and economically. Without healthy citizens, who make up the labor force, the cycle of production and distribution in a country is disrupted. That explains why the economy of a country experiencing an epidemic outbreak suffers.

Developed countries with a robust economy are known for making public health care available to their citizens. That has helped them cater to their citizens’ well-being effectively. It has also made it easy for them to monitor and control the epidemic outbreaks in their country. 

Taking a closer look at Nigeria’s health sector, it is easy to notice that it has experienced a lot of setbacks over time, such as the lack of modern health centers, advanced medical equipment, and shortage of skilled personnel.

Even though the Nigerian government has supported various health initiatives, not much has improved over time. Also, most initiatives are aimed at improving the health sector at the federal level, thereby leaving the state and local levels behind.  

The Nigerian health sector has been struggling since the 1960s. Many factors are responsible for the state of the country’s health system. Here are some of them. 

The Role of Leadership 

Leaders play a vital role in how well a country’s health system can improve. A country’s health system relies on the government funds. How well a leader supports and contributes to the health system will determine how fast that system will advance. 

Nigeria’s health system has a shockingly low level of support from its leaders. Its health sector is underfunded and receives a meager percentage of the government budget. Government-owned institutions contribute only 30% to the health services in Nigeria. Private institutions provide the other 70%.

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Nigerian health professionals are forced to work with the resources they have. Most of their equipment is outdated, while health facilities are in poor condition. As a result, Nigerian citizens have lost trust in their health system. Most of the upper-middle class that can afford treatment overseas opt for it. Most Nigerians go to India and South Africa as medical tourists. According to the High Commission of India, at least 18,000 Nigerians visited India for medical treatments in 2012 alone. 

It comes as no surprise that families go bankrupt after paying their medical bills.

Poor Primary Health Care

Nigeria is lagging in providing basic health care to its citizens. Apart from the fact that most health centers are not properly equipped, there are different accounts of negligence by medical practitioners, especially in government-owned hospitals. Such behavior has led to some patients’ death. That explains why most people prefer receiving medical treatment in private hospitals compared to those owned by the government.   

Poor Maintenance of Health Facilities  

One major setback that the health sector in Nigeria faces is that most of the existing health facilities are not properly managed. Today, most government-owned health centers are dilapidated because they lack adequate maintenance. Because most of those centers have limited resources, there is almost no money left on the table for the maintenance of buildings and medical equipment.  

Poor Public Health Surveillance System 

Nigeria’s health sector lacks a proper medical surveillance program whose purpose is to collect, analyze, and utilize information required for the planning and implementation of specific protocols. Currently, such data collection is often incomplete due to the lack of awareness and interest among health professionals. 

Nigerian Doctors’ Work Environment 

Nigeria’s Health Sector

Nigerian doctors’ work environment is quite saddening. Most doctors are overworked and underpaid. Also, they do not have access to state of the art medical equipment that would allow them to work efficiently.  

Moreover, there are a lot of Nigerian doctors who are unemployed and are struggling to find a job. That is because there are fewer job opportunities for Nigerian doctors. A lot of doctors who manage to secure their jobs are connected with influential and prominent government officials. Every year, Nigerian doctors migrate to Europe, where they work in better conditions and are duly compensated. 

Is There a Way Out?  

First and foremost, the government should pay more attention to the country’s health sector. More funds should be allocated for it from the national budget. Also, the government should launch campaigns and awareness programs that will keep the public informed about the benefits of good health. The government should also invest in modern medical equipment and provide adequate compensation to medical workers. 


Nigeria’s health system surely has a lot of drawbacks ranging from poor leadership to poor maintenance, among many others. The state of health care can improve if given the attention and support it requires.