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The World Health Organization(WHO), has urged Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ), on the need to provide more evidence-informed service to Nigerians.

Dr. Walter Mulombo, WHO Country Representative, Nigeria, said this on Thursday in Akwanga, Nasarawa state, in his remarks at a three-day conference organised by the Association of Nigerian Health Journalists (ANHEJ) in collaboration with the WHO.

The theme of the conference was “Health Security UHC and National Health: How can Nigeria get it right- The Role of the Media in Perspective.’

With sub- theme “FP 2030 targets: Is Nigeria on Track?”

The News Agency of Nigeria(NAN), reports that the event comes ahead of the International UHC Day celebration on 12 December 2022, with the theme, “Build the World We Want: A Healthy Future for All” and underscores the need to meaningfully engage critical stakeholders like the media towards accelerating UHC in Nigeria.

Mulombo, who was represented by Dr. Ahmed Khedr, Field Presence Cluster Lead, WHO pleaded that the organisation and the association would continue to promote health, keep the world safe, and serve the vulnerable.

He said that the WHO identified the media as a critical partner and if well harnessed has the potential to accelerate the achievement of UHC in any country.

“Over the years, we have significantly invested in communications for health in-country offices and prioritised strategic communication within Output 4.2.1 of the 13th General Program of Work (GPW13),” he explained.

According to him, UHC means ensuring that all people have access to quality promotive, preventive, curative and rehabilitative health services they need at an affordable cost without the risk of financial hardship linked to paying for care.

“Indeed, no one should get sick, denied healthcare, or die just because they are poor, or because the services they need are too far away from where they live,” he said.

According to him, here in Nigeria, healthcare is financed predominantly by households, who pay for healthcare out of their pockets.

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He said that this was with healthcare out-of-pocket expenditure at 70.5 per cent of the Current Health Expenditure (CHE) in 2019, General Government Health Expenditure as a percentage of the GDP was 0.6 per cent while Government Expenditure per Capita was 14.6 dollars compared with WHO’s 86  dollars benchmark for UHC.

Mulombo said that, however,  currently the country bears the highest burdens of tuberculosis and paediatric HIV, while accounting for 50 per cent of neglected tropical diseases in Africa.

“Although the prevalence of malaria is declining (from 42 per cent to 23 per cent), the country contributes 27 per cent of global cases and 24 per cent of global deaths.

“NCDs account for 29 per cent of all deaths in Nigeria with premature mortality from the four main NCDs (Hypertension, Diabetes, Cancers, Malnutrition) accounting for 22 per cent of all deaths,” he said.

Mulombo explained that the poorest households feel the heaviest impact of these inefficiencies and poor health outcomes as they have limited access to essential health services, noting that the negative externalities pose huge losses to the Nigerian economy.

Mr. Hassan Zaggi, President, of ANHEJ, called on members to effectively played their role towards the achievement of UHC in the country.

Zaggi said to eliminate the out-of-pocket expenditure in the country, communities and associations must begin to adopt models that suit their enrolment in health insurance to enable them to access health care services when the need arises without catastrophic expenditure.

“Government at all levels must take the health of our people seriously, in fact, it should be at the top of their priority, because, as we all know, health is wealth. It is only a healthy society that can be productive.

“Lawmakers at both the federal, state and local government levels must also ensure they enact the relevant laws that will support and improve the attainment of UHC through health insurance,” he explained.