Delta State Governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa, and the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on Thursday decried Nigeria’s ranking as the country with the highest maternal and child mortality rate in the world.
They made their positions known in separate addresses at the opening of the 62ndNational Council on Health (NCH) Meeting in Asaba.
The NCH is Nigeria’s highest policy-making organ on health matters, and platform for the members and stakeholders to consider and deliberate on health issues of national importance.
Okowa said that Nigeria overtook India as the nation with highest maternal and child mortality rate in the world, in 2015, “though our population is less than one-fifth of that of India’’.
He, therefore, said that a review of the Second National Strategic Development Plan was imperative to enhance practicality of its operationalization in view of the fiscal constraints the country was currently facing.
“Of utmost priority is the need to develop viable and sustainable frameworks that would address both maternal and child morbidity and mortality.
“These frameworks must include the private sector support as they serve as a strategic source of healthcare service delivery enhancement.
“This is necessary, because it is important that interventions are focused on outcomes rather than inputs as these help to ensure that available resources are judiciously utilized,” Okowa said.
He lauded the council for the theme of the conference – “Consolidating on the Journey Towards Achieving Universal Health Coverage”, saying it was apt and dear to him.
The governor said that as a medical doctor and former Commissioner for Health, he had deep yearning and passionate desire for improvements in the regulation and access to affordable and quality healthcare, especially the poor and vulnerable.
He commended President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration for implementing Basic Health Care Fund which was part of the National Health Act he facilitated its passage as a senator.
Okowa disclosed that under his watch as governor, Delta became the first state in the country to establish the Contributory Health Commission to drive its Universal Health Coverage scheme for the rural dwellers.
He said that the scheme had between February, 2016 when the Commission was established, and Aug. 31, 2019, enrolled 630,268 persons.
The governor stated that 472,667 persons had enrolled in the Equity Health Plan category of the scheme during the period.
According to him, the enrollees in the category comprise 185,664 pregnant women and 287,003 children under five years, whose premium are paid by the state government.
He added that “Formal Health Plan” enrollees in the scheme were 149,395, while “Informal Health Plan” had 8,206 enrollees.
Okowa also disclosed that 110 primary healthcare facilities, 65 secondary healthcare facilities and 52 private healthcare concerns were providing services under the scheme in the state.
“Due to the low number of the informal sector group members registering for the scheme, we have adopted Community-Based Registration strategy where we have Community-Based Liaison Officers in communities that have functional facilities.
“These officers go from house to house to educate the people on the scheme and its benefits,” he said.
The governor remarked that Nigeria had survived previous health emergencies and outbreaks in the past due to sheer will-power and ingenuity of health workers.
“We should draw from those experiences to invest in our bio-security system to prepare it to respond more proactively to and deal decisively with unforeseen circumstances,” he advised.
Earlier, the Minister of Health had said that in spite of global decline in maternal mortality in Millennium Development Goals era, the rate in Nigeria remained among the highest in the world, with over 40,000 deaths yearly.
“The Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets for maternal mortality by 2030, is for Nigeria to reduce maternal deaths by over 90 per cent (less than 3000 maternal per year).
“In spite of all efforts, women and babies die needlessly; this concern made Federal Ministry of Health engage other stakeholders to develop a ‘Strategic Roadmap for Action’ to be a springboard to accelerate reduction of maternal and neonatal mortality,” Ehanire said.
He commended Okowa for his commitment to the health and wellbeing of Delta citizens, saying it was evident in the inclusion of health in his SMART Agenda and in promoting Universal Health Coverage in the state.
High point of the occasion was the formal launch of Second National Health Plan.