Women Affairs Ministry set to Partner NUHCAN, Minister urges for Diligence

The Federal Ministry of Women Affairs has obliged working with the Nigeria Universal Health Coverage Actions Network, NUHCAN, in partnership to ensuring all-inclusive Universal Health Actions in Nigeria.

This was an outcome of a courtesy visit paid on the ministry yesterday 2 March 2021.

The Nigerian Honourable Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen who was ably represented by the Deputy Director Child Development Department of the ministry, Ali Andrew Madugu stated that the organization has in its entirety covered the ministry’s scope of operations and as such, the ministry is ready to partner.

Earlier, the Executive Secretary, Nigeria Universal Health Coverage Actions Network, Dr. Uzodinma Adirieje who was the team lead lauded the Honourable minister for the opportunity avail the organization for a further discussion following the proposal sent to the ministry, stressing that the ministry has shown it’s proactive culture in fighting issues concerning Women and children in the country.

Dr. Uzodinma Adirieje, while giving a brief background of the Nigeria Universal Health Coverage Actions Network (NUHCAN), said, it was established during the 3rd quarter of 2019, as a non-governmental, non-profit making, non-political, non-religious, autonomous organization; to serve as the coordination body for recognized Civil Society Organizations, Private Voluntary Organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations, Institutions and Individuals involved in Universal Health Coverage activities and programs in Nigeria.

“Excellency, Hon. Minister Ma; you may recall that on 23 September 2019, a historic United Nations High-Level Meeting (UN HLM) was held at the UN in New York City, titled “Universal Health Coverage (UHC): Moving together to build a healthier world”. We commend the Federal Government for keying into the UHC paradigm”, he elucidated.

He said, the goal of the organization is to translate the UHC concepts into action in Nigeria through synergizing with relevant stakeholders/partners for the commemoration of the United Nations’ historic and unanimous endorsement of universal health coverage in 2012, to facilitate grassroots awareness, engagement, and demand for UHC, accelerate private, public and political participation and accountability for UHC; and galvanize an inclusive, cohesive and multi-sectoral advocacy community thus maximizing reach, coordination, and impact of the movement towards health for all.

“NUCHAN has an elected Board of Trustees (BOT) with Hon. Prof. Adenike Grange, former Honourable Minister of Health, Nigeria; as Chairman. It also has a governing council [GOC] of six persons: three men and three women. The membership of NUHCAN’s BOT and GOC reflect national spread.

“NUHCAN’s Objectives include (among others):
To provide civil society with a national-level platform to advocate for the implementation of the effective recommendations of the 2019 UN HLM to advance UHC in Nigeria; and
To provide a forum for collaboration between Civil Society Organizations, International Agencies and Government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, at the Federal, State, or Local Government levels for effective networking in the implementation of UHC2030 programmes throughout Nigeria

“In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that half the world’s population (in low, middle- and high-income countries) lacked full coverage for essential health services. UHC, therefore, has the potential to change the health and lives of millions of people, the majority of them women, who cannot currently afford quality health services. It also has the potential to improve the lives of the women who form the majority of the global health and social care workforce and currently deliver health services to around 5 billion people.

“UHC, therefore, is about filling the tragic gaps that exist in health systems around the world: gaps in access, in affordability, and health needs that go unanswered. For us as civil society and professionals, UHC demands we advocate at global and national levels for gender equality and women’s rights to be central in UHC. Our message is simple: UHC will not be achieved anywhere without addressing gender equality, women’s rights, and the role of women in the global health workforce”.

Retiring to the organization’s submission, Dr. Uzodinma Adirieje drew the attention of the Honourable Minister to six (6) Key-Asks of the UHC.
“There are essentially six ‘key asks ’of the UHC namely, “ensure political leadership beyond health – Commit to achieve UHC for healthy lives and well-being for all at all stages, as a social contract, leave no one behind – Pursue equity in access to quality health services with financial protection, regulate and legislate – Create a strong, enabling regulatory and legal environment responsive to people’s needs, uphold the quality of care – Build quality health systems that people and communities trust, invest more, invest better – Sustain public financing and harmonize health investments, and move together – Establish multi-stakeholder mechanisms for engaging the whole of society for a healthier world”.

