In the coming years, about a dozen middle-income countries are excepted to transition out of development assistance for health (DAH) based on their economic growth. This anticipated loss of external funds at a time when there is a need for accelerated progress towards universal health coverage (UHC) is a source of concern. Evaluating country readiness for transition towards country ownership of health programmes is a crucial step in making progress towards UHC. We used in-depth interviews to explore: (1) the preparedness of the Nigerian health system to transition out of DAH, (2) transition policies and strategies that are in place in Nigeria, (3) the road map for the implementation of these policies and (4) challenges and recommendations for making progress on such policies. We applied Vogus and Graff's expanded transition readiness framework within the Nigerian context to synthesize preparedness plans, gaps, challenges and stakeholders' recommendations for sustaining the gains of donor-funded programmes and reaching UHC. Some steps have been taken to integrate and institutionalize service delivery processes toward sustainable immunization and responsive primary healthcare in line with UHC. There are ongoing discussions on integrating human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) services with other services and the possibility of covering HIV services under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). We identified more transition preparedness plans within immunization programme compared with HIV programme. However, we identified gaps in all the nine components of the framework that must be filled to be able to sustain gains and make significant progress towards country ownership and UHC. Nigeria needs to focus on building the overall health system by identifying systematic gaps instead of continuing to invest in parallel programmes. Programmes need to be consolidated within the overall health system, health financing priorities and policies. A comprehensive and functional structure will provide continuity even in the event of decreasing external funds or donor exits.
Keywords: Development assistance for health; Nigeria; UHC; transition.
© The Author(s) 2021. Published by Oxford University Press in association with The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.