World Health Day: FG, states tasked to address inequality, access to coverage


As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage the world 15 months after its outbreak, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has called on governments to build a fairer and healthier world for everyone through quality medical and pharmaceutical care.

Speaking on the World Health Day (WHD) marked today with the theme: ‘‘Building a fairer, healthier world’’ to highlight health inequities, WHO noted that the impact of the pandemic “has been harshest on communities, which were already vulnerable, who are more exposed to the disease, less likely to have access to quality healthcare services and more likely to experience adverse consequences as a result of measures implemented to contain the pandemic.”

April 7 each year is remembered as WHD to commemorate the creation of the WHO over seven decades ago.

In numbers, 3.6 billion people worldwide still lack full coverage of essential primary health services, according to a WHO fact sheet; 930 million worldwide are at risk of falling into poverty due to out-of-pocket health spending of 10 per cent or more of their household budget; 71 per cent of deaths globally is attributed to non-communicable diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes; $3.7 trillion is the amount of global income lost due to the pandemic, equivalent to 4.4 per cent of the global GDP; 2,860,100 is the number of people worldwide who have died of COVID-19 as at press time, and one in four persons will be affected by a mental or neurological disorder at some point during their lifetime.

According to experts, the current rate of vaccination of approximately 6.7 million doses per day means it would take 4.6 years to vaccinate 70—85 per cent of the world population. This World Health Day is calling for renewed solidarity and urgency to narrow equity gaps that are leaving countless people, especially those in low and middle-income countries behind.

According to WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, manufacturers and countries must work together to donate 10 million doses to COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) so countries still awaiting their first shipments of vaccines can begin vaccinating their at-risk health workers and older people. WHO has also called for vaccine producers to license their technologies to other manufacturers to speed up this process.

IN Nigeria, a call has gone out to the government, at all levels, to provide equitable healthcare coverage to all citizens to reduce the impact of health emergencies on Nigerians. According to Development Communications (DevComs) Network, the pandemic has shown the fragile nature of healthcare services and coverage in the country, a situation that has been worsened by the ongoing strike by resident doctors across the country.  

“We condemn the unequal access to healthcare delivery between the general populace and government officials, political leaders, traditional rulers, and the majority of the affluent in the society. The majority of Nigerians struggle daily to make ends meet and put food on the table. Most of them still live below poverty lines and the advent of COVID-19 has shown the unequal distribution of wealth in the country.

“This has led to a lot of problems in the country from insecurity to lack of many social amenities. All these impacts on the health of the populace and lack of good health indices is an indicator that we are not thriving as a country. We, therefore, call on the Nigerian government to address health inequalities in the country and provide a conducive environment for citizens to thrive in good health,” Akin Jimoh, DevComs Program Director, said yesterday.

As part of efforts to mark World Health Day, medical experts have made recommendations on how to build a fairer and healthier world for everyone through quality medical and pharmaceutical care.

Pharmacists under the aegis of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), doctors under the umbrella of the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), and the Expert Review Committee on COVID-19 yesterday called on leaders to ensure that everyone has living and working conditions that are conducive to good health. They urged leaders to monitor health inequities and to ensure that all people are able to access quality health services when and where they need them.

President, PSN, Sam Ohuabunwa, told The Guardian: “We are resolved to expand our scope to address the inequities in access to healthcare, especially those bothering on availability, access and effective use of medicines. The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health remains a fundamental human right of every human being without discrimination of race, socio-economic status, and political alignment.

“The PSN will continue to call for actions that will bring people together with their Pharmacists and other health care workers for health care service that is available, accessible, and affordable to all.”

Ohuabunwa said the gains of this noble decision range from robust investment in the health of the world’s population to timely interventions toward the eradication of diseases like polio and smallpox and bringing disease outbreaks under control through coordinated and concerted effort.

President of NARD, Dr. Uyilawa Okhuaihesuyi, told The Guardian yesterday that five steps are critical to building a healthier and fairer world. These he said include: good personal hygiene and early presentation to healthcare facilities.

Okhuaihesuyi said the government should as a matter of urgency do the following: building health information systems and configure them to areas of vulnerability, good living homes with access to potable water; and a safe environment where people can ply their trade without the fear of dying. “These are basic things the government can do to enable people to live in comfort,” he said.

Chairman, Expert Review Committee on COVID-19, Prof. Oyewale Tomori, told The Guardian: “Treat all health workers fairly. Continuously work to ensure universal healthcare for all. Make health equity assured for all.”

Meanwhile, the WHO, in a statement, yesterday, said it is committed to ensuring that everyone, everywhere, can realise the right to good health.

According to the WHO, all over the world, some groups struggle to make ends meet with little daily income, have poorer housing conditions and education, fewer employment opportunities, experience greater gender inequality, and have little or no access to safe environments, clean water and air, food security and health services.

“This leads to unnecessary suffering, avoidable illness, and premature death. And it harms our societies and economies,” it noted. The WHO said this is not only unfair but it is preventable.

By Chukwuma Muanya

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