Happy new year once again!! The year 2017 came to an end with so many happenings in the health sector. So many stories made the headlines last year. With all that happened, would you agree with me that it was a sad year in the Nigerian Health Sector? From the monkeypox outbreak to the doctor’s strike, here are intriguing stories that made it to our health news recap.
The country began last year with the news of Meningitis outbreak which lasted for months and was followed by other rare and uncommon diseases.
New policies also surfaced and there was the launch of primary health care centers to improve the health sector.
During the year, doctors and health workers also embarked on strikes, while many global health reports were released.
8 Stories In The Health Sector That Made The Headlines in 2017
1. 1,166 people died of meningitis in six months
One story that made the headlines was that of meningitis death rate. The news had it that within a period of six months (December 2016 till June 23, 2017), the country had recorded a total of 1,166 deaths.
Children between five to 14 years were most affected accounting for 6,791 cases out of a total 14,513 cases reported in 24 states. Zamfara was the most affected state in terms of casualties, followed by Sokoto and Katsina. Together, they accounted for about 89 percent of the cases.
The year’s meningitis outbreak was a rare strain, meningitis C. It started from Zamfara State and was not reported early to the ministry of health. The lack of necessary vaccine to contain the disease led to it spreading to 24 states in the country.
The outbreak, which reached an epidemic and alert threshold was declared over six months after the first case.
June 2017 came with the resurgence of Lassa fever. As of June 9th, 2017, a total of 501 suspected cases including 104 deaths were reported since the onset of the current Lassa fever outbreaks season in December 2016. Of the reported cases, 189 were further classified, 175 laboratory-confirmed including 59 deaths and 14 probable cases (all dead).
Seventeen (17) Nigerian states (Anambra, Bauchi, Borno, Cross-River, Ebonyi, Edo, Enugu, Gombe, Kaduna, Kano, Kogi, Nasarawa, Ogun, Ondo, Plateau, Rivers, and Taraba) were reported to have at least one confirmed case.
The Lagos State Governor, Mr Akinwumi Ambode in October, 2017, received the Queen of Netherlands, Her Majesty, Maxima Zorreguieta Cerruti in Lagos State.
Her visit to Lagos was part of efforts to advance the United Nation’s financial inclusion advocacy as a vehicle to alleviate poverty and fostering equitable economic growth in Nigeria.
Last year, monkeypox, another rare disease, also resurfaced and was confirmed in the country.
Fourteen weeks after the first suspected monkeypox case in the country, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, reported the first death from the disease.
From September through December 9, 172 suspected and 61 confirmed cases were reported in different parts of the country. Laboratory-confirmed cases were reported from 14 states which are Akwa Ibom, Abia, Bayelsa, Benue, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Ekiti, Enugu, Lagos, Imo, Nasarawa, Rivers, and FCT.
The majority of cases were males and aged 21 to 40 years old.
Meanwhile, NCDC has also deactivated the Monkeypox Emergency Operations Centre, EOC.
There were confirmed outbreaks of cholera reported from seven states: Borno, Kebbi, Zamfara, Kano, Lagos, Oyo, Kwara and Kaduna states.
Aside Kwara and Borno where the outbreak ran for an extended period, other states were being sustained at low levels.
A total 1,558 suspected cases of cholera were reported including 11 deaths from five local government areas. About 50 percent of suspected cases were males and 49 percent, female.
The cholera outbreak which started in August, claimed the lives of at least 35 individuals with the number of suspected cases at 1,283. The end of the outbreak was announced in December.
The National Health Insurance Scheme had a leadership change as the Executive Secretary for the agency, Usman Yusuf, was suspended indefinitely due to allegations of fraud.
Mr. Yusuf, who took over the state-run health insurance provider in July 2016, was initially suspended for three months on July 6, 2017, by the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, to allow for fair and uninterrupted investigation of the various allegations levied against him.
Mr. Yusuf was accused of mismanagement and misappropriation of N919 million and nepotism.
Eight other top management staff of the agency were also suspended for corruption allegations.
Mr. Yusuf denied the allegations, replying the minister that he would not obey the suspension order; saying the minister had no power to suspend him
The panel found Mr. Yusuf “culpable in many areas” of his performance. He was consequently suspended indefinitely by the minister pending a decision by President Muhammadu Buhari.
In the meantime, a new acting executive secretary, Ibrahim Attarhiru, has been managing the affairs of the agency.
7. Doctors, health workers embark on strike
The health sector wobbled with the strike of doctors and other health workers which also paralyzed the activities in public hospitals for about four weeks.
The National Association of Resident Doctors had in September gone on strike for ten days to protest the unfulfilled agreements between the federal government and its association. After much deliberation with Mr. Adewole and Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige, the strike was suspended.
The Joint Health Sector Unions, JOHESU, an allied union of all health workers also began their strike some days after the doctors suspended theirs. The strike lasted ten days.
This crippled activities in hospitals across the nation as well as in health agencies and parastatals.
Though the strike was suspended after deliberation with the government, the union is still accusing the government of bias and as such recently passed a vote of no confidence on the minister of health.
8. 2018 proposed health budget
The federal government has once again not fulfilled the agreement of the African Union, AU, Abuja health declaration which stipulates that at least 15 percent of a country’s annual budget should be allocated to health.
In the 2018 proposed budget submitted to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari, the health sector got only N340.45 billion representing 3.9 percent of the total budget.
The highest percentage since the declaration was in 2012 when 5.95 percent of the budget was allotted to health.
The Nigerian Senate has however vowed to allot more funds to the sector so the nation can commence the implementation of the 2014 National Health Act from the 2018 fiscal year.
Having gone through the stories that made the headlines last year, you’d agree with me that 2017 was indeed a sad year in the Nigerian health sector.
However, we look forward to having the best of it this year in the health sector.