WHO mobilises private investors for Nigeria

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Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo

By Onyebuchi Ezigbo

 The Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PSHAN),  and World Health Organisation  (WHO) have united to strengthen primary healthcare services across Nigeria, leveraging diverse expertise and resources for systemic change. WHO flagged off a collaborative venture with PSHAN under the “Adopt-A-Healthcare Facility Programme (ADHFP).

Speaking at the Project Collaboration Signing Ceremony between WHO and PSHAN, held at Transcorp Hilton in Abuja, WHO Representative in Nigeria, Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, said PSHAN aimed to establish at least one global-standard Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) in each of Nigeria’s 774 local government areas. He said the project would be executed in line with the guidelines of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA). He also said that WHO would provide technical assistance to PSHAN and PHCDA in the execution of the projects, to ensure capacity strengthening and adherence to guidelines, norms and standards; accountability for results, and value-for-money.

“This partnership is consistent with the WHO offer to the government of Nigeria as encapsulated in the 4th Generation Nigeria Country Cooperation Strategy (CCSIV) which over the next four years, would guide our commitment and investment to ensure that no one is indeed left behind, in line with the GPW13 and ensuing GPW14.

“Let me at this point note with optimism the plan of the Adopt-A-Healthcare Facility Programme (ADHFP), PSHAN aims to establish at least one global-standard Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) in each of Nigeria’s 774 local government areas which is in line with the guidelines of the NPHCDA. Mulombo further said: “My expectation is that the Adopt-A-Healthcare Facility Programme would go beyond establishing PHC facilities. It should ensure that private sector investment is directed towards improving the standards of service delivery. And this should include primary emergency care effort of government and all stakeholders which must be integrated to avoid fragmentation and ensure sustainable and resilient PHC systems to prevent, detect and respond to infectious diseases and outbreaks.

According to him, the initiative would ensure that: “Adequate investments are made to strengthen critical primary healthcare systems such as retention of skilled and motivated health workforce at the PHC level; essential medicines, vaccines, and commodities; appropriate infrastructure and equipment as well as appropriate technology, pooled funds to cover PHC so that all citizens would access PHC services free at the point of service use, while paying attention to equitable resource allocation and prioritisation of those most in need, proactive and scientific effort is made to track progress from the baseline.”

The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of PSHAN, Tinuola Akinbolagbe, said the significance of the initiative was to bring together the diverse expertise, resources, and perspectives of the public and private sectors, academia, civil society, and international organisations. She said: “At the core of our partnership lies the visionary Adopt-A-Healthcare Facility Programme (ADHFP), a flagship initiative aimed at establishing globally standardised Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) across Nigeria’s 774 local government areas. This initiative embodies our collective resolve to bridge the gap between healthcare demand and supply, empower local communities, and catalyse systemic change from the grassroots up. Through targeted investments, capacity-building initiatives, and innovative approaches to service delivery, we aim to create a healthcare ecosystem that is resilient, responsive, and inclusive.

“The collaboration between WHO and PSHAN signifies a significant milestone in our collective efforts to enhance healthcare through primary healthcare delivery. With this partnership, we aim to leverage the strengths and resources of both partners”

In a related development, the World Health Organisation has raised an alarm over the rising cases of infections and deaths from viral hepatitis globally. WHO explained on its website Tuesday that hepatitis is the second leading infectious disease with 1.3 million deaths per year, the same as tuberculosis, a top infectious killer.

New data from 187 countries show that the estimated number of deaths from viral hepatitis increased from 1.1 million in 2019 to 1.3 million in 2022. Of these, 83 per cent were caused by hepatitis B, and 17 per cent by hepatitis C. Every day, there are 3,500 people dying globally due to hepatitis B and C infections,” it noted.

According to WHO, despite better tools for diagnosis and treatment, and decreasing product prices, testing and treatment coverage rates have stalled. “However, reaching the WHO elimination goal by 2030 should still be achievable, if swift actions are taken now,” it noted.

Tedros Ghebreyesus

 

The WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, was quoted to have described the data from the report as worrisome. “This report paints a troubling picture: despite progress globally in preventing hepatitis infections, deaths are rising because far too few people with hepatitis are being diagnosed and treated. WHO is committed to supporting countries to use all the tools at their disposal – at access prices – to save lives and turn this trend around,” he said. The updated WHO estimates indicate that 254 million people lived with hepatitis B and 50 million with hepatitis C in 2022.

Also, the prevalence of chronic hepatitis B and C infections is among people 30–54 years old, with 12 per cent among children under 18 years of age while men accounted for 58 per cent of all cases. The new cases, when compared with 2019, indicate a decrease in the number of infections. However, the overall incidence of viral hepatitis remains high.

It noted that in 2022, there were 2.2 million new infections, down from 2.5 million in 2019 including 1.2 million new hepatitis B infections and nearly 1 million new hepatitis C infections, adding that more than 6000 people are getting newly infected with viral hepatitis daily.

Across all the world regions, the report noted that only 13 per cent of people living with chronic hepatitis B infection had been diagnosed and approximately 3 per cent or seven million had received antiviral therapy by the end of 2022.

While for hepatitis C, 36 per cent had been diagnosed and 20 per cent (12.5 million) received curative treatment, these results fall well below the global targets to treat 80 per cent of people living with chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C by 2030, but shows a slight but consistent improvement in diagnosis and treatment coverage since its last report estimates in 2019.  “Hepatitis B diagnosis increased from 10 per cent to 13 per cent and treatment from 2 per cent to 3per cent, and hepatitis C diagnosis from 21 per cent to 36 per cent and treatment from 13 per cent to 20 per cent,” it revealed.

The burden of hepatitis viral infection varies regionally. Statistics have shown that the African region has the highest burden of hepatitis B. “The WHO African Region bears 63 per cent of new hepatitis B infections, yet despite this burden, only 18 per cent of newborns in the region receive the hepatitis B birth-dose vaccination.

“In the Western Pacific Region, which accounts for 47 per cent of hepatitis B deaths, treatment coverage stands at 23 per cent among people diagnosed, which is far too low to reduce mortality, it noted. Bangladesh, China, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, the Russian Federation and Viet Nam, collectively shoulder nearly two-thirds of the global burden of hepatitis B and C.

“Achieving universal access to prevention, diagnosis, and treatment in these ten countries by 2025, alongside intensified efforts in the African Region, is essential to get the global response back on track to meet the Sustainable Development Goals,” it noted.

The disparities in prices exist both across and within WHO regions, with many countries paying above global benchmarks, even for off-patent drugs or when included in voluntary licensing agreements.

The report added that “only 60 per cent of reporting countries offer viral hepatitis testing and treatment services free of charge, either entirely or partially, in the public sector. Financial protection is lower in the African Region, where only about one third of reporting countries provide these services free of charge.”

According to the report, funding has remained a major challenge with regards viral hepatitis both at a global level, noting that the budget allocated is not sufficient to meet the needs. “This arises from a combination of factors, including limited awareness of cost-saving interventions and tools, as well as competing priorities in global health agendas. This report seeks to shed light on strategies for countries to address these inequities and access the tools at the most affordable prices available,” the report said.

However, it highlighted that the approaches need to eliminate viral hepatitis by 2030 includes expanding access to testing and diagnostics, shifting from policies to implementation for equitable treatment, strengthening primary care prevention efforts. Others are simplifying service delivery, optimising product regulation and supply, developing investment cases in priority countries, and mobilising innovative financing.

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