It is important to acknowledge and indeed commend the intrepid efforts of the Indian High Commission to Nigeria, in association with the Indian Ministry of Tourism and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), for their successful “four day” healthcare event held in Abuja, geared at strengthening our bilateral partnership in the sector.
The preface to this forum was unequivocally clear; the international community was seemingly startled by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) revelation that over one-third of all child deaths across the globe presently take place in India and indeed in Nigeria.
This saddening statistic is not unwarranted, nor is it surprising to Nigerians across the country. Our healthcare infrastructure is presently in a discombobulated state, with many choosing to forgo the arduous process of attaining medical treatment because of both the financial toll of which it takes and the difficulty in securing the services of accredited physicians.
The situation in Anambra, my home state, is symbolic of our country’s current dilemma. Whereas we all share the same collective understanding that life is sacred, the actions of our political leaders to curb this healthcare-driven crisis of conscience has simply not matched our words.
More must and can be done with the help of the international community and by Nigerians putting aside regional and ethnic differences alike in the name of the greater good.
The infant mortality rate in Anambra is alarming, indicative of our present leadership’s unfortunate shortcomings to develop our institutions, our hospitals, our medical academies and emergency clinics.
The lack of continuous electricity, and inadequate supply of power generators and access to contemporary technologies besmirches our State and national reputations, made all the more deplorable given our abundance of oil-wealth, arable lands and human capital.
Staffing of medical facilities and providing adequate pay for those who day in and out safeguard our health is of the utmost priority. Anambrians, as an example, witness nurses and doctors resign or ‘retire’ in droves each year, many disillusioned with the state of our healthcare industry and their role in its future.
Our ambulances are too few in number, our roads too travel-worn and often unpaved. We are morbidly aware that of the fact that if a major accident were to occur on one of our roads, given this present lack of development, those needing mobile, immediate medical assistance will mostly not receive it in time.
We must incentivize our international partners; those currently operating in Nigeria and those to prospectively enter our market, in order to ensure their integration is coupled with corporate social responsibility best practices. These partners can play a pertinent role in finding synergies through the sharing of technical know-how and assisting in infrastructural capacity building within the healthcare industry.
We welcome and applaud the partnership between the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for example, teaming together to increase coverage (by way of a $60 million USD investment program) of priority health technologies and interventions among Nigeria’s poverty-stricken.
We must look to match said collaborations within our state and within our nation as those forged by our colleagues in the international community. Within Anambra for instance, we have proposed a partnership with leading Health Insurance Institutions to develop a comprehensive protection policy, entitled ‘AnambraCare’, seeking to provide free healthcare for State senior citizens above the age of 65.
However, despite the potential of these innovations, there is an arduous road ahead of us and clearly much more work to be done.
The philosopher Cicero once stated that “in nothing do men more nearly approach the gods than in giving health to men”. We must collectively do better and hold in higher regard the men and women who sacrifice their energy, their time with their loved ones and indeed their lives to look to better our way of life. It is possible, it is practical and in a contemporary geopolitical climate, it surely could not be more pertinent.