As the United Nations General Assembly convened its 73rd annual session of heads of state and governments, philanthropist and health advocate Toyin Ojora Saraki, deliver ed a stark warning to the world community that unless progress is accelerated in key areas, the health goals agreed by nations, multilateral organizations and civil society groups will not be met.
This is warning bell. U nless significant progress is made, the Sustainable Development Goals will not be met by the global community.
"Only two countries in Africa – Rwanda and South Africa - have met the Abuja declaration pledge to devote 15% of their government budgets to health.
Meanwhile, tuberculosis kills more than 4,000 people every single day, non-communicable diseases kill over 41 million people every year, and 80% of deaths in childbirth could be avoided with techniques that should be available across the globe. There has also been a distinct lack of progress in delivering upon the World Health Assembly 2017 Sepsis Resolution and improving water, sanitation and hygiene in healthcare facilities, schools and communities."
"At meetings throughout this week at the UN, I will be advocating for five key interventions which must be urgently made if we are to see real progress:
1. Investment in family, community and primary healthcare – along with hospitals where needed – to bolster healthcare wherever people need it; in rural areas and urban, cities and villages.
2. The murder of young midwife and mother Saifura Hussaini Ahmed Khorsa in Nigeria last week must spur Governments and global institutions on to strengthen security provisions for frontline health workers. Their training and pay conditions must also be improved. The Wellbeing Foundation Africa's Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care programme, operated with its global partners Johnson & Johnson and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, can serve as the benchmark for health worker training. We have shown that qualified midwives can and do lead the way with quality care.
3. Civil registration and vital statistics systems must be implemented and strengthened to allow Governments to prepare for epidemics and allocate investment where it is needed the most. 1.8 billion people, according to the World Bank's latest statistics, have no Government identification. Their health needs are consequently highly likely to not be met and they will be especially vulnerable during disease outbreaks.
4. Government investment in strengthening health insurance systems is paramount – in Nigeria and around the world, too many people are pushed into poverty by health emergencies that they or their families experience.
5. Non-communicable diseases kill over 41 million people every year. The Director-General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros, has rightly highlighted the NCD crisis and it must be a core focus of all Government programmes. "Whilst progress has been made in many areas, I feel compelled to speak out as too many women, children and communities are being left behind. We have the opportunity to change the course of history, but it is a chance that is slipping away. Urgency is the order of the day."
During the UN General Assembly Mrs Saraki is also scheduled to meet with fellow African philanthropists and global partners, and to deliver high-level United Nations advocacy speeches on child health and malaria, frontline health workers and the steps required to achieve Universal Health Coverage.
Toyin Saraki is Founder-President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives, Special Adviser to the World Health Organization regional office for Africa and Wife of the Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.