Presidential summit on Universal Health coverage ends in Nigeria

His Excellency President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has declared at the opening of the Presidential Summit on Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Abuja on Monday, 10th March, 2014 that for the Universal Health Coverage to be a reality in Nigeria, health Insurance must be a compulsory policy.

The President, who was represented at the historic event by the Vice President, Mohammed Namadi Sambo, tasked Nigerians to elevate the UHC into a National movement stating that “Nigeria is not where it ought to be in terms of UHC with other Nations in the same development bracket”.

He reaffirmed the Federal Government’s political commitment towards providing equitable, qualitative and universally acceptable healthcare for all Nigerians without suffering financial hardship but acknowledged that numerous challenges are limiting the full potential of the UHC.

His goodwill message, the WR Dr. Rui Vaz, on behalf of the WHO Director General, Dr. Margaret Chan and the Regional Director for the African Region, Dr. Luis Gomes Sambo, remarked that while there is no universal panacea for increasing coverage, “each country must curve its own way forward” and added that “Nigeria is defining its own UHC roadmap; rooted in the country’s own culture, political system and institutions; the legacy of existing health systems and above all, aspirations of all Nigerians”.

The Presidential Summit which was preceded by a 2-day pre-summit technical meeting with the lead paper Achieving Universal Health Coverage: Analysis of relevant options presented by WHO and attended by Executive Governors, Ministers of the Federal Republic, Legislators, Health Commissioners, Traditional Rulers, development partners among others, concluded  with the Presidential Summit Declaration on UHC.

The Declaration affirmed that health is a fundamental human right and the responsibility of government in assuring the health of all Nigerians. It acknowledged the progress made despite the existing challenges towards attaining UHC in Nigeria through initiatives at all levels of government.

The Declaration recommended that the Government of Nigeria should work towards instituting mandatory health insurance in Nigeria, with contributions from all income earners-formal and informal- and make available special funds to cover the poor (UHC Fund).

It was further recommended that a standard benefit package of essential health services that address priority health care needs of all Nigerians should be defined. In addition, it was said that UHC cannot happen unless there is a functional health system, where there is adequate human resource for health, life saving commodities and supplies, sustainable financing and a mechanism to maintain quality services.

It was also proposed that there should be a committee or taskforce to ensure that UHC is initiated, implemented and sustained in Nigeria for all Nigerians.