The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) describes the COVID-19 pandemic as a defining global health crisis of our time and the greatest challenge faced since World War II.
The UN agency argues that since COVID-19’s emergence in Asia in 2019, the virus has spread to every continent except Antarctica.
It says the pandemic is in fact much more than a health crisis taking into consideration its unprecedented socio-economic impact.
Stressing every one of the countries it touches, it has the potential to create devastating social, economic and political effects that will leave deep and longstanding scars, UNDP says.
Countries have diverse shares of the devastating impact of the pandemic, no matter its scale, with many yet struggling to recover or stabilize from its multidimensional impact.
For these reasons, in Nigeria, the Nigeria Solidarity Support Fund (NSSF) was established in 2020 to intervene in the nation’s health sector and bridge the gap that exists therein.
The NSSF’s identifies some of the challenges of the health sector to include over stretched healthcare facilities, inadequate budget allocation for health and insufficient support base for individuals and businesses, among others.
The fund believes that the government alone cannot shoulder all these responsibilities hence the need for support from individuals and corporate organisations.
Consequently, it defines its priority areas to include supporting vulnerable groups, re-skilling and re- tooling Nigerians and the strengthening of primary healthcare system.
Achieving this goal requires funding from individuals and corporate entities who believe in its social re- engineering agenda and sustainability goals.
No wonder, the fund set aside June 9 to honour and recognise these individuals and corporate entities who supported the NSSF to bring succor to Nigerians during the pandemic.
The General Manger/ Chief Executive Officer of NSSF, Dr Fejiro Chinye-Nwoko, says the fund is poised to see the recovery of Nigeria’s health sector beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chinye-Nwoko tells the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos on the sidelines of the award and recognition ceremony that the NSSF’s vision is to champion a healthier Nigeria.
According to her, several hands are on deck to strengthen the healthcare systems through building resilience and providing support for the most vulnerable in our communities.
She says from the inception of the fund, the goal has always been to complement what the Federal Government is doing in the country’s health care management value chain.
She says the fund is vested with the task of sensitisation and creating awareness of its functions, vision and goals.
The CEO says it is necessary to get more Nigerians, both individuals and corporate organisations, to sign up and join the effort to contribute to national development.
According to her, the fund is in need of committed citizens in a sustainable basis who will support it in fulfilling its mission of transforming health outcomes in Nigeria.
“No doubt, the NSSF is an organization set up by Nigerians for Nigerians as a movement of citizens participating in development.
“Our goal is to reach 500,000 citizens to make contributions, both those in the country and those in the Diaspora.
“The Fund looks to support and fund impactful initiatives that provide critical intervention in Nigeria’s healthcare sector and upscaling available capacity and resources in the fight against COVID-19.
“The focus would be to support urgent aspects of the healthcare system and provide humanitarian support to those people whose lives are disrupted by COVID-19 while working closely with the public institutions and private sector actors,” Chinye-Nwoko says.
She also says the NSSF is mapping out plans to strengthen the health system, beyond vaccination.
“Naturally, out of all the sectors that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the health sector tops the list.
“So, it is a priority for NSSF to see the health sector recover from the assault of the pandemic even as it pursues efforts to re-skill the youths to help jumpstart economic recovery , post-COVID-19,” Chinye-Nwoko says.
The CEO underscores the importance of providing support and assistance to Nigerians by drawing on practical lessons learned globally and focusing on creating awareness and healthcare systems and infrastructure.
She emphasizes that the government cannot do this alone and calls for support.
“It needs support from all well-meaning citizens and organizations.
“Everyone can contribute.
“Everyone can join,” Chinye-Nwoko said.
She says every planned action in NSSF is geared toward set objectives to help transform the lives of vulnerable Nigerians, strengthen healthcare systems, and reskill the Nigerian workforce.
The CEO appeals to philanthropists, corporate organizations, Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora, public sector institutions and international donor agencies to join hands and support the Fund which has been created by Nigerians for the benefit of Nigerians.
“In truth, the biggest problems can be solved with collective effort.
“We are building a new narrative of a healthier Nigeria and an approach toward a strengthened economy.
“We are grateful to all our donors and partner organizations who have worked tirelessly with us on this journey to create the impact needed to solve our healthcare problems.
“We, however, need more partners, NSSF’s objectives cannot be achieved in silos.
“We need to establish increased partnerships and drive this change through collaboration,” Chinye-Nwoko tells NAN.
The CEO says the Fund is excited by the number of donors it already has but that it is still keen to onboard even more donors.
On some of the achievements of the Fund, the Chairman of the NSSF, Mr Tunde Folawiyo, says the Fund has been able to achieve most of its objectives so far.
Folawiyo says the NSSF vaccinated no fewer than 1.6 million Nigerians within four months, instead of the projected six months.
According to him, one of the major objective of NSSF is to strengthen the health care systems in Nigeria, and to assist the most vulnerable Nigerians to recover from the effects of the ravages of the COVID pandemic.
“And of course, the third pillar is to reskill and re-tool Nigerian youths”.
He says the Fund has also been able to make make good strides on all set objectives, led by the GM/CEO, Chinye-Nwoko.
The chairman says the fund assisted the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) to roll out vaccination in the six geopolitical zones faster and quicker than NPHCDA could have done.
“And it was a fantastic collaboration. And that’s what we’re talking about strengthening.
“We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. We’re not trying to do anything super new.
“We’re just trying to strengthen what we have on ground and help them achieve their objectives.
“So, that was a perfect example of what collaboration can be where people are already on ground doing great work.
“And then, we can just add value and make it faster and more effective and beyond,” Folawiyo says.
On the re-scaling re-tooling objectives, the chairman says the Fund organised a photography competition for Nigerian youths.
“The competition, which involved the use of camera phones, saw the youths unleashing their creativity.
“You will be amazed at how much creativity we found amongst Nigerian youths.
“We were alarmed in a nice way.
“The winner of the competition was a young Nigerian of probably 23 or 24 years of age.
“He had fantastic sharp pictures and strong images.
“We have one of the big auction houses auction those photographs,” Folawiyo says.
For Mr Pattison Boleigha, Group Chief Conduct and Compliance Officer for Access Bank, the bank is proud to collaborate with NSSF because of its sustainability agenda.
Boleigha says the bank is happy with NSSF’s drive in its sustainability goals towards human capital improvement.
He says that globally, there has been a clarion call for some level of inclusiveness and for people to come together to pursue sustainable goals.
He says that the re- tooling and re-scaling drive of NSSF is commendable as it builds self-esteem in people to believe in themselves to do things sustainably, and to bring out the best in them.
“And so events like this actually helps to promote those kinds of behaviors and different positive vibes into the system.
“This brings the whole society to understand that life is actually much more valuable than we see today.
“The banker says his job as Chief Conduct and Compliance Officer, enables him to ensure fairness, equity, justice and fair play in the system,” Boleigha says.
Some personalities have got awards for their support to the fund and they include the Tengen Family Office, NSSF Corporate Sponsor Award; Mr Tunde Folawiyo, NSSF Sponsor Award and Mr Anthony Oputa, NSSF Ambassador Award.
Others include Olaniwun Ajayi LP, NSSF Corporate Partner Award and Dr Ajoritsedere Awosika for the NSSF Female Sponsor Award.
In summary, it is worthy to note that while the initial ravage of the pandemic has reduced drastically, the need for social reengineering in consolidation on the reforms and interventions in the healthcare value chain remains germane.
It is pertinent that Public Private Sector partnerships will engender the much needed impact in bridging the gap in Nigeria’s healthcare value chain.