Magazine article New African

Not Going the Distance-Yet

Magazine article New African

Not Going the Distance-Yet

Article excerpt

There are many things that Nigeria can be proud of, but progress on the UN Sustainable Development Goals is not one of them. Rotimi Sankore looks at some facts and figures relating to SDGs on good health and gender equality in Africa's most populous country. The findings make for sober reflection.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3--Good Health and Wellbeing--and how it relates to other goals such as poverty, hunger and access to education, are crucial to the overall and long-term sustainable development in Nigeria.

However, the poor state of health and wellbeing in Nigeria is well documented across a wide range of indicators, from maternal and child health to high-profile infectious diseases such as HIV/Aids and tuberculosis, as well as vaccine-preventable diseases.

Inadequate health financing, weak health systems, poor access to medicines and insufficient numbers of health professionals at various tiers of governance are just some of the roots of the problem.

Often the long-term solutions will lie outside the health sector. For example, the retention of health workers is a problem, and a significant percentage are migrating but the education sector can play a crucial role in reversing the chronic shortage of health professionals. The agricultural sector has a similar role to play with food and nutrition security. Malnutrition is an underlying cause of under-five morbidity and mortality, accounting for over 50% of deaths among the under-fives.

Population growth--long touted as one of Nigeria's strengths--may well turn out to be its biggest weakness. Data from UNICEF shows an estimated 7m children are born in Nigeria every year, but investment in health and key social determinants such as water and sanitation, education and nutrition are not keeping up with this population increase.

For a country of its population size and growth, the infrastructure for civil registration in Nigeria is also very poor with only 30% birth registration. Without data-based planning and investment at all tiers of government it can only get worse unless an emergency is declared in the healthcare sector and the related social determinant sectors. Necessary investment will need to be made before the situation spirals out of control.

Life expectancy

The most stark indicator of the state of health and wellbeing in Nigeria is average life expectancy, which according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) is 54 years. This is one of the lowest in the world--only four years higher than in Sierra Leone, where life expectancy is the lowest globally at a mere 50 years. (See the map on life expectancy in Africa on page 35.)

Maternal mortality

For women, the state of healthcare is seriously complicated by the poor state of maternal healthcare.

Data from UNICEF, UNFPA and the NGO group Nigeria Health Watch shows that 140 to 145 women in Nigeria are estimated to die daily due to pregnancy-related causes. In 2015, the lifetime risk of maternal death was 1 in 22 and the maternal mortality ratio per 100,000 births stood at 814 per 100,000 (only lower than in Chad, Central African Republic and Sierra Leone).

A key contributing factor is the low proportion of births attended by skilled health personnel, which at just 35% is one of the 10 lowest in the world alongside Somalia, South Sudan, Chad, Timor-Leste, Eritrea, Niger, Laos, Central African Republic and Yemen. …

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