Dr Runcie Chidebe X-rays and mirrors the issues with the Nigeria’s Healthcare System

You will never understand how deplorable Nigeria’s Healthcare System is until you have a close relation down with an illness. It can take 3months for one single diagnosis & we would blame patients for presenting late. No! It’s the system! We’ve lost hugely to our poor healthcare.

We can never have a prosperous country with this kind of healthcare system. A system where EMERGENCY does not mean anything to anyone in the system. Patients had wait for over 3months to get as simple as Colonoscopy Done. You come today, they said no. It must be on THURSDAYS.

If you don’t come on Thursday, you can’t get this done! Well, the wealthy patients would simply zoom off to private facilities to get this done. The poor ones would take their VERY SICK ones home or to one PASTOR or BABA. If the system were good, Babas would be out of business.

In the entire country, Bone Scan is not available! Oh my God. For a population of over 200million. Well, only two centres has Bone Scan machines in Nigeria. You would travel from Port Harcourt to Ibadan they would say. Sorry it’s not working. Go to Abuja. On arrival to Abuja….

When you arrive Abuja, they would say “our Reagent is finished oh. Please come back next week”. When you come back, they would say Custom is delaying the Reagents from South Africa. After three weeks no Bone Scan! No Reagents. The women traveled from Port Harcourt. What would she do?

Some of Nigerian Healthcare workers are the GREATEST NAVIGATORS that I have seen in my life. They would pull you out from the PUBLIC Hospitals to their Private Facilities. For most of the Healthcare Workers, IT IS BUSINESS. They want to make money!

They work very hard to ensure the public facilities are dead. All Reagents may be missing in the Public Hospitals, but, it is available in the Private facilities.

Few months ago, my Parent’s doctor called me and she said: “I want to speak to you about your Mum’s health, please call me back. I am busy now”. Believe me, for whole day, I was restless. I called her more than 10times. Painfully, he phone number was not going through.

When I eventually got the doctor. She told me that my Mum’s Rheumatism has reduced. I almost collapsed. I said her: Doc, you just gave me High Blood Pressure. I thought, there was an emergency about my Mum. What am I saying! Because of this call about my parents, I was devastated.

Health is Everything! It is only a healthy wo/man that can think properly, only a healthy wo/man can secure us, only a healthy wo/man can teach, educate, engage in sports and many other activities. But, in Nigeria. Our government is yet to make HEALTH a national priority. The Nigeria’s healthcare system is structured to worsen other than improve health.

Nigeria's healthcare system
The problems with Nigeria’s healthcare system. Credit: InfoGuide

Of all forms of inequalities, injustice in access to healthcare is the most inhuman injustice in Nigeria. Off all forms of corruptions, corruption in healthcare is the worst inhuman form of corruption. Millions of Nigerians are dying every single day, because of our poor system.

In Nigeria, millions of people die from all sorts of inequalities, which are as a result healthcare injustices and very few or none is said about it. Nigeria has one of the highest number of under-immunized children in the world.

Citizens are not aware that the right to the highest attainable standard of health is a human right, including access to timely, socially and culturally acceptable and affordable healthcare of appropriate quality. NOTHING WILL CHANGE, IF WE DONT SPEAK ABOUT IT.

Women are frequently denied access to reproductive healthcare services, denied platforms to learn about their health based on traditions; our legislation and budget has no priority to healthcare and our healthcare coverage is the poorest in Africa & has always remain deplorable.

Our political rulers spend days in London/United Kingdon/United States receiving medical treatment for an undisclosed illness, spending taxpayer’s money instead of investing in the country’s healthcare.

Thousands of Nigerians will have same condition in Nigeria, and die in the same period because they could not afford a medical trip abroad; HENCE, “WE”the citizens needs to hold the leaders accountable to invest in healthcare. IT IS OUR RIGHT.

On 22/03/18, Bill Gates, truthfully criticized Nigeria’s government poor funding to healthcare. In his words, “one in three children is chronically malnourished and could therefore be at risk. This is a tragedy for each one of these children; it is also a huge blow to the economy.

