On December 12, 2012, the United Nations unanimously endorsed a resolution urging governments to provide universal access to health care for all citizens without financial hardship. The slogan for this year’s commemoration is “Health for All Everywhere.” The Government of Nigeria further reaffirmed its commitment to Universal Health Coverage (UHC) through a Presidential Declaration on March 10, 2014. The UHC Declaration is significant as it marks a deliberate action by Government at all levels to provide access and affordable health care to Nigerians, especially the poor and vulnerable in line with the Transformation Agenda of Mr. President
Nigeria today, joins the rest of the world to celebrate the first-ever Universal Health Coverage Day. Today’s commemoration comes at a most opportune time, when the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, has given his assent to the National Health Bill. The assent further demonstrates government’s belief that health is a cornerstone of sustainable national development.
Following the Presidential Declaration, the FMOH in line with its mandate, put in place policies and institutional frameworks needed to implement the UHC. The Ministry will also mainstream UHC in the Post Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) 2015 Agenda, by leveraging on existing resources and building appropriate partnerships.
Accordingly, we have commenced the revision of the National Health Policy and the National Strategic Health Development Plan (NSHDP) to properly prioritize targets towards UHC.
It is significant to note that to further ensure the successful and seamless implementation of the UHC, the National Council on Health (NCH), which is the highest decision-making body on health matters, dedicated its last meeting to the issue of Universal Health Coverage. The Ministry has established a Healthcare Financing & Equity (HCF&E) Branch in the Department of Health Planning Research and Statistics to provide central coordination for UHC.
The National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), responsible for implementing Nigeria’s Social Health Insurance (SHI) began implementation in 2005. It has embarked on implementing reforms, strategic initiatives and programmes aimed at scaling up enrolment into the Scheme to achieve the Presidential target of 30% coverage by December, 2015, which the Scheme has adjusted to 40%, in view of its own evident strength and opportunities.
Some of these include roll out of programs targeted at the poor and vulnerable such as the National Mobile Health Insurance Program targeting 20 million lives. This program, which is currently being piloted in Lagos State is expected to go national soon. It is the first of its kind in the world. Others are the Public Primary Pupils Social Health Insurance Program designed to capture 24 million school children across the country, and for which registration will commence all over the country early next year; the rapidly growing Community-Based Social Health Insurance Programs across the country and the Tertiary Institutions Social Health Insurance Program, which was recently redesigned and revitalised by the Scheme.
There is elaborate ground already built up for a comprehensive digitalization of the health insurance process in the country for the required speed and accuracy, while NHIS is also providing incentives to state governments to establish their own social health insurance programs.
As we commemorate the Universal Health Coverage Day, we urge all Nigerians to take advantage of these programs by NHIS, and enroll themselves into one form of health insurance or the other, to guarantee access to healthcare without financial barriers at points of need.
The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has also been responsible for the development of and implementation of several initiatives to deliver healthcare through the primary health care system. Some of these include the Midwives Service Scheme (MSS) which provides skilled birth attendants in rural underserved Primary Healthcare Care facilities across all 36 states and the FCT. This scheme has continued to grow with 3305 midwives and 946 CHEWS being deployed to 1000 health facilities.
In addition, the NPHCDA has developed a strategic plan for routine immunization covering various antigens while introducing new vaccines like pentavalent and organizing campaigns against measles, meningitis, maternal and neonatal tetanus and is on track towards eradicating polio in Nigeria.
Furthermore, the NPHCDA supports the states and LGAs in efforts aimed at improving facility delivery, maternal and neonatal reduction and use of family planning commodities. The Nigeria States Health Investment Project being implemented in three states aims to improve quantity and quality of PHC services.
PHC Under One Roof (PHCUOR) encourages the states to integrate PHC activities as a means to improve efficiency and effectiveness while the Maternal Newborn and Child Health Week (MNCHW) twice a year encourages utilization of health facilities by the populace. Other programmes include the Saving One Million Lives initiative and Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs) to mothers.
Also, it is expected that the effective implementation of the National Health Act will definitely give the needed boost to ensuring universal health coverage in our country
While commemorating Universal Health Coverage Day, the Federal Ministry of Health wishes to assure the nation on this special occasion, that efforts will be expended to ensure that Universal Health Coverage is achieved in the country by 2020, in accordance with the resolution of the 57th National Council on Health.