The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly shaped the happenings in the year 2020. Most economies have been impacted and people’s lifestyles were modified. Everyone is learning new ways to adjust to the new normal. Social distancing, working-from-home and wearing masks are some of these new normals that might be around for a while. 

Most countries are actively rebuilding their economies due to the different lapses exposed by the pandemic. This means that Healthcare remains an integral part of adjusting to this new normal. Therefore, it is expected that there will be more focus and funding of healthcare services and healthcare systems across the globe.

For developing countries like Nigeria, this period provides the perfect opportunity to evaluate and reevaluate strategies around the healthcare system. As a country with numerous healthcare burdens and financing gaps, there are a few lessons it can take from exemplars in global health.

Exemplars in global health is an initiative providing evidence-based insights from positive outliers in health across the world to help decision-makers achieve large scale success. In simple terms, the idea is to identify countries who are doing well, understand why they are doing well, and present these findings in the simplest ways for other countries to replicate.

In most cases, the countries enjoying the best healthcare services are the developed countries. Such countries have higher incomes and better living conditions – including health. While this is true, there are also less developed or developing countries who are performing excellently as exemplars in global health. Some of these countries include Ethiopia, Nepal, Peru, Senegal, Rwanda, Brazil, etc.

What Nigeria can learn from Exemplars in Under-five mortality

In a recent report from UNICEF, Nigeria has overtaken India in the first position as the country with the most under-five deaths. Nigeria recorded an estimated average of 858,000 under-five deaths against India’s 824,000 deaths from the 5.2 million under-five deaths globally.

Senegal is one exemplar in global health in the under-five mortality category. Other countries in the under-five mortality category are Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nepal, Peru and Rwanda. From 2000 to 2015, Senegal’s under-five mortality (U5M) rate decreased by 56 per cent. That is, from 117.3 per 1000 deaths in 2000 to 52.1 per 1000 deaths in 2015. This was achieved through the implementation of comprehensive vaccination programs and Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI).

From the report on how Senegal has tackled its under-five mortality rate, here are some of the key insights:

  1. Significant improvements in data, research, and health surveillance capacity.
  2. Investments in infrastructural and logistical systems relevant to public health.
  3. Emphasis on meeting community needs, enhancing their public acceptability and feasibility.
  4. Close coordination with donors, partners, local researchers, and international organisations.

What Nigeria can learn from Exemplars in Stunting

According to WHO, stunting is the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation. Children are defined as stunted if their height-for-age is more than two standard deviations below the WHO Child Growth Standards median.

According to a report from UNICEF, Nigeria has the second-highest burden of stunted children in the world, with a national prevalence rate of 32 per cent of children under five. An estimated 2 million children in Nigeria suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), but only two out of every 10 children affected are currently reached with treatment.

Nigeria can also learn from some of the exemplars in global health in the category of stunting – Ethiopia, Kyrgyz Republic, Nepal, Peru and Senegal. Ethiopia has been able to cut its stunting rate 67 to 38 percent between 1992 to 2016. The following are some of the key insights from the full report on how they achieved this fit:

  1. Investments in agricultural productivity were essential for food security and poverty reduction.
  2. Investments in education to improve the nation’s literacy.
  3. Improved care and health services
  4. Healthy household environments.

With the lapses exposed in the nation’s healthcare system due to the pandemic and the increasing rate of health burdens, there is an urgent need for more investments in healthcare. Nigeria also needs to learn from countries doing well in different areas of the burdens.

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