Several weeks ago, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, Minister of Health of Nigeria, was at the United Nations headquarters in New York where he addressed a summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). With only five years left until the 2015 deadline, there is a renewed sense of urgency among under-performing countries such as Nigeria to accelerate progress towards achieving the MDGs.
Soon after Chukwu took office six months ago, he lamented that Nigeria faced unique problems that made attainment of the MDGs very difficult. Within a few months, however, he was more optimistic, touting the National Health Strategic Development Plan before the Commonwealth Health Ministers meeting in Geneva, a plan which Chukwu said specifically addresses core health-specific MDG targets for infant mortality, maternal mortality, HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
Taking the podium at the UN, Chukwu while acknowledging the difficulties ahead was also exuding confidence, reeling off statistics to show recent progress:
“Nigeria is reasonably on course to achieve the target of MDGs on reducing child mortality with a fall from 100 per 1,000 to 75 per 1,000 live births between 2003 and 2008. Similarly, in the same period, the under-5 mortality rate fell from 201 per 1,000 to 157 per 1,000 live births …. and a drop in the maternal mortality ratio of 545 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births……..a fall in the prevalence of HIV/AIDS from 5.8% in 2001 to 4.24% in 2008; doubled treatment of patients from 16.7% in 2007 to 34.49% in 2008.”
During his UN visit, the Honorable Minister who revealed that he reads The ANPA Blog, agreed to take questions from Deji Adefuye and Ben Nwomeh, in the first of a periodic feature in which we will interview stakeholders in Nigeria’s health system. In subsequent posts, The Blog will report the Minister’s views on a wide-range of issues, particularly those of concern to ANPA members.