As Nigeria decides who will lead the country for the next five years on Saturday 28th March, it is tempting to get caught up in the acidity of politics. Yet, when Nigerians head to the polls, it is vital that we - both voters and politicians - prioritise the health and wellbeing of our citizens in our decision-making.
We have faced serious challenges as a nation. We have suffered unspeakable tragedies in the last few years at the hands of Boko Haram's militants, including the further kidnapping of 500 Nigerian children in Damasak this week. The fall in oil prices has exposed weaknesses in our economic structures that we must address as a nation. The complicated security and political environment can sometimes mar the important strides that have been in Nigeria's development but it is important to remember that Nigeria holds great potential. We are now Africa's largest economy, and after a complex history, are on track for landmark democratic elections.
It is in this spirit of potential that the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA) and I call for Nigerian voters and policy makers to place the health and wellbeing of our fellow citizens at the forefront of our political debate. We are at a pivotal moment in our history but by focusing on the ties that bind us - our love for our fellow Nigerians - I am sure that peace and wellbeing will prevail.
This love for our fellow Nigerians must follow through in our nation's response to the humanitarian crisis brewing in the northeast. The number of Nigerian citizens seeking refuge in the internally displaced persons (IDP) camps in the northeast of our nation is rising each day. The WBFA was grateful to have had the opportunity to visit the IDP camps at Damare and St Joseph's Catholic Mission in Adamawa State, Nigeria on the 11th February 2015. We were able to witness the courage of the innocent men, women, and children first-hand. The WBFA donated our Safe Delivery Kits ('Mama Kits') to pregnant women at the camp. Our Mama Kits contain all the essential health commodities that can transform any location - even an IDP camp - into a safe and clean birthing area. These donated kits will help the pregnant and displaced women usher in a new generation of hope, in relative safety.
Whilst we were pleased to have been able to help these women, we left feeling anxious about the ramifications for the generation of babies born in these camps. Where will these children call home? What will the first memories of these children be? Will these children ever feel safe enough to go to school? Unless we prioritise the wellbeing of these children, the health, education, and socio-economic progress of an entire generation could be stunted, setting off a cycle of poverty that will perpetuate conflict and fragility in areas for years to come. When we go to the polls on Saturday, we must come together as a nation to formulate a strong strategy to reintegrate, resettle and restore dignity to the internally displaced people in the northeast.
Formulating a stringent plan to address this humanitarian crisis will tie into our future as a country. There are an estimated 3.3million people currently displaced in Nigeria. They are unable to plan for their future as a result of this crisis. The prospect of a future where their children can grow up safe, healthy, and thriving seems all too distant. But I believe this can happen if we make their future a priority in these elections. Their future ties into how Nigeria meets its Millennium Development Goal targets. Their future ties into how Nigeria implements the Sustainable Development Goals after 2015. Their future ties into how Nigeria drastically improves its health indices by 2030. Their future is our future because, ultimately, we are all one. Regardless of religion, status or location, understanding that we are all one underlines our humanitarian principles and actions. We cannot rise alone. We must work together, by formulating partnerships devoid of prejudice and politics.
Partnerships that cast aside partisanship have been an integral part of the WBFA's work, as demonstrated by our recent announcement of the Alaafia Universal Health Coverage Scheme (AUHCS). Working across sectors, without any political agenda has allowed the WBFA, Hygeia Community Health Care, and PharmAccess Foundation to empower at least 4800 people each year. We call upon our policy makers to learn and adopt from such public-private partnerships. If we can cast aside partisanship as a nation, we could help millions of our fellow Nigerians forge their own future, and set the course for their own health and wellbeing.