By Gabriel Ameh, The Sight News
ABUJA: In 2018 the World Health Organization (WHO) ranked Nigeria’s health care system at 187th out of 190 with countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia and Democratic Republic of Congo outperforming Nigeria on the index while the historic data on maternity and child health incident in Nigeria remains poor, especially with the number of daily deaths of mothers from pregnancy related issues.
Currently, only 6,000 of the over 30,000 Primary healthcare Centers (PHCs) in Nigeria—that is less than 20% of PHCs— is functional.
It is on this premise, that Civil Society actors— Good Governance Team (GGT) Nigeria in partnership with HEINRICH Boll Stiftung Foundation called on stakeholders in the health sectors and the media to create awareness to drive the needed policy and Legislative change for the mainstreaming of renewable energy solutions in the electrification of PHCs in Nigeria.
The group at a Policy Dialogue on Powering Primary Healthcare Centres in Nigeria through sustainable energy solutions and innovative funding models on Wednesday, reiterated the need to put in place laws, policies, provisions and checks to ensure that PHCs across the country can function optimally.
Speaking at the event, the founder and convener of Good Governance team (GGT) Mr. Tunde Salman, stated that healthcare infrastructure is critical for the revitalization of quality healthcare service delivery in Nigeria.
He noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need to accelerate energy access for Nigeria’s essential infrastructure, including her vast network of over 30,000 Primary Healthcare Centres (PHCs) across the country, despite the existing grid infrastructure and fossil-fuel generators which provide power supply to the PHCs.
He added that grid infrastructure can be unreliable while fossil-fuel generators are environmentally damaging and expensive.
“Consequently, a lack of power in over 80 percent of above 30,000 PHCs adversely affects their capacity to provide adequate healthcare services 24/7 hours/day, maintain adequate prevention and control, and carry out basic laboratory tests amongst others,” he concluded.
For his part, the Co-convener and Program Coordinator of HEINRICH Boll Stiftung, Ikenna Donald, said the team is advocating for a policy review in the health sector, in order to identify the gaps in the provision of health infrastructure functionality especially as it relates to power supply.
He disclosed that the GGT fact sheet states that a 2018 report by HBS, shows that 57% of the PHCs surveyed are connected to unreliable and unstable national electricity grid (they only get electricity for less than five hours a day and have to source for electricity from other alternatives).
The remaining 43% of the surveyed Primary Healthcare Centres on the other hand, he said, are connected to the national grid and thus, they either depend on an alternative energy source of power or remain without electricity. While the over 30,000 PHCs in Nigeria, less than 6,000 of them work effectively, that is less than 20% of the entire PHCs in the country.
He noted that PHCs, boreholes, grid or renewable electricity are constituency projects of Senators and Federal house of Representatives’ members and the rural community members need to be informed and aware of, as their rights and not a privilege from the legislative members.
Addressing newsmen at the event, a Civil Society Director, Mr. Babatunde Adegbesan who is a Geoscientist, stated that the PHCs are characterized by infrastructural decay, loss of health inventory, unavailable medical equipment, poor staffing and working conditions amongst others, noting that in most PHCs, vaccines are either unavailable or cannot be properly stored, adding that lack of clean potable water is a major problem.
He further said that medical staff are forced to source water from local vendors without knowing the source or quality of such water. Moreso, where boreholes exist, many are either broken down or are not powered.
In addition, he said several PHCs are unable to render services beyond 5:00p.m due to lack of power to provide illumination at night therefore, forcing most medical personnel to rely on the use of rechargeable lamps, kerosine lanterns or petrol powered generators for night emergencies.
The civil society group Good Governance team (GGT) is advocating for the mainstreaming of renewable electricity for the PHCs for consideration and implementation by relevant actors and decision makers to finally use the policy position paper to engage the relevant stakeholders and actors in the Executive, Legislative chambers, the civil society, media and general public, to ensure that the issue of electrifying the health sector is given priority even in the country where electricity deficit has become an established reality.