Nigeria must take control of its own destiny, develop local capacities to assure people’s access to health care, and seize the potential to become a world leader in healthcare.
Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the Vice President, believes there are already obvious signs that “we are well on our way” to completing the task.
Professor Osinbajo spoke at the International Conference on Health Access beyond COVID-19 in Abuja on Monday, highlighting the country’s strengths in healthcare but also emphasizing key steps Nigeria needs take to strengthen its health system.
According to him, one of the eye-openers from the COVID-19 pandemic “is that despite infrastructural weaknesses, we have an experienced and robust public health system, peopled by some of the best personnel in the world, but more importantly (is) the huge opportunities for becoming a leading nation in healthcare.”
The Vice President, while buttressing his point on building local capacity, noted that the pandemic revealed further that “every nation is on her own in a global pandemic and how vaccine-rich nations at some point even banned exports in order to meet local needs, it is clear that we must take our destiny in our own hands. And there is great potential.
“Last December, the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR) launched a new set of COVID-19 test kits that can produce results in 57 minutes. The new kit was designed by Joseph Shaibu, a molecular virologist at NIMR.”
Professor Osinbajo declared that “the healthcare system of our dreams is ahead of us, we know what we want and what is possible. We have the men and women with the required expertise; what we need is more diligent and focused management.
“Only recently, the President established the healthcare reform committee which I have the privilege of chairing. That may well be at least one of the vehicles for ensuring that we are able to make some of our dreams come true.”
He described the setting up of the committee as one of the ways the present administration was making concerted efforts towards transforming the nation’s health sector.
The Vice President listed other measures to include funding for healthcare research, as well as developing solutions in pharmaceuticals and medical consumables, and the health sector component of the Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP).
“It is evident that the way forward is more funding for health care research and for innovators to develop solutions in pharmaceuticals and medical consumables,” he stated.
“Our administration established the Healthcare Sector Intervention Fund Facility which has disbursed N76.98 billion to finance the acquisition and installation of critical medical equipment, as well as the expansion of production lines in various pharmaceutical companies across the country.
“The Central Bank of Nigeria is also supporting a number of research and development initiatives in the health sector. In all, a total of N233 billion in grants has been disbursed.
“In our Economic Sustainability Plan designed to mitigate and take advantage of the consequences of the pandemic, one of the cross-cutting issues identified for action was the development of Nigeria’s capacity to become Africa’s hub for the manufacture of generic drugs.”
The conference themed “Health Access and Social-Economic Development Beyond COVID-19: The First Multisectoral Approach to Solution Finding” was a two-day event with several Nigerian scientists and vice-chancellors in attendance.