Health experts have lamented the continued poor health ranking of Nigeria in comparison to other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, a threat that may affect the realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030 as envisaged.
Recent data by the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey indicate that mortality rates from preventable causes, despite low, have remained, while childhood diseases have continued to take its toll on low income earners.
Analyses of the data underscores the reality that only 3% of Nigerians between aged 15 and 49 have access to health insurance while infant mortality is at 67 deaths per 1000 live births, meaning that one in eight children die before they are 5years.
Neonatal mortality rate, a probability of dying in the first month of life is at 39 deaths per 1,000 live births.
According to the NDHS of 2018 as analysed recently by UNICEF at a media dialogue, 25% of Nigerians still practice open defecation while only 39% of households in rural communities have improved sanitation.
This poor sanitation index is perhaps why Nigeria still accounts for 25% of the global Malaria burden despite interventions.
The survey further revealed that only 31 per cent of children aged 12 to 23 received all basic vaccination while those with no access to basic vaccinations moved from 29% to 19%.
Meanwhile, only 29% of children less than 6 months are exclusively breast fed, while 37% of children under 5 are stunted as a result of malnutrition.
Speaking to our correspondent, a health monitoring and evaluation specialist, at UNICEF, Maureen Zubie-Okolo said Nigeria’s failure to use data in tackling its demographic challenge has left many children behind.
‘‘These figures actually direct us, we have some improvements but the progress is actually poor and slow, we need to ensure that no child is left behind.”
In other sectors such as education, the NDHS revealed that 36% of females and 27% of males in Nigeria have no education.
But more worrisome is the fact that nearly one-third of women aged 15-49 in Nigeria has no education, a trend that experts fear may adversely reflect on child health.
”As a result of lack of education, most women do not know what to do to keep their children healthy and alive’. Zubie –Okolo said
Again, only 18% of female children and 19% of males aged 6 and above have attended primary school, with only 11percent of both sexes completing primary education.
The survey explains that 54 per cent of Nigerians wallow in poverty and live below $1.9 per day.
This alarming index obviously negates the purpose of Sustainable Development Goals instituted to help nations achieve equal growth and opportunity for its citizens.
Again there are the issues of poor access to healthcare delivery or high cost of health care, inadequate and unreliable data systems, poor funding for education, unemployment, the out of school children syndrome and insecurity.
These are all sectors where a nation is expected to perform optimally before it can be said to be on its way to development or achieving the SDGs.
Over the years there have been fluctuations in the nation’s indices, especially in the health sectors.
There have been periods of highs and periods of very bad lows.
For instance research recorded that under-five deaths in Nigeria was at 193 per 1000 live births in 1990, it rose to 201 in 2003 and then reduced to 157 in 2008.
In 2013, under-five deaths went down to 128, but hiked again in 2018 to 132 per 1000 live births.
In the 90s, neo-natal mortality rate was at 48 in1000 live births. In 2013 it went down to 37 but climbed to 39 in 2018.
In terms of vaccination, the NDHS shows that coverage improved in the past 10 years because the percentage of children aged 12 – 23 months who received all basic vaccinations increased from 23% in 2008 to 31 in 2018.
Most of the changes in index are attributed to human factor, fluctuations in the economy, social and cultural changes as well as modernisation factors.
But Zubie-Okolo, thinks that despite the slight increase in some numbers in the 2018 NDHS, fluctuations in growth is not a good attribute for a nation hoping to meet the SDGs, having woefully failed in realising the MDGs.
A development index expert, Dr. Davies Omotola says Nigeria is not measuring up effectively in goals 3,4,5,12,16 of the SDGs and as such must utilise the NDHS as a guide for checking lapses in the nation’s growth rate.
The call from experts now is for government to utilise data in improving national statistics and also in tracking its progress as part of efforts to meet the SDGs.
‘‘In today’s world data is life and for us who analyse the development indices, from data coming from the relevant agencies we see bleak figures, especially as the country faces so many challenges most of which bother on children and their development.” Omotola lamented.
He says Nigeria must factor its plans for achieving the SDGs into its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) if it intends to improve the livelihoods of its citizens
Goal sixteen (16) of the SDGs which stresses the need for peaceful and inclusive societies is still elusive in Nigeria as a result of tribalism and ethic sentiments and so government must work at fixing this, he said
“We have 10-years left to the end of SDGs but Nigeria does not have a plan. We are in a country where people wake up and whatever happens is what we do. The SDG is a flexible target, how many of those goals align with Nigeria’s target’’