The World Health Organisation (WHO) has called on African leaders to invest in the health sector, which it says is a major catalyst for economic development.
The Director General of WHO, Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus, made the call on Friday in Abuja at the Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Forum.
Ghebreyesus in a panel discussion on the role of health care in economic transformation said the health sector holds lots of opportunities for job creation and lucrative investments.
“Health creates jobs, it drives productivity, stimulates inclusive growth and protects economies from the impact of outbreaks and other emergencies.
“Inspite of the importance of health, access to quality health services is lower in Africa than any other region.
“Today, 114 million people in Africa live in poverty because of health care costs. This cost not only impact the health of people, but also impact Africa’s growth and prosperity.
“It’s an outrage that sometimes families have to choose between buying food and buying medicine and that is why WHO’s top priority is universal health coverage.
“Universal health coverage is not just morally imperative. It is also economically imperative,” he said.
Ghebreyesus said to achieve universal coverage, private sector investment was key, adding that, it was the reason the health sector had to be economically viable to attract investments.
Meanwhile, The Nigerian First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari, said that about 9.2 million Nigerian women and girls get pregnant every year and an alarming number of them die due to causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
Buhari, represented by Mrs Mairo Al-Makura, Wife of the former Governor of Nassarawa State, said something must be done to reduce maternal deaths in Nigeria.
“Pregnancy, as we all know, is a very risking time for women. Every year, about 9.2 million Nigerian women and girls get pregnant.
“Every 13 minutes we lose one of these women and every day we lose 109 women.
“This number is too alarming, and we really need to do something about it,” she said.
Buhari called for policies that would enhance safe delivery, eliminate poverty, and ensure basic primary education.
“We should empower women because when women get it right, things go right for everybody.
“The government should try and eradicate extreme poverty. The government should also try to make a policy where basic primary education is necessary,” she said.
The First Lady of Guinea, Mrs Djena Condé and the First Lady of Mali, Mrs Keita Maiga, who were also on the panel, spoke on the importance of healthcare in economic development of their respective countries.