By Yashim Katurak
Mandate Health Empowerment Initiative (MHEI), an NGO, has criticised the non-inclusion of mental health related conditions in Nigeria’s Universal Health Coverage Master plan by the Federal Government.
The MHEI President, Mr Ameh Zion, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja on Friday, said that if this was not urgently addressed, stigma and poor care for the condition would continue to linger.
He said that not including mental health while charting a course for delivery of better health care services in the country would affect the overall outcome for the sector and the nation.
Zion therefore, urged the Federal Government to consider the place of mental health and give it the utmost priority by clearly capturing it in the UHC masterplan for Nigeria.
“My organisation has over the years been pushing for the inclusion of mental health in the primary health care system but our efforts have not yielded tangible results for reasons unknown to us.
“Clearly, capturing the care and treatment of mental health-related conditions, protection for persons living with the condition including their families and caregivers in the masterplan is the best way to address mental health.
“If you look at the Nigerian masterplan for UHC, you will see that the issues relating to mental health are not clearly captured.
“It is because of this that my organisation has joined the Global Mental Health Campaign which seeks to ensure that the prevention and promotion of mental health is captured in clear terms in the UHC masterplan of all countries,’’ Zion said.
According to the NHEI president, if mental health is not integrated into the masterplan, then we will continue to follow the old path where poor care, lack of facilities and stigma for the condition remains.
He said that even health professionals would not begin to see the importance of promoting and ensuring good care and service provision to people with the condition.
“The passage of the mental health bill in a country like Nigeria and the integration of mental health care delivery into the Primary Health Care system is UHC in true focus.
“There has been a lot of efforts over the decades to achieve this but for whatever reason which is not clear to us, this has not been implemented or achieved.
“Until this is done, UHC is not in true focus no matter the mobilisation and efforts put in place to achieve this target; we must realise the importance of mental health and how critical it is to the development of an individual or a nation like Nigeria,’’ he said.
Zion said that promoting mental health care and delivery in any country had nothing to do with how rich or poor such a country was, as it was a condition which affected individuals all over the world.
He said that mental health must therefore be integrated into the primary health care system, adding that the UHC is the best driving force to achieve this.
The MHEI president said that if mental health was incorporated into the primary health care system people who suffered from the condition would receive the protection they deserved which is their right.
“If mental health is incorporated it holds a lot of advantage towards addressing health needs. Currently, we do not have a mental health tribunal in Nigeria.
“People who suffer from mental health and their family members do not enjoy any form of protection either from abuse or stigma.
“Mental health can also be included in the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and if this is done, people who suffer from poor mental health will enjoy better treatment and care including access to medication,’’ he said.
The former World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative, Dr Wondi Alemu, had said at the launch of the UHC for Nigeria in 2018 that the country had the resources to achieve UHC by 2030.
Alemu said that the main objective of UHC was to protect people from financial consequences of paying for health services out of their own pockets, thereby reducing poverty.
He said that this implied that Nigeria, like other countries, was therefore expected to be able to provide free healthcare services to citizens by 2030.
He added that Nigeria had developed and launched a UHC framework in 2018 with its support and those of its partners.
According to Alemu, the Primary Health Care (PHC) is the mechanism the Federal Government has chosen to use in actualising the UHC framework, hence government is partnering with WHO to revitalise the PHC system.
He added that the WHO in collaboration with the Federal Ministry of Health was working to strengthen the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and support states to establish State Insurance Scheme.
The former country representative disclosed that the strategy would enable government provide free healthcare services to citizens, especially those in rural communities and those not eligible to receive health services through insurance scheme.