97 per cent of Nigerians (about 194 million people) are not using health insurance to access healthcare services and this is denying many children access to basic healthcare, The Nigerian Demographic Health Survey (NDHS, 2018) report has revealed.
This is even as childhood mortality in Nigeria remains high with an estimated one million Nigerian children dying annually before their fifth birthday, the report further states.
Explaining the implications of low health insurance usage, today during a media dialogue on data reporting in Portharcourt, UNICEF-Nigeria Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, Maureen Zubie-Okolo, said if more mothers take their children to health facilities for basic vaccinations and other health interventions, child death will consequently be prevented.
But many mothers are paying for healthcare out of their pocket and are unable to afford the cost of health service for their children.
“This means that only 3 percent of Nigerians have access to health insurance. And we know that we have people that are not economically empowered to access health services. This implies that many children do not have access to health services because sometimes the reason why women don’t go to health facilities is because of cost. Health insurance ensures that if people are enrolled they have access to healthcare over a long period”, she said.
According to the NDHS, 2018 report, only 31 per cent of children aged 12 to 23 years have received all basic vaccination while 19 percent have had no vaccination. “What this means is that the basic vaccination coverage is still very poor even though per cent of children who received all vaccination increased from 23 per cent in 2008 to 31 per cent in 2018”, she explained.
According to her, having access to healthcare services during pregnancy, childbirth and after delivery are important for the survival and well being of both the mother and child. And health insurance is an avenue for women and children to have more access to healthcare.
Presently, many pregnant women are still delivering at home and by unskilled health workers and this is worrisome. According to the NDHS, 2018, delivery by skilled providers remains low at 43 percent even though the trend has improved from 39 per cent in 2008 to 43 percent as of 2018. Also, only 39 per cent of birth take place at health facilities.
“in order to reduce maternal and newborn mortality, delivery should occur in facilities where providers can manage obstetric and newborn complications that may arise during delivery. “Ensuring access to the continuum of care for women during the antenatal, intrapartum, and postpartum periods is critical for maternal and newborn survival and is a priority of the federal ministry of health.
In order to improve maternal and newborn healthcare services, Zubie-Okolo, explained that “Information on key indicators of maternal and newborn care in Nigeria will help policymakers and programme implementers in assessing current policies and programmes as well as in decision making”.
“Nigeria needs to intervene in all the sectors particularly health. Health is very critical especially child health, maternal health and areas of immunisation, which is currently still low.
“Child mortality is still high even though there’s being some progress over the years between 2013 to 2018 hence government needs to increase their investment in children because children are at the heart of development and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Without improved investment in children we will not be able to make much progress”, she said.
Earlier on, UNICEF-Nigeria Communication Specialist, Geoffrey Njoku, explained that the use of NDHS data will help us understand where the country stands ten years to the end of SDGs. According to him, writing data driven stories will help us communicate our stories better.
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