A Nigerian medical practitioner, Dr. Chigaemezu Edward, has lamented the unpreparedness of Nigeria to tackle emergency health demands created by the coronavirus pandemic, which caused a lot of devastations in the country and globally.
He said: "The COVID-19 pandemic came as a challenge for the Nigerian health system as it wasn't epidemic prepared as it ought to have been."
Edward, who described Nigeria as one of the countries with the highest number of reported coronavirus cases in Africa, and one of the African countries most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, said "as of present, Nigeria spends less than 5% of its budget on the health sector."
Consequently, he said: "It is no wonder that the pandemic hit the nation as much as it did. The pandemic threw up the inadequacies of the Nigerian health sector including that of the primary healthcare.
"The country's healthcare system has been described as weak. The facilities are run down and are nothing to write home about. With the rising cases of Covid-19, the health system is overwhelmed and many institutions have begun to reject patients.
"Routine health services are not being rendered as they should and hospitals reject patients who have ailments unrelated to Covid-19. With some of the worst health indices in countries at similar stages of development.
"The maternal mortality rate (MMR) is 512 per 100,000 live births, infant mortality is at 67 per 1,000 live births of children 1 years of age, the prevalence of stunting in children under 5 is 36.8% nationwide, the contraceptive prevalence rate is 16.6% and DPT3/Penta 3 vaccine coverage is 50.1% nationwide, although there are regional variations in vaccine coverage.
"Progress has been made in improving health in some of these indices, however this gloomy snapshot of health indicators shows the scale of the health challenges the country is already facing.
"When the COVID-19 outbreak started in Nigeria, many of the existing health issues took a temporary back seat as the country grappled with the COVID-19 response. These issues may have been put to one side, but they have not gone away.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the spotlight on the deficits in the Nigerian health sector, as greater pressure has been put on existing facilities, especially at the primary health care level. Many health facilities are plagued with poor infrastructure, and inadequate number of health workers and medical equipment.
Consequently, the optometrist advised the authorities concerned to ensure that the health sector was well funded for provision of adequate facilities to hospitals.
He also encouraged everyone to respect the Covid-19 protocols and warned that disregard for the use of masks and observance of social distancing could further have devastating effects, noting that, "Nigeria does not have enough facilities to arrest medical emergencies like Covid-19."