A group, Alliance for Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond, has lamented that the medical emergencies of malnutrition, water and air pollution cause more deaths to Nigerians than even COVID-19, and called for urgent attention of the Nigerian government.
ASCAB noted that Nigeria’s poor majority have been suffering from these major health disasters and the World Health Organisation estimated in 2018 that there were “perhaps 20,000 deaths each week in Nigeria which could have been avoided if the necessary medical care had been provided.”
The group stated this in a release on Thursday, noting that the top three risk factors for death or disability in Nigeria are: malnutrition, water/sanitation and air pollution.
ASCAB said, “The rich and powerful are not able to buy their way out of the dangers of COVID-19, so they impose lockdown on the majority to protect themselves, but they will not adequately fund public health. As a result, health workers and doctors see the pain and suffering resulting from inadequate funding and suffer particular risks from COVID-19. About 20 doctors died in one week – as they are not provided with adequate personal protective equipment.
“The Federal Health Budget for 2021 includes a recurrent health budget of N380 billion, capital spending of N132 billion and N35 billion for the Basic Health Provision Fund. This gives a total health budget of N547 billion. This is only a 3.6% increase in 2020, only 4.2% of the total proposed budget and less than N3,000 for each person.
“COVID-19 is real and has inflicted horrors across the world, but the poor suffer more every year from easily prevented and treatable diseases. The difference between COVID-19 and the diseases of poverty is that we know how to solve poverty and its related diseases. We have always had a vaccine for hunger – it is food.
“Poor people in Nigeria account for about a quarter of all deaths from malaria globally. These deaths would be greatly reduced if more people slept under mosquito nets, took malaria tests when they thought they had malaria and were then treated promptly. Poor people cannot afford to do this, but the rich can, so they are hardly affected by malaria.
“The top three risk factors for death or disability in Nigeria are malnutrition, water/sanitation and air pollution. These factors only really impact on the poor. Nigeria leads Africa in air pollution deaths (most are included in the lower respiratory infections category above). This may cause 114,000 deaths a year, including more than 64,000 deaths from the use of wood or charcoal-fuelled stoves for cooking which largely affects poor women.
“We need a massive increase in funding for public health to enable us all to survive COVID-19 and beyond; and to protect our health workers from COVID-19 and other diseases.”
ASCAB noted that it therefore supported the “calls from the health workers represented by Joint Health Workers Union and the Nigerian Medical Association for greater funding for public health and support any action they deem necessary to achieve their demands.”