12th April 2023
By Lara Adejoro
The World Health Organisation has warned Nigeria and other countries to prepare for the flu pandemic by increasing budgetary allocation to health and improving the primary healthcare system.
The WHO Country Representative in Nigeria, Dr Walter Mulombo, said this in Abuja during the commemoration of World Health Day and the WHO 75th anniversary.
Recall that the Ministry of Health of Chile had notified the WHO of a laboratory-confirmed case of human infection caused by the avian influenza A(H5) virus in the region of Antofagasta in March 2023. The case was the first human infection with the H5 virus reported in Chile, and the third reported in the Americas region to date.
The global health body, while confirming that an outbreak investigation was ongoing, had said the Chile case was a single human infection, and no further case had been identified so far.
Mulombo said, “Many countries continue to consider health as a luxury or something that is costing the government money, wherein it should have been an enabling factor for socio-economic development. Linked to that is the way countries are dealing with social determinants of health like nutrition, education, environment, water, hygiene, and sanitation.
“If you look at the way spending is being done, you will notice that 80 per cent goes to tertiary hospitals. Yet, primary health care is where 80 per cent of the population gets their first encounter with healthcare services. The spending is distorted and that is the biggest challenge. There is a lack of enough budget even to prepare for the pandemic.
“You know that the COVID-19 pandemic was not the pandemic we expected and we are still expecting the flu pandemic and we have been preparing for that. We know when it will hit. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, no country was ready, not even the United States, not even the United Kingdom, and yet we have international health regulations, we have global health security agenda.
“Our health facilities are not prepared, we need more facilities for dialysis machines and other expensive equipment and our facilities are not prepared to face that challenge. So the challenge of demographic transition is not an easy one because the facilities that were built in the colonial period are still the same. I’m not talking about Nigeria here, I’m talking about the general picture and it may be possible that it is the same situation in Nigeria.”