“Additionally, we ask that Gender Equality and Women’s Rights be adopted as ‘Drivers of Health’ and that government at all levels in Nigeria should transparently commit to gender equality and women’s rights as foundational principles for UHC. Extensive evidence demonstrates that gender equality and women’s rights are critical drivers of health, wellbeing and socio-economic development. Men and women have different health needs throughout the life course and marginalised women and girls are amongst the hardest to reach with health services. Addressing gender equality in health systems’ design and delivery and in the health workforce will determine the success of UHC.

“We demand the prioritization of the health needs of the most marginalised women and girls in UHC design and delivery, taking intersectoral/inter-ministerial approach to leaving no one behind (including youth, ethnicity, class, disability, older women and others marginalized according to social contexts). We request the Federal and State Ministries of Women Affairs and LGA Departments of Women Affairs to provide more institutional leadership in this regard in ways that ‘do not leave the civil society behind’”.

Outlining series of health challenges that overwhelm women and children, he said,
“Excellency, when a woman is diagnosed with cervical cancer in Nigeria, her options are few. She likely needs chemotherapy, which she can hardly afford, and radiotherapy, which may be outside her reach without insurance cover. And so on.
We, therefore, appeal to the Honourable Minister to increase the Ministry of Women Affairs efforts by working towards affordable and accessible culturally sensitive UHC to all Nigerian women, which covers all health challenges that are peculiar to women and are funded/underwritten through a nationally provided and readily accessible health insurance regime. Obviously, the structures that would help achieve these include systems of financing, delivery, and monitoring and evaluation; and these can be established efficiently within a comprehensive UHC program. We urge you to push for a UHC that brings together the many health needs of women who are dying needlessly from preventable or treatable conditions such as COVID-19, HIV, TB, malaria, childbirth, or the host of chronic diseases whose adverse impacts on the lives of Nigerian women and their families, continue to grow.
Our call is not only to get the right services into the defined UHC benefits packages but to ensure that women don’t face denials or other barriers to care. We call for women leaders, at all levels of government and civil society, to hold influential positions in the design and implementation of UHC programs. In our clime, we are aware that the move toward UHC usually means reforming and expanding existing services. This on its own, presents a major opportunity for expanding women’s health services.
Our call also includes that UHC’s success should be measured according to its health impact, not just inputs like new health facilities that are poorly equipped or not at all, or/and doctors and nurses, but meaningful service delivery measures like antenatal care coverage, and outcome measures like reduced maternal and child mortality. Our country needs these indicators at the local, state, regional, and national levels. We request for built-in indicators for key women’s health outcomes which will make it easier to hold governments (and stakeholders) to account in delivering on the promise of health for all (women inclusive), ensuring government-funded maternal and health services, including health services for adolescent girls and elderly women
Excellency, Hon. Minister, the Nigeria Universal Health Coverage Actions Network (NUHCAN) assures you, your Ministry, H.E. President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR, and our great country Nigeria, of our readiness and willingness to provide the effective civil society partnership needed to successfully and efficiently deliver the expected key women’s health outcomes from UHC activities”.

Reacting to the submission, the Honourable Minister, Dame Pauline Tallen nodded to the submission and assured the organization of timely actions in the right direction.

Dignitaries in attendance are, Ali Andrew Madugu, Dep. Dir., rep. the Hon. Minister, Mrs. Shuaibu M.F., Head, Health Desk, FMWA, Ukachi Chiom, PCDO Health Desk, FMWA, Ishaku Bitrus, CDO II, Health Desk, FMWA, Mrs. Margaret Chukwu Kikunde, Exec. Dir., EATS Initiative, NUHCAN member, Mrs. Lizzy Igbine, Head Finance, Member Gov. Council, NUHCAN, Dr. Uzodinma Adirieje, Executive Secretary and BOT Member, NUHCAN

About Yakubu Shendam

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