Nigeria: Agenda for Pate-Led Health Ministry

Muhammad Ali Pate has taken charge of Nigeria’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare as Coordinating Minister.

Development Diaries reports that Pate, a professor of public health leadership, was among the 45 ministers-designate of President Bola Tinubu who took the oath of office on 21 August, 2023, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Despite Nigeria’s strategic position in Africa, the country has a poor reputation in health care. Public health sector investment is poor as the country’s maternal and infant mortality is among the highest in the world.

In the country’s rural areas, there are insufficient health facilities and brain drain is surging.

Data from the Development Research and Projects Centre (dRPC) show that between 2015 and 2021, nearly 5,000 doctors relocated to the United Kingdom.

With a population of over 200 million people, Nigeria only has 24,000 licenced doctors. This equates to four doctors to 10,000 patients.

In 2022, the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) noted that the country had less than ten percent of the number of doctors needed to meet the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) recommendation of one doctor to 600 patients.

Many health experts have decried the frequency at which registered nurses, midwives, doctors and other health care workers leave the country for greener pastures.

Other core challenges include poor health infrastructure, work tools, access to safe drinking water, fake drugs, insufficient financial investment, and lack of sufficient health personnel in the country.

Indeed, the former Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has his work cut out for him.

No doubt, Pate is an accomplished global health leader. Prior to his appointment as minister, he served on several health-focused boards in the public, private, and not-for-profit sectors, and held several senior positions in Nigeria and abroad.

One of the actions the minister must take is to develop and implement inclusive health insurance policies to reach vulnerable groups.

He must work towards ensuring that all Nigerians have access to affordable and quality health care services regardless of their socio-economic status or location; and prioritise disease prevention and control.

With regard to brain drain, the new minister needs to enhance the working conditions of health workers by providing competitive salaries and creating more job opportunities that can incentivise skilled individuals to stay in the country.

He must also work towards promoting accountability and transparency in the health sector by ensuring that funds allocated to the sector are effectively utilised.


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