Dr Osagie Ehanire, Minister of Health, has appealed to the resident doctors to call off their strike in the interest of patients that needed care at this critical time.
Ehanire made the call at a media briefing on Wednesday in Abuja to commemorate World Health Day, celebrated every year on April 7, sponsored by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other related organisations.
Ehanire, who delivered his speech via zoom from Edo, said this period was not a good time for such activities for the doctors that began a strike on Thursday.
The aggrieved doctors’ agitations include the non-payment of salaries of three to five months of some house officers and non-recruitment of house officers.
Others are abolishment of the bench fees for doctors undergoing training in other hospitals, non-payment of National Minimum Wage and hazard allowances.
The minister, however, said the house officers had started receiving their outstanding entitlements.
“We are working assiduously to address other issues raised by the doctors. “Mindful of the huge Human Resource for Health challenges and hard work to build them and expand it, we encourage setting up more of training institutions for health workers,” he said.
According to him, 2021 is the international year for Health and care workers, in recognition of selfless roles they played and continue to play, to support our health system.
“In appreciation, we prioritised health workers for ongoing COVID-19 vaccination. We remain committed to the welfare of our health workers,” he said.
In her message, Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, said the COVID-19 pandemic had shone a light on inequalities between countries.
Moeti, represented by WHO Nigeria Country Representative, Dr Walter Kazadi, said African countries had been pushed to the back of the queue for equipment amid shortages of essential supplies to fight COVID-19.
“African countries have been pushed to the back of the queue in accessing COVID-19 test kits, personal protective equipment and now vaccines.
“Of 548 million COVID-19 vaccine doses administered worldwide, only 11 million or two per cent have been in Africa, whereas the continent accounts for around 17 per cent of the global population.
“There are also inequities within countries.
“Discrimination based on gender, place of residence, income, educational level, age, ethnicity and disability intersect to disadvantage vulnerable populations,” she said.
The director said recent data from 17 African countries showed, for example, that a person with secondary school education was three times as likely to have access to contraception as someone who had not attended school.
“Those in the highest economic quintile are five times more likely to deliver their babies in health facilities and have their babies vaccinated with Bacillus Calmette–Guérin (BCG) vaccine compared to those in the lowest quintile.
“To improve this situation, we need to act on the social and economic determinants of health, by working across sectors to improve living and working conditions, and access to education, particularly for the most marginalised groups.
“Communities need to be engaged as partners, through their networks and associations, to shape and drive health and development interventions,” she said.
The theme of 2021 World Health Day is: building a fairer, healthier world for everyone.