Geneva Health Forum Archive

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Poverty and the Urban Health Challenge in Nigeria.

Author(s) Geoffrey Nwaka1.
Affiliation(s) 1Humanities and Social Sciences, Abia State University, Uturu, Nigeria.
Country - ies of focus Nigeria
Relevant to the conference tracks Social Determinants and Human Rights
Summary As we consider the post-2015 development agenda, the battle for sustainability in Africa will be won or lost in the cities. The paper considers how poverty and slum conditions in Nigerian cities can best be addressed and reversed.
Background Poverty and slum conditions pose a serious public health challenge to Nigeria’s rapidly expanding urban population. Almost everywhere in these cities environmental amenities lag behind population growth. Some elite neighborhoods enjoy relatively high quality housing and residential environments, but the bulk of the urban poor live in appalling and health threatening conditions. Inadequate housing, sanitation and waste management, and the poor state of public health infrastructure have led to the spread of a wide variety of water-borne and other communicable disease. Nutritional standards are low, and food contamination is common, especially in the extensive street food industry. Indoor pollution from open fires and stoves in poorly ventilated homes is known to be responsible for many respiratory ailments among women and children who are constantly exposed to toxic fumes in the cooking areas. As environmental and health problems overlap, the poor suffer disproportionately from the adverse health effects of environmental problems. Many of the Millennium Development Goals – in health, environmental sustainability, poverty reduction and enhanced international development assistance - will not be met in Africa despite improvements in some areas.
Objectives The paper considers how best to reach the poor, decrease inequalities in access to health services, ways to forestall the growth and spread of slums, and reduce poverty which leads to slum conditions.
Methodology I have drawn from historical material and social science literature. I have also interacted over the years with the urban poor, informal sector workers, and government officials concerned with urban health and development. Many of the insights from the UN sponsored conferences of the 1990s, the Habitat Agenda, ILO's Decent Work Agenda, WHO's Healthy Cities Programme, the work of the Cities Alliance for Cities Without Slums, and some of the more recent ideas from Rio+20, and the various 'Consultations' for the Post-2015 Development Agenda will be brought to bear on the analysis.
Results .The current pattern of government spending on the health sector tends to favor the well off in society who are the main users of curative health services. The central argument is that human development ought to be at the center of the concern for sustainable urbanization in Africa. To achieve this, the paper considers how best to promote the growth of more inclusive and humane cities by reviewing discriminatory laws and codes which tend to inhibit the access of the poor to affordable land, healthcare and housing security.
Conclusion The concluding section stresses the need for appropriate and well targeted urban health and other interventions by state and local authorities, the international development community, private sector and civil society organizations, and the urban poor themselves in a collaborative effort to build safer, healthier and more equitable cities