Low life expectancy in Nigeria can be attributed to the poor state of public healthcare, widespread poverty, unemployment and underemployment, rural underdevelopment, wealth inequalities, government corruption and social deprivation. The stress of living through, and enduring financial and social privations has contributed to a very sparse existence that has created a very inhospitable environment for most Nigerians. In order to reverse this the country needs improved healthcare and a more strategic approach to reducing poverty.
Improving healthcare will require ensuring free primary care for the poorest in both urban and rural areas. This is needed in addition to the existing health insurance scheme being promoted by the government. It will also require the establishment of country wide health surveillance and protection against common diseases and infections. Providing people with the reassurance of effective and timely healthcare is as important as increasing access to healthcare. In order to do this the needs to rigorous data collection and analysis on health conditions and needs. Information collected will help with targeting resources and commissioning appropriate healthcare provision.
Poverty reduction will need a coordinated strategy, at federal and state levels, to reduce unemployment, prevent urban drift and increase opportunities for rural development. This will need to be combined with developing an infrastructure for targeted welfare and trading and employment support. Welfare support is needed for those who are most at risk of poverty or out of work. There must be a recognition that academic qualifications alone are not enough to produce a healthy population and fit for purpose workforce. A diverse workforce with a wide variety of skills and abilities is required.
Life expectancy can only be improved if the overall health of the nation improves and the social and economic conditions for all improve.