In a bid to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in Nigeria, health experts have called on all tiers of government to increase their commitment in funding the sector and timely release of health allocations as international intervention funds are drying up.
UHC is a healthcare system that provides health care and financial protection to all citizens of a country.
The international UHC day is celebrated every December 12. The theme for this year is ‘Unite for Universal Health Coverage: Now is the time for collective action.’
The APC senatorial candidate for Kwara North, Sadiq Uma, in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, said Nigeria needs to get radical about the health sector because health and education are the priorities that moves the country forward.
Mr Umar, a pharmacist, who has worked in the health development sector under DFID and USAID, said Nigeria’s health sector has been largely dependent on international donors and that is not good for its sustainability.
He said Nigeria needs to seek alternative indigenous funding intervention for the health sector and stop depending on international intervention because the fund has been dwindling.
Speaking from 20 years’ experience in the developmental sector, Mr Umar said donors in the last 10 years have been preaching sustainability and counterpart funding for health intervention.
“I can tell you that the donor funding is drying up slowly. The policies are changing, especially in the United States of America, with President Trump’s policies of ‘country first’ and so on. It can only get worse. We need to start thinking, getting independent-minded and start thinking of self-sustainability.
“We need to take our health seriously. Nigeria government need to leave a certain percentage of national resources in carrying out special interventions in the health sector.
“We need to set aside funding for the health sector apart from what has been set aside for National health Insurance Scheme. The government also need to pick interest in the activities of the development partners which has been very helpful in the country,” he said.
Mr Umar said data are available to show the interventions international donors have been doing in the health sector and that they have spent billions and there are results to show for it.
“Are we that poor as a country? I do not think we are that poor. It is time for Nigerian government to start setting aside funding to serve as a transition, while the donors are planning to slow down and pull out. The Nigeria government should be increasing its interest in taking up this responsibility after all it is our responsibility in the first place,” he said.
Nigeria, as part measures to achieve UHC, was to implement the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF), which is a minimum of one percent of the consolidated federal government revenue and contributions from donor grants set aside to fund the basic health needs of the citizen.
50 percent of the fund is expected to be used for the provision of the basic minimum package of health services, under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). While five percent is meant to cater for emergency health interventions, 45 percent of the fund is to be used for the provision of Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA).
But, part of the fund, which was provided in the 2018 budget, was only released in December. The late release of the fund has continued to generate concerns among citizens especially health experts and CSOs.
Also speaking in the same vein, the executive director, Women in Media (WIM), Halima Ben Umar, said state governments need to own up to funding the health sector and stop depending on international donors who fund health interventions in their states.
She said though most state governments provide a budget for health, the allocation is often times meagre and not usually released.
Mrs Ben Umar said the government cannot achieve UHC until they prioritise health care in the country.
She said the only way this can be achieved is for the government to efficiently and timely release funds for the sector.
Mrs Ben Umar also called on Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) to take up the challenge of making state governments accountable to the health sector by owing the health interventions in their states.
“CSOs need to constantly monitor the state governments’ budget on health and advocate for the full release of the allocation,” she said.
“The problem is often times, not the non-budget for health, but the lack of full release of what has been budgeted.”