1 January 2018

Nigeria: 2017 - Sad Year in Nigeria's Health Sector - Over 1,000 Die From Preventable Diseases

Photo: Vanguard
Monkey pox.

Nigeria started 2017 with the news of outbreak of Meningitis which lasted for months and was followed by other rare and uncommon diseases.

There were also new policies and the launch of primary health care centres to improve the health sector.

During the year, doctors and health workers also embarked on strikes, while many global health reports were released.

PREMIUM TIMES compiles some of the major health events that headlined 2017.

1,166 people died of meningitis in six months

Between December 2016 and June 23, 2017, a total of 1,166 people died as a result of meningitis outbreak in the country.

Children between five to 14 years were most affected accounting for 6,791 cases out of a total 14,513 cases reported in 24 states. Zamfara was the most affected state in terms of casualties, followed by Sokoto and Katsina. Together, they accounted for about 89 per cent of the cases.

The year's meningitis outbreak was a rare strain, meningitis C. It started from Zamfara State and was not reported early to the ministry of health. The lack of necessary vaccine to contain the disease led to it spreading to 24 states in the country.

The outbreak, which reached an epidemic and alert threshold was declared over six months after the first case.

Monkeypox: Nigeria records one death, confirms 61

Monkeypox, another rare disease, also resurfaced and was confirmed in the country.

Fourteen weeks after the first suspected monkeypox case in the country, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, reported the first death from the disease.

From September through December 9, 172 suspected and 61 confirmed cases were reported in different parts of the country. Laboratory confirmed cases were reported from 14 states which are Akwa Ibom, Abia, Bayelsa, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Lagos, Imo, Nasarawa, Rivers and FCT.

The majority of cases were males and aged 21 to 40 years old.

Meanwhile, NCDC has also deactivated the Monkeypox Emergency Operations Centre, EOC.

Other disease outbreak in Nigeria

There were confirmed outbreaks of cholera reported from seven states: Borno, Kebbi, Zamfara, Kano, Lagos, Oyo, Kwara and Kaduna states.

Aside Kwara and Borno where the outbreak ran for an extended period, other states were being sustained at low levels.

A total 1,558 suspected cases of cholera were reported including 11 deaths from five local government areas. About 50 per cent of suspected cases were males and 49 per cent, female.

In Borno State, the state ministry of health reported suspected cholera outbreak in Muna Garage, a camp hosting about 20,000 internally displaced persons on the outskirts of Maiduguri, the state capital.

The cholera outbreak which started in August, claimed the lives of at least 35 individuals with the number of suspected cases at 1,283. The end of the outbreak was announced in December.

There was also an outbreak of Hepatitis E in Borno State. The first case was detected in May, in Damasak, an area near the Republic of Niger.

Other diseases outbreak across the country included Lassa fever, yellow fever, measles, among others.

Indefinite suspension of NHIS boss

The National Health Insurance Scheme had a leadership change as the Executive Secretary for the agency, Usman Yusuf, was suspended indefinitely due to allegations of fraud.

Mr. Yusuf, who took over the state-run health insurance provider in July 2016, was initially suspended for three months on July 6, 2017 by the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, to allow for fair and uninterrupted investigation of the various allegations levied against him.

Mr. Yusuf was accused of mismanagement and misappropriation of N919 million and nepotism.

Eight other top management staff of the agency were also suspended for corruption allegations.

Mr. Yusuf denied the allegations, replying the minister that he would not obey the suspension order; saying the minister had no power to suspend him

The panel found Mr. Yusuf "culpable in many areas" of his performance. He was consequently suspended indefinitely by the minister pending a decision by President Muhammadu Buhari.

In the meantime, a new acting executive secretary, Ibrahim Attarhiru, has been managing the affairs of the agency.

Revitalisation of Primary Health Care centres

The Federal Government flagged off a scheme to revitalise over 10,000 healthcare centres across the country.

The minister, Isaac Adewole, during the commissioning of the Model Primary Healthcare Centre, Kuchigoro, Abuja, to begin the scheme said the plan is to make qualitative and affordable health services available to Nigerians.

The project under the National Primary Healthcare Revitalisation Initiative through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, NPHCDA and the Federal Ministry of Health, promised to make at least one primary healthcare centre fully functional to deliver services especially for children and women in each of the wards across the country.

According to the minister, 110 PHCs are expected to be renovated in the first phase. So far, many PHCs across the country are still in dilapidated states.

Doctors, health workers embark on strike

The health sector wobbled with the strike of doctors and other health workers which also paralysed the activities in public hospitals for about four weeks.

The National Association of Resident Doctors had in September gone on strike for ten days to protest the unfulfilled agreements between the federal government and its association. After much deliberation with Mr. Adewole and Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige, the strike was suspended.

The Joint Health Sector Unions, JOHESU, an allied union of all health workers also began their strike some days after the doctors suspended theirs. The strike lasted ten days.

This also crippled activities in hospitals across the nation as well as in health agencies and parastatals.

Though the strike was suspended after deliberation with the government, the union is still accusing the government of bias and as such recently passed a vote of no confidence on the minister of health.

Mass migration of doctors from Nigeria

There was a report of mass migration of doctors from the country who are seeking greener pastures abroad.

According to the president, Nigerian Medical Association, Mike Ogirima, no fewer than 300 doctors left the county in 2017.

This has also been given as one of the reasons for the shortage of medical personnel in most Nigerian health centres especially in the remote areas.

The incessant strikes, poor working conditions and environment, lack of equipment, poor remuneration and difficulty in acquiring training were identified as part of the reasons for the mass exodus.

Foreign trained doctors who failed MDCN examination protest result

About 437 foreign trained doctors who failed the induction examination organised by the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria, MDCN, accused the council of examination irregularities.

The doctors who also petitioned the Senate Committee on Health to wade into the matter. They argued that they were hastily labelled as failures by the council despite taking the examination under grossly inappropriate conditions. They demanded that the council conduct a fresh assessment for them.

The MDCN acting registrar, Tajudeen Sanusi, while standing his ground said the doctors had failed and should rather re-present themselves for another examination.

Over 690 foreign trained doctors took the examination in which 437 failed.

2018 proposed health budget

The federal government has once again not fulfilled the agreement of the African Union, AU, Abuja health declaration which stipulates that at least 15 per cent of a country's annual budget should be allocated to health.

In the 2018 proposed budget submitted to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari, the health sector got only N340.45 billion representing 3.9 per cent of the total budget.

The highest percentage since the declaration was in 2012 when 5.95 percent of the budget was allotted to health.

The Nigerian Senate has however vowed to allot more funds to the sector so the nation can commence the implementation of the 2014 National Health Act from the 2018 fiscal year.

Launch of new family planning logo

The federal government through the ministry of health has launched a new family planning logo to encourage and help Nigerians identify places to get the services.

The minister said the new logo, "Green Dot" is to ensure that 7.3 million women have access to family planning. It is also aimed at reducing maternal and infant morbidity and mortality.

The family planning service is also meant to check population explosion. Nigeria is reportedly on the verge of population explosion and if not checked, this could have a negative impact on the country.

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