Nigeria, home to 150 million people, is the most populous country in Africa. Endowed with huge amounts of natural resources, it hardly sits well among the category of “low income countries”. Even the relatively large population is a poor excuse for Nigeria’s tragic underdevelopment. Its 2008 estimated GDP was $206 billion, the second largest in Africa, behind only South Africa ($276 billion). While the 2008 GDP per capita ($1,401) ranked 18th in the continent, it was still nearly twice that of Ghana, and more than ten times larger than Burundi.
The contrast with Ghana could not be more stark. Facing tough times three decades ago, 1 million Ghanaian citizens fled to Nigeria, whose newly found oil wealth powered the regional economy. However, as Nigeria’s leaders began to loot the nation’s wealth on an unprecedented massive scale, economic anxiety across the land produced a xenophobic rage that led to the expulsion of Ghanaian refugees in the infamous “Ghana must go” affair of 1983. Ghana licked its wounds and picked itself from up from its bootstraps, while Nigeria continued searching for scapegoats for its many missed opportunities and self-inflicted wounds. In the current UNICEF rankings, Nigeria lags behind Ghana in Infant Mortality Rate (96 vs. 51 per 1000 live births) and Maternal Mortality Ratio (1160 vs. 550 per 100,000 live births, adjusted).
High infant and maternal mortality is, of course, only a symptom of the myriad problems facing Nigeria’s health system. Fortunately, the resources for an enduring solution can be found in Nigeria’s abundant natural and human resources, including the 5,000 to 6,000 physicians and tens of thousands of allied health professionals in the diaspora.
ANPA is geared up for the fight to improve Nigeria’s health system, working with Nigeria’s government and citizens, international agencies, and the many friends of Nigeria across the globe. Please, join us. It is a goal worth fighting for.