The year 2022 was quite a busy one for the Nigerian healthcare sector, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lassa fever outbreak and the resurgence of Mpox.

From dealing with the country’s already overstretched healthcare system to losing huge numbers of healthcare workers in developed countries, 2022 will remain an unforgettable year for the sector.

In this report, PREMIUM TIMES takes a look at some important milestones that shaped the healthcare industry in 2022.

COVID-19 pandemic

Two years after Nigeria reported its index case of COVID-19 in an Italian traveler, the country appears to have mastered the pandemic that had previously crippled the health system.

Routine immunization, maternal and reproductive health, and child and adolescent health are among the health services disrupted as a result of the pandemic that has claimed more than 600 million lives worldwide.

Nigeria has so far tested more than 5.7 million samples for COVID-19, of which 266,450 tested positive. More than 3,000 people have also died from complications related to COVID-19 in the country.

The number of cases reported weekly has dropped dramatically compared to the early days of the pandemic.

At the start of the pandemic, new cases reported nationwide were between 100 and 200 per day. However, fewer than 50 weekly cases have been reported in recent weeks.

This downward trend may be related to increased vaccination rates against COVID-19 in all 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Nigeria started vaccination against COVID-19 in March 2021 and has so far fully vaccinated more than 63 million people eligible for vaccination. Another 12 million eligible people have also received a dose of COVID-19 vaccines.

Although the country did not achieve its ambitious goal of vaccinating 40% of the population by the end of 2021 and 70% by the end of 2022, efforts are underway to ensure that more people are vaccinated.

Relaxation of COVID-19 travel protocols

In response to the significant reduction in COVID-19 infections, the Nigerian government ordered the relaxation of COVID-19 related safety measures and travel advisories, including the suspension of all PCR testing requirements prior to departure, before boarding and after arrival.

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Announced by the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 (PSC) on December 12, 2022, relaxed protocols including mandatory use of face masks in public spaces and restrictions on mass gatherings are now optional.

Prior to relaxation, a COVID-19 PCR test was required within 48 hours of departure for all travelers. There was also a 2-day post-arrival PCR test mandatory for travelers arriving in the country. Partially vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers were also expected to self-isolate for seven days and a negative COVID-19 PCR test was required on day 7 of arrival to exit isolation.

Several controversies had followed Nigeria’s COVID-19 protocol for international travelers. Many complained about the high cost of a PCR test even as other countries were already giving up on protocols.

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Brain drain

The continued emigration of doctors, nurses and other health professionals to developed countries is one of the main “sad” developments in the sector in 2022.

Various statistics indicated that a large number of Nigerian doctors migrated to seek greener pastures in developed countries.

a 2022 UK immigration report It showed that 13,609 Nigerian healthcare workers (including doctors) received work visas last year, making the country second only to India’s 42,966. The president of the Nigerian Medical AssociationUche Rowland, at a symposium on ‘brain drain in the health sector’, said that more than 5,000 doctors have migrated to the United Kingdom (UK) in the last eight years.

This has created a huge gap in Nigeria’s healthcare system, with only 24,000 doctors to care for the more than 200 million people. This is also in stark contrast to the approximately 360,000 doctors needed to meet the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation.

Nurses and medical consultants are also leaving. Between 2019 and mid-2022, at least 4,460 nurses immigrated from Nigeria to the United Kingdom (UK), according to data from the Research and Development Projects Center (dRPC).

About 500 medical and dental consultants also left the county between 2020 and 2022.

When health experts met in Abuja at the end of the year to discuss ways to stem the brain drain, they suggested improving the working conditions of doctors and other health personnel as a panacea.

in a interview Speaking with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Nigerian Health Minister Osagie Ehanire agreed that doctors’ working conditions need to be improved, saying the government was already working to achieve this. He also said that the government was working to recruit experienced Nigerian doctors living abroad so they could offer health care services to Nigerians virtually.

Increase in deaths from Lassa fever and infections

In 2022, Nigeria experienced a significant increase in Lassa fever infections in all 36 states and the FCT.

The latest epidemiological report published by NCDC for week 50 of 2022, December 12-18, shows that the number of confirmed cases and deaths increased compared to what was reported for the same period in 2021.

lassa fever
Photo of specimen rats used to illustrate the story.

The report revealed that from week 1 to week 50 of 2022, 183 deaths were reported with a case fatality rate (CFR) of 17.6 percent, which is lower than the CFR for the same period in 2021 of 20, 3 percent.

It also added that a total of 1,038 confirmed infections and 7,981 suspected infections were registered between January and December 18 in 111 LGAs in 27 states.

Of all the confirmed cases, 71 percent came from Ondo, Edo and Bauchi. While Ondo state in the southwest topped the list of infections with 33 percent, Edo and Bauchi states accounted for 25 and 13 percent respectively.

Mpox Resurgence

The world was affected by the new Mpox outbreak in 2022 from the UK which linked its first confirmed infection to Nigeria. In May, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) announced in a statement that an unidentified individual who traveled from Nigeria to England tested positive for Mpox.

Months later, the WHO declared Mpox a global health emergency of international concern due to its continued spread around the world, and also approved the name change from Monkeypox to Mpox.

READ ALSO: WHO recommends “mpox” as a new name for monkeypox

While WHO and CDC data confirmed that gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men make up the majority of cases in the current Mpox outbreak, Nigeria has also consistently reported infections.

As of December 21, African CDC data shows that since the beginning of 2022, the continent has reported 1,176 confirmed cases and 219 deaths in eight endemic African Union (AU) member states. Nigeria led with 704 infections, followed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Ghana with 257 and 107 cases respectively.

According to the data, the Democratic Republic of the Congo recorded the most deaths with 198, while Nigeria and Ghana reported just seven and four deaths, respectively.

From NHIS to NHIA; compulsory medical insurance

As part of efforts to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) for all, President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA) bill 2022.

The NHIA, which repeals the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) Law in existence since 2004, makes health insurance compulsory for all Nigerians.

Mr Buhari said the NHIA will work with state government health insurance schemes to accredit primary and secondary health care facilities and ensure enrollment of Nigerians.

The law also included the Vulnerable Group Fund (VGF), to ensure coverage for 83 million Nigerians who cannot afford premiums as recommended by the Nigeria Lancet Commission.

He said that the “fund for vulnerable groups” will be financed through the basic health care provision fund, the health insurance levy, the special intervention fund, as well as any investment proceeds, donations and gifts to the authority.

Health obtains the highest budget allocation

For the first time in the history of health financing in Nigeria, more than one trillion naira was allocated to the sector in the proposed budget for 2023. An analysis of the proposed budget presented by President Muhammadu Buhari in October shows that N1.17 trillion (5.75%) was allocated to the health sector out of the total budget of N20.5 trillion for FY2023.

Although it falls short of a 2001 commitment to allocate at least 15 percent of the total budget to the health sector, it is the highest ever allocated to the sector.

African heads of state and government under the African Union (AU) in April 2001 pledged to dedicate at least 15 percent of their annual budgets to the health sector in what is now known as the ‘Abuja Declaration’. ‘.

While countries like Rwanda and South Africa have fulfilled the commitment, Nigeria has not found a way to do so. A review of the budget allocation to the health sector over the past 21 years revealed that Nigeria has never reached the 15 percent target. Although the 5.75% allocated to health in the 2023 budget is an increase from the 4.7% allocated in 2022, health experts say more promotion is needed to ensure the government delivers on the commitment made in the Declaration from Abuja.

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