By Ifeanyi Nwoko
The Founder and President of Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA), Mrs Toyin Saraki has been named Global Champion of Universal Health Coverage.
Mrs Saraki, whose husband is the President of the Nigerian Senate was given the recognition at the Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Forum which convened in Tokyo.
The Forum which brings together over 300 high-level policymakers, including heads of state and ministers of health and finance, recognised Saraki for her roles in advancing health services in Nigeria, especially for women and children.
UHC is defined as people and communities being able to use the promotive, preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need, of sufficient quality and timeliness to be effective, while also ensuring that the use of these services does not expose the user to financial hardship.
According to the Forum, Mrs Saraki was awarded in recognition of her high-level advocacy for UHC at the 72nd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, in September.
While attending the UNGA, Mrs Saraki advocated for the implementation of innovative country and regional initiatives on policy and governance, working towards strengthening primary healthcare systems and the development of health security in Nigeria.
Her advocacy drew upon thirteen years of the WBFA’s work to improve health outcomes in Nigeria, across Africa, and around the world.
While expressing gratitude for the award and to mark the Universal Health Coverage Day, Mrs Saraki said: “We must act to ensure that every person – rich or poor, old or young, living in urban or rural areas – has access to effective, timely and quality healthcare.
“The effects of Universal Health Coverage stretch far beyond health outcomes, although we are in dire need of vast improvements in that area.
“Health security reduces poverty, protects against epidemics, drives economic growth and promotes gender equality.”
“Every year, roughly 100 million people, globally, are pushed into poverty due to colossal health costs, while only 1 in 5 have social security protection that will cover lost wages in the event of an illness.
“The situation in Nigeria reflects that of many developing countries. With an estimated population of 191 million, less than 10 million of our population is covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS).”
“I have been advocating for action and investment to make UHC a reality, and I am delighted that some progress has been made – the Legislative Network for Universal Health Coverage, launched in July, aims to address the issue of financing healthcare to reach all Nigerians, and the Senate’s adoption, last month, of the one percent Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) for the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) is ground-breaking.”
“We do, however, need to consolidate and build upon these achievements as a matter of urgency. As a Global Universal Health Coverage Champion, I will advocate for the benefits of UHC all over the world – but always challenge innovators, partners, experts and legislators to prioritise Nigeria, with its burgeoning population and health challenges.”