UNICEF and Oyo State Advocate for Health Insurance to Combat Child Mortality

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UNICEF and Oyo State Advocate for Health Insurance to Combat Child Mortality

The United Nations Children’s Fund, in partnership with the Government of Oyo State, has emphasized the importance of embracing health insurance schemes as a strategic approach to reduce child mortality rates in Nigeria.

This advocacy was highlighted at a media workshop held on Wednesday in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, under the theme ‘Changing the narrative on child mortality through health insurance.’

During her presentation on ‘Access to health insurance: A gateway to achieve Universal Health Coverage for all in Nigeria,’ Dr. Ijeoma Agbo, a health specialist from UNICEF, pointed out that there has been a gradual increase in the number of people covered by health insurance. Despite these advances, Dr. Agbo noted the existence of considerable disparities, with a large segment of the population, especially those most at risk, still without insurance.

Dr. Agbo expressed, “Universal Health Coverage is achieved when all people have access to high-quality essential services they need without facing financial hardship, particularly at the time of service delivery. Several states in Nigeria have introduced their health insurance schemes to complement the NHIS and extend coverage to residents. These state-level schemes vary in scope, coverage, and implementation effectiveness and impact in terms of overall progress towards UHC.”

She further stressed the urgency of expediting efforts towards achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Nigeria by tackling systemic issues and enhancing the capacity of health systems.

“Achieving UHC requires a multi-sectoral and collaborative approach involving government agencies, healthcare providers, donor agencies, civil society organisations, the private sector, communities, and the media,” she underscored.

Additionally, UNICEF has pledged its dedication to collaborating with various stakeholders to dismantle obstacles, mobilize resources, and guarantee that every Nigerian can access necessary healthcare services without being burdened by costs.

Dr. Olusola Akande, the Executive Secretary of the Oyo State Health Insurance Agency, in his talk on ‘Social Health Insurance Scheme: The Situation in Nigeria’, announced plans to insure up to 500,000 individuals in the state by the end of 2024. He highlighted the state’s commitment, which exceeded N1bn in contributions to the health scheme, and mentioned that the annual premium for the health insurance package was set at N13,500.

“In Oyo State today, we are enrolling everybody. Every benefit package has a limit. We are enrolling people living with disabilities. Also, we will soon be enrolling people on the street. The vulnerable and the poor must benefit,” Dr. Akande elaborated.

Blessing Ejiofor, the Communication Officer for UNICEF, spoke on the critical role of health insurance in ensuring children have access to necessary healthcare services promptly, which is essential for their survival, growth, and ability to achieve their full potential.

Ejiofor encouraged journalists at the workshop to use their platforms actively to advocate for bridging the gaps in health insurance coverage for vulnerable groups.

Furthermore, Mr. Dauda Stephen, Director of Marketing and Quality Assurance, shared insights into the agency’s extensive advocacy efforts to promote the adoption of health insurance among the populace. UNICEF’s Health Specialist, Olufemi Adeyemi, in his opening statement, highlighted the financial challenges as a significant barrier to healthcare delivery.

According to UNICEF, in 2022 alone, approximately 4.9 million children under five years old passed away globally, translating to around 13,400 children under the age of 5 dying each day.

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