If United States, Europe, and many other countries withdraw their donor funding from Nigeria by 31st December, 2018, in 2019, the poor Nigerians would be a trouble. Check this out: a greater % of the treatment of HIV patients in Nigeria is funded by United States and many others.

Investing in Nigeria’s healthcare is a great BUSINESS for Nigerian Government, but, they don’t see it. @WorldBank said: addressing the stunting crisis in Nigeria would add almost $30 billion to the GDP”. A reasonable government will set-up a research team to review this.

Our HEALTH IS OUR GREATEST SECURITY. If we don’t secure our internal being, we cannot secure the external environment. In my estimation, our soldiers cannot even fight Boko Haram, if their health status is low and not guaranteed.

Clearly, in 2017 national budget of N7.298 trillion, only a meager of 4.17% was allocated to health sector, which is arguably one of the most critical sectors that drive other sectors of the country.Only a healthy people can plan for security, development or economic advancement.

Specifically, about N304 billion on the health of over 180 million Nigerians, amounting to N1,688 per citizen for the whole year. Meanwhile, it is said that a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay in the United States will expand at least $7million in the same year.

This is the rationale for Nigeria having the worst health records in the world. The country’s average mortality is put at 52years.

The number of deaths of infants under one year per 1000 live births in Nigeria is about 72.7, according to 2015 World Fact Book, that of Rwanda is 58 deaths per 1000 children under five. That of Malawi is 42 deaths per 1000. Gabon is 46, Togo is 45, Kenya is 39, Libya is just 11.

In 2001, Nigeria hosted the Abuja Declaration by African Union where African nations signed a pact to raise health to 15% of their total budget. 17years after the Declaration, Nigeria is yet to raise its budget to 15%,……whereas Rwanda reportedly has 18% to healthcare. Botswana 17%,Malawi 17.1%, Zambia 16.%, Burkina Faso 15.8%, etc

The other issue is Corruption in the Healthcare sector in Nigeria. I am humbly appealing to all the amazing organizations engaged in budget tracking to consider health sector. Well Done with all your great work. Please let’s do more

Are these NOT corruption?

1.Diversion of patients to private clinics

2.Bringing in private patients into public hospital

3.Diversion of important drugs from public to private hospital

4.Longer patients for patients visits and follow up

5.Urban-rural Mal-distribution of health workers

Immunization prevents illness, disability and death from vaccine-preventable diseases including cervical cancer, diphtheria, hepatitis B, polio, etc. Nigeria is still battling with funding for Vaccines. Our future is may be blink and is not on a FRONT PAGE.

All over Nigeria, There is NO single PET SCAN. Our patients travel to Dubai, India and otherwise for PET Scan. PET SCAN (positron emission tomography), is a procedure in which a small amount of radioactive glucose is injected into a vein & a scanner is used to make detailed, computerized pictures of areas inside the body where the glucose is taken up.

Because cancer cells often take up more glucose than normal cells, the pictures can be used to find cancer cells in the body. PET SCAN is usually recommended for cancer patients, however, this is not available here. If you have to do it, you have to fly out of Nigeria.

There is a possible alternative known as Bone Scan. It can only be done in two Hospitals in Nigeria. Ibadan and Abuja. Painfully, it is either the machine is done or the Reagants are not available.

When will Nigerians happily benefit from the dividends of governance! Only the rich can afford healthcare in Nigeria. If you are poor in Nigeria, endeavour to subscribe to PREVENTION. You cannot afford CURE.

I am yet to see a nation that thrives with poor health indexes. Millions of Nigerians hate the hospitals because it is one of the most complicated place to visit. Sometimes, I pity for some doctors, they are so overwhelmed with patients.

If our Federal Government wants the best from Nigerians, we must invest in Healthcare. Healthcare must be Nigeria’s priority. As people are dying, we are loosing our greatest resource, which is our people. Let’s all advocate for health.


Runcie C. W. Chidebe

(Cancer Control Advocate and Psycho-oncologist)

This essay on Nigeria’s Healthcare System must have answered the following questions:

Access to healthcare in nigeria

Nigeria health care statistics

Problems of healthcare delivery system in nigeria

Health care policies in nigeria

Challenges of health care in nigeria and

Health issues in nigeria


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