As Nigeria continues to battle COVID-19 pandemic, with more than 166,730 cases and 2,117 deaths already recorded, only 20 percent of the Primary Health Care Centres in fifteen states are functional, research investigations and tracking conducted by leading Civil Society Organisation, Connected Development (CODE) has revealed.
Nigeria’s health sector has struggled to meet up with modern standards in terms of quality, efficiency, and accessibility to its vast population.
With the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the wide devastating gaps in the health system became more pronounced, as citizens at rural and semi-urban communities particularly, grappled with poor healthcare amidst a pandemic.
According to the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, Nigeria received 3.92 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in March 2021, the first delivery of the expected 16 million doses of AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines, to commence the vaccination of citizens in priority groups.
However, “the condition of the Primary Health Care centres (PHCs) where citizens receive treatment, and vaccines would be stored and administered became a matter of utmost concern to us at CODE,” says Busayo Morakinyo, community engagement director, CODE.
CODE embarked on a field-based research work to assess the readiness of the PHCs to receive, store and effectively administer vaccines, randomly selecting 90 PHCs across 15 states from the six geo-political zones in the country.
This research, coupled with an online campaign, was launched to advocate for transparency in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and equally drive for the standardization of PHCs–the first point of call for health care in any country–as part of the core objectives of the COVID-19 Transparency and Accountability Project (CTAP), a two-phased project supported by Conrad Hilton Foundation and Skoll Foundation, and executed by BudgIT Foundation, Connected Development and Global Integrity.
After three months of fieldwork and data analysis, CODE found that at least 80 percent of the 90 health centres fall below the minimum PHC standard set by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), with their grossly dilapidated infrastructure, poor and inadequate staffing, and incapacity to administer vaccines.
In a statement, CODE noted that, “For instance, two out of every ten facilities do not have any form of electricity; they supplement natural light with lanterns or torchlights. Thirty (30) percent have no access to clean water, thus relying on water from sources like wells and rain water, stored in tanks.
“With regards to vaccines’ storage and administration, only 56 out of the 90 PHCs assessed have the recommended pharmaceutical fridge to host vaccines. Our research also found that a number of the PHCs received less than 10 vials of COVID-19 vaccine, which brought to question the checklist that informed such numbers for a facility that serves a community of nothing less than 1000 people”.
CODE, however, said some PHCs have shown effort into providing minimum standard health services, as it found that the common service denominator amongst all the PHCs is that 90 percent of the facilities provide ante-natal and maternity care, although the absence of sufficient personnel brings into question the quality of care mother’s and babies receive.