Toyin Saraki Alerts UNGA On Five Major Threats To SDGs In Countries

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Mrs. Toyin Saraki with WHO Director-General, Dr. Tedros and former President of Tanzania Jakaya Kikwete
  • Berates Low Budgetary Allocation To Health In Africa

By ‘Dotun Akintomide

Unless significant progress is being made to bolster critical areas, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) might become a delusion to the global community, Her Excellency, Mrs Toyin Ojora-Saraki, Monday, sounded the warning as she addresses the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly convened in New York.

Mrs Saraki, the Founder-President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa and a Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives observed that in Africa, the low amount that countries vote to health in annual budgets contitutes a major threat to achieving the SDGs.

She lamented that despite the Abuja declaration where African nations pledged to appropriate 15% of government budgets to health, only Rwanda and South Africa have been able to meet the target as other countries continue to fall short of this minimum requirement.

“Only two countries in Africa – Rwanda and South Africa – have met the Abuja declaration to pledge 15% of their government budgets to health. Meanwhile, tuberculosis kills more than 4,000 people every single day, non-communicable diseases kill over 41 million people every year, and 80% of deaths in childbirth could be avoided with techniques that should be available across the globe. There has also been a distinct lack of progress in delivering upon the World Health Assembly 2017 Sepsis Resolution and improving water, sanitation and hygiene in healthcare facilities, schools and communities,” she said.

To ramp up global support in realising the goals, Mrs Saraki who is the Wife of Nigeria’s Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki and a Special Adviser to the World Health Organization regional office for Africa will be speaking on the five key interventions that must be urgently made for speedy progress.

While highlighting the five key interventions, she equally wants governments and global institutions to strengthen security provisions for frontline health workers working in flash zones. Her call follows the last week murder of 25-year-old midwife and mother, Ms. Saifura Hussaini Ahmed Khorsa by Boko Haram after being held hostage for over six months by the deadly sect, operating in Nigeria’s beleaguered North East.

In her words: “Investment in family, community and primary healthcare – along with hospitals where needed – to bolster healthcare wherever people need it; in rural areas and urban, cities and villages.

“The murder of young midwife and mother Saifura Hussaini Ahmed Khorsa in Nigeria last week must spur Governments and global institutions on to strengthen security provisions for frontline health workers. Their training and pay conditions must also be improved. The Wellbeing Foundation Africa’s Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care programme, operated with its global partners Johnson & Johnson and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, can serve as the benchmark for health worker training. We have shown that qualified midwives can and do lead the way with quality care.

“Civil registration and vital statistics systems must be implemented and strengthened to allow Governments to prepare for epidemics and allocate investment where it is needed the most. 1.8 billion people, according to the World Bank’s latest statistics, have no Government identification. Their health needs are consequently highly likely to not be met and they will be especially vulnerable during disease outbreaks.

“Government investment in strengthening health insurance systems is paramount – in Nigeria and around the world, too many people are pushed into poverty by health emergencies that they or their families experience.

“Non-communicable diseases kill over 41 million people every year. The Director-General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros, has rightly highlighted the NCD crisis and it must be a core focus of all Government programmes.

“Whilst progress has been made in many areas, I feel compelled to speak out as too many women, children and communities are being left behind. We have the opportunity to change the course of history, but it is a chance that is slipping away. Urgency is the order of the day.”

During the UN General Assembly, Mrs Saraki is also scheduled to meet with fellow African philanthropists and global partners, and to deliver high-level United Nations advocacy speeches on child health and malaria, frontline health workers and the steps required to achieve Universal Health Coverage.

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