By Abdulsalam Bello

Children in Government Junior Secondary School Gwagwalada, a suburb in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, have celebrated Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day, with a call on the government to provide unhindered access to quality healthcare.

They lamented that healthcare facilities in schools and communities are like morgues, urging government at all levels to step up responsibility and revamp the health centers.

The children who are members of the Child Rights Advocacy Club of Save the Children International (SCI), Nigeria, said equal access for all will set the country on a glorious path.

Specifically, Oluwafemi David, JSS 3, student, said the school and communities need quality drugs and qualified health officials at the various health facilities.

“Most communities today are in dire need of quality health centers. This is because the ones we have are not living up to expectations. There is need for government to be alive to its responsibilities so as to address the health needs of many Nigerians”.

Also speaking, Ella Salomi, said the federal government should build more health facilities in schools and communities.

“In our school, we need qualified health officials and quality drugs to address our health needs.

“We are appealing to the government to hear us and equip our healthcare facilities with drugs”.

On her part, Godspower Chidera, advocated for free healthcare services for children across the country.

She said most parents cannot afford to buy drugs at the facility because of the country’s economic crunch.

“Government should help parents that are poor so that their children will not die. There are health challenges in various communities, but if the government will come to our aid, it will help reduce the hardship”.

Also, Lydia Omorugbe, a patron of the Child Rights Advocacy Club, said the school had equipped the students with knowledge on how to access proper healthcare.

She said there was need for government to subsidize drugs for poor Nigerians in various communities.

“There is need to subsidize of provide insurance for the poor to easily access quality drugs which are beyond the reach of many.

“The FCT administration should look inward and provide best help for the people in various Area Councils. We need mobile hospitals in the communities to tackle the emergency health needs of people.”

Speaking on the significance of the day, Mr. Innocent Ifedilichukwu, Advocacy, Campaigns and Policy Manager for Survive, Save the Children International, Nigeria, said UHC means that all individuals and communities receive the health services they need without suffering financial hardship.

“It includes the full spectrum of essential, quality health services, from health promotion to prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, and palliative care across the life course. The delivery of these services require adequate and competent health and care workers with optimal skills mix at facility, outreach and community level, and who are equitably distributed, adequately supported and enjoy decent work.

“UHC strategies enable everyone to access the services that address the most significant causes of disease and death and ensures that the quality of those services is good enough to improve the health of the people who receive them. Protecting people from the financial consequences of paying for health services out of their own pockets reduces the risk that people will be pushed into poverty because unexpected illness requires them to use up their life savings, sell assets, or borrow – destroying their futures and often those of their children.”

He added that moving towards UHC requires strengthening health systems in all countries. “Robust financing structures are key. When people have to pay most of the cost for health services out of their own pockets, the poor are often unable to obtain many of the services they need, and even the rich may be exposed to financial hardship in the event of severe or long-term illness. Pooling funds from compulsory funding sources (such as government tax revenues) can spread the financial risks of illness across a population.

“Improving health service coverage and health outcomes depends on the availability, accessibility, and capacity of health and care workers to deliver quality people-centred integrated care. The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically demonstrated the invaluable role of the health and care workforce and the importance of expanding investments in this area. To meet the health workforce requirements of the SDGs and UHC targets, over 18 million additional health workers are needed by 2030. Gaps in the supply of and demand for health workers are concentrated in low- and lower-middle-income countries. The growing demand for health workers is projected to add an estimated 40 million health sector jobs to the global economy by 2030.

“Investments are needed from both public and private sectors in health worker education, as well as in the creation and filling of funded positions in the health sector and the health economy.  The COVID-19 pandemic, which has initially affected the health workforce disproportionately, has highlighted the need to protect health and care workers, to prioritize investment in their education and employment, and to leverage partnerships to provide them with decent working conditions.

“UHC emphasizes not only what services are covered, but also how they are funded, managed, and delivered. A fundamental shift in service delivery is needed such that services are integrated and focused on the needs of people and communities. This includes reorienting health services to ensure that care is provided in the most appropriate setting, with the right balance between out- and in-patient care and strengthening the coordination of care. Health services, including traditional and complementary medicine services, organized around the comprehensive needs and expectations of people and communities will help empower them to take a more active role in their health and health system.
This year’s theme for the universal health coverage day ‘’leave no one behind’’ focuses on joining the call for leaders to invest in health systems that leaves no one behind.

“The global celebration of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) which is held each year on 12 December aims to provide health care and financial protection to all people in three related objectives: equity in access – everyone who needs health services should get them, and not simply those who can pay for them; quality of health services – good enough to improve the health of those receiving the services; and financial-risk protection – ensuring that the cost of health care does not put people at risk of financial hardship.”

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