Town Hall Meetings – Nigerian Style

The Reproductive Health Forum discussion group on Yahoo reports plans that the “Federal Ministry of Health in its effort to revitalize the health system in the country is holding a one day Consultative Health Forum in Lere Local Government Area (LGA) of Kaduna State,” on Thursday 17th December 2009.

dscn0179sm.JPGThe town hall style meeting “will focus on maternal and child health along with related issues of water, sanitation and Malaria and will primarily be discussed with women and men of reproductive age, representatives of key health oriented Civil Society Organizations, Community Based Organizations, and Faith Based Organizations.” This is billed as the first of six such meetings that will cover all the geopolitical zones in Nigeria.

This process is in keeping with the pledge by Professor Babatunde Osotimehin Honorable Minister of Health as seen on the Ministry’s website that, “We want feedback to ensure this dialogue is dynamic, vibrant and continuous.”

The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health, Mr. Linus Awute, in a recent press release acknowledged some of the problems that forum participants may also raise:

He said that it is glaring that health service delivery is not often available for the rural populace adding that 75% of Nigeria’s population is rural and cases of maternal mortality rate is very high in the rural areas. He attributed this ugly situation to the non-availability of skilled workers in the rural areas stressing that the Ministry is working round the clock to address the bad situation. He added that the Ministry is revitalizing primary healthcare as an avenue to delivering healthcare to its citizens.

As noted, the fora will address basic issues of water and sanitation.  This comes on the heels of a recent cholera outbreak in the country, about which Nigeria Health Watch observes …

Cholera is not a disease anyone should be getting in October 2009 … definitely not in Nigeria. To understand the absurdity of this; the last major outbreak of cholera in the United States occurred in 1910-1911! If we want to pursue grand dreams such as becoming one of the 20 largest economies by the year 2020 … maybe we should start with some of the apparently small steps such as preventing cholera!

Dialogue on health is definitely needed in Nigeria. Consumer out-of-pocket expenditures account for 65% of health spending in Nigeria – so citizens are definitely interested and involved in health care. The question is whether health system can be responsive to community needs. We look forward to hearing the results of the Lere LGA and the 5 other health fora.

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