Nigeria commemorates 2021 World Health Day-assents to ‘building a fairer, healthier world for everyone’

Benin, 8 April 2021 – Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire says, “the theme for 2021 World Health Day theme-building a fairer, healthier world for everyone not only opens conversations on many facets of inequities across the health sector globally, but also within our own national health system, from Federal, State to Local Governments.

The minister made the remark during a Press briefing to mark the 2021 World Health Day (WHD), celebrated virtual and physical with ceremonies held simultaneously in Benin City, Edo State and at the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) Abuja on 07 April 2021.

In Edo State, the Minister of Health Dr Ehanire in the company of Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, the WHO Country Representative (WR) to Nigeria, said the theme has put the challenges of inequalities of access to healthcare services on the global agenda and also reminds everyone that access to healthcare is no longer to be taken as a privilege but as a human right.

He observed further that though the year has been a very challenging one for global health, with the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has badly affected the health systems and economies of all nations, it opened all eyes to the urgency of expanding and improving not only public health security but also basic healthcare.

“We have found ourselves caught in a race with powerful nations for mundane items like face masks and other protective equipment, but also now, for access to vaccines and commodities to safeguard our people. We did the best possible and were able to ameliorate the deficits and ensure that supplies to health workers. It is clear to all however that none of us anywhere in the world is safe until everyone is.

According to him,  while the impact of the outbreak has yielded a much stronger public health laboratory capacity for the country, it also teaches that the task of building a better and stronger health sector and economy requires the collaborative effort of both the government at all level, the private sector and individuals. 

In his remarks, the WR commended the government of Edo state, the Ministry of Health for celebrating the day at both locations despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country. 

Presenting the message of WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti during the presser, Dr Mulombo said ‘the COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on inequalities between countries and as such, WHO, this year, is calling on everyone to participate in building a fairer, healthier world.”

He further noted that amid shortages of essential supplies, “African countries, including Nigeria, have been pushed to the back of the queue in accessing COVID-19 test kits, personal protective equipment and now vaccines. Of 548 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered worldwide, only 11 million or 2%, have been in Africa, whereas the continent accounts for around 17% of the global population.”

Assuring the federal government of WHO’s continual support in ensuring that Nigerians can realize the right to good health, he called on the government, partners, civil society, communities, and other stakeholders to intensify work with WHO to achieve Universal Health Coverage.

Meanwhile, in Abuja, the day started with a commemorative Health Walk, coordinated by the FMOH in collaboration with WHO and other health partners. In attendance were health workers, journalist, stakeholders working in the sector and some members of the public. 

Addressing the gathering at the FMOH car park after the walk, the minister of State for Health, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora said Nigeria joined the world to celebrate the day in solidarity with the WHO constitution to enduring that people everywhere have access to quality health services.

He reiterated that despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the health sector, the Federal Government will not recede in its commitment to ensuring that all Nigerians, irrespective of their location have equal access to quality health services.  

The minister of State concluded that, “We wish to congratulate WHO for weathering the storm in recent times and for many years of providing normative guidance and technical support.   The world owes WHO special word of gratitude.

Each year, WHO selects a theme highlighting a priority area of public health. The theme for this year’s global health awareness day ‘Building a fairer, healthier world’ highlights WHO’s constitutional principle that “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.

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