NPHCDA laments low impact of govts’ investments in PHCs on maternal, child deaths

The Executive Director, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, has lamented that in spite of the huge investments in the primary healthcare (PHC) sector, especially at the subnational level, Nigeria has not recorded a commensurate improvement in the rate of maternal and child mortality.

To address this gap, the agency has inaugurated an Independent Judging Panel (IJP) chaired by Prof. Clara Ajembi of the Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Kaduna State, to assess PHCs facilities and identify the challenges of the ecosystem.

Speaking at the inauguration, Shuaib observed that the Federal Government, States and Local Governments have invested in PHC but with all the investment, there are no commensurate result as Nigeria continues to have high maternity and infant mortality rates.

Shuaib stated that though there have been some improvement in the area of development of hospital infrastructure, these improvements; however, have not been significant in healthcare delivery.

He said: “So what we are trying to do is to set in motion a kind of peer review mechanism among the states so that they will follow specific indicators that will be measured by an independent verification agent with the aim of promoting competition among the states.

These independent panel of judges will look at the assessment results and announce which of the states that have done very well, first at national level but also on the zones and state by levels. The panel is made up of so many eminent Nigerians. What we are trying do here is collaborating with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Aliko Dangote Foundation, Nigeria Governors Forum, United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organisation (WHO) and so many other partners to give special attention to PHC.”

The NPHCDA boss, who noted that the initiative is part of the efforts to revitalise the PHC, said: “We have seen a situation where over 4,000 PHCs have been renovated but the president’s idea is just about renovation of PHC centres or building new ones, what he flagged off in 2017 was a noble idea to make this PHC centres functional and making sure that they have the right human resource compliments and the drugs to deliver quality and affordable healthcare to Nigerians.”

On what indicators the judges will be looking at, Shuaib said that the panel will be looking at how various states have been able to develop and implement their policies on primary healthcare, how they have been able to finance it, provide human resources and also how the governors have been able to prioritise PHC.

He stated that every primary healthcare centre in the country part of the assessment. He said that past experience has shown that this leadership challenge among the governors was able to spur performance during the campaign to improve child immunisation and polio eradication in the country. “So, it is the success that we seen in the immunisation challenge that we are replicating in this primary healthcare challenge,” he said.

Also speaking, the UNICEF Country Representative in Nigeria, Cristian Munduate, said that the organisation was delighted to be part of the historic partnership to drive the state ownership and implementation of key primary health care initiatives and policies, including the basic health care provision from the PHC ‘Under One Roof’ and the Seattle Declaration.

According to her, “This meeting sets the marking and the base and that is why the narration of the independent Judging Panel will guide and will directly review and validate state performance to ensure that this initiative remains transparent, credible and relevant. I wish to reiterate UNICEF’s commitment to sustain the momentum generated by the launch of the leadership challenge back in Lagos. It is important to remember that almost all of the 36 states governors attended the launch in person to rate the rate, their earlier commitment to lead the initiative. UNICEF is ready to collaborate with Nigeria and all its partners to ensure that Nigeria has access to a full package of essential and quality health services without suffering financial hardships.”

Ajembi said the major challenge the panel might have in the course of its work is getting a credible data and ensuring that the process is not politicized.

She said: “For us I think it is a very significant and important role that we are going to play. We appreciate the confidence that has been reposed in us and assure Nigerians that we will work hard to accountably, transparently and politically validate and assess the performance of the state governors in terms of their efforts to reposition the PHC centres in their states. This move will begin to change the face things with regards to our desire to achieve universal health coverage.”