Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, has decried the inadequate attention the government is paying to health and the overdependence on foreign donors to fund health initiatives in the country.
Mr. Adewole, who spoke at the Maiden Edition of Health Communication Conference organised by Association of Nigeria Health Journalists, ANHEJ in Abuja on Thursday, said despite the improvement in budgetary allocation to the sector this year, it was still a far cry from global standards.
“Nigeria is still far below the Abuja Declaration, a commitment by the African Union Heads of Governments to ensure that at least 15 per cent of National Budgets are allocated to the health sector.
“In 2017, the Health Budget (Nigeria’s) is only around 4 per cent of the National Budget.
“Though this represents a slight improvement from around 3.73 per cent in the 2016 budget, the numbers are worrisome. This would mean that only about N1, 500 (One Thousand and Five Hundred Naira only) is being spent on the health of every Nigerian per year,’’ Mr. Adewole said.
He said no Nigerian should be deprived health benefits as it was a fundamental human right that must be defended.
Mr. Adewole also noted that no donor programme last forever adding that Nigeria must start funding a major part of its health programs.
“When you look at HIV, about 70 per cent of the resources for HIV comes from outside. 99 per cent of the commodities were paid for by outsiders, so we must put our money.
“When we look at family planning, the large part of the money is from outside. Immunisation, the vaccines all come from outside. This country must wake up; we must put our money in health and create a positive way for the health of this nation,” the minister said.
He said health related issues and campaigns determine the survival of governments politically in other climes.
“If you follow the U.S. and the UK elections today, elections are won or lost on the debate of Health from NHS to the Affordable Care Act.
“The media should make health matters a headline issue. Politicians tend to go with the pulse of the people. We should together galvanize the people to put healthcare on the electoral agenda in Nigeria.’’
The Executive Secretary of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, Faisal Shuaib, also called for the continuous advocacy of the media, adding that it would go a long way to improve health sector in the country.
Mr. Faisal, who was represented by the Director, Advocacy and Communication NPHCDA, Eugene Ivase, said that “the Association of Health Journalists should take health advocacy as a very serious issue.’’
“It is your voices that would represent the voices of the common Nigerians who are advocating for their health rights, for the funding of health to ensure that all Nigerians get quality, affordable and accessible healthcare services in Nigeria,’’ he said.
The Niger State commissioner for health, Mustapha Jibril, urged the media to educate the people on the contents of National Health Acts as many Nigerians do not know how it works.
In his speech, the president of the ANHEJ, Marcus Fatunmole, said that the summit is aimed at urging government to implement the National Health Act, three years after passage.
He added that the National Health Act needed to be implemented for better healthcare delivery in the country.