Ben Ezechime, Enugu
The Former Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, has called on government and corporate organisations to strengthen and expand the reach and number of diseases being treated in the Universal Healthcare Coverage (UHC).
“This move will greatly assist millions of poor people access quality and essential healthcare, which their out of pockets expenditure cannot cover,” Adewole said on Thursday in an opening remark at the 2023 Amaka Chiwuike-Uba International Asthma Conference (ACUBIAC 2023).
The Conference, which was organised by the Amaka Chiwuike-Uba Foundation (ACUF), is themed: “COVID-19 and the Future in the Past: Health Financing and Universal Health Coverage.”
Adewole, who was represented by Dr Innocent Ugwu, said that due to increasing poverty, it was becoming difficult for most poor people and homes to take care of their health especially those within rural communities.
The minister also appreciated the Chairman and Board of ACUF for organising the conference and pushing the narrative of an all inclusive healthcare agenda.
In an address, Gov. Peter Mbah of Enugu State commended the Foundation for its stride in empowerment as well as healthcare awareness and education within the state.
Mbah, represented by Dr Ifeanyi Agujiobi, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, said that the state had passed the UHC bill into law and had commenced enrolment of residents into the UHC scheme.
“We have already enrolled 150,000 residents in the state’s UHC scheme and we are planning to expand the coverage more,” he said.
The governor noted that the state government had been putting initiatives and programmes to enhance the health and well being of the residents, especially those aimed at reducing the health and financial burden of families.
Earlier, Dr Uche Ojinmah, President of Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), assured of the association’s continuous partnership with the foundation as it champions universal access to quality health for all Nigerians.
Ojinmah, represented by Dr Tony Onyia, the immediate past Chairman of NMA in Enugu State, noted that there was a need for a holistic approach in solving the health financing needs of Nigerians especially for the less privileged.
Prof. Prince Udegbunam-Ele, President of Nigerian Thoracic Society (NTS), said that the treatment and management of asthma remained a major challenge in the medical world, adding that “there is nothing as painful as acute asthma.”
According to Udegbunam-Ele, asthma remains a major headache of the medical world, while the pain of chronic asthma can be described as the grip of the devil himself.
“I must commend ACUF, its Chairman and Board members for keeping the treatment, awareness and support to asthmatic patients alive and going the extra mile on the illness,” he said.
Comrade Fidelis Ede, former Vice-President of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), said that the foundation needed to push its asthma campaign down to the rural communities where there is multi-dimensional poverty and lack.
Ede said that there was a need to finance healthcare from a bottom-to-top approach; thus, putting emphasis on the grassroots people even as his organisation was willing to partner the foundation in this direction.
Amb. Don Odunze, a renowned member of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), said that the clergy are currently disturbed at the rate of poverty and people including families not able to meet basic necessities of life, especially healthcare.
Odunze said that the monies being expended on entertainment and fashion in the country could be channeled to healthcare provision and it would make a huge difference among the people especially the poor.
In a welcome address, Dr Chiwuike Uba, Chairman, Board of Trustees ACUF, said that ACUBIAC 2023 was the third in the series of international advocacy and public-private dialogue for a better health sector environment.
Uba said that the conference would stimulate dialogue and collaboration among stakeholders on health financing and UHC, adding that it would help to secure financial and political commitments and prioritising of health funding.
“There is a need to rethink how UHC is carried out and make it a community-based issue with transparent management and involving the people notwithstanding the little contribution they will gather.
“The present coverage of UHC is still abysmally low compared with the millions of Nigerians not covered and they are currently living in extreme poverty in the country.
“As a nation, we must move fast and check the rate of unnecessary and poverty-induced death all around us due to lack of money or an adequately planned healthcare provision system,” he said.