Nigeria health experts demand 15% budgetary allocation to healthcare

Health experts at the launch of the “Make Naija Stronger” campaign in Lagos on Monday painted a pathetic picture of the state of healthcare in Nigeria and unanimously agreed that the country has no public health system.

The “Make Naija Strong” is an initiative of the anti-poverty organisations and other partners such as the Africa Health, Human and Social Development (Afri-Dev) to demand that the Nigerian government fulfils its promise of allocating 15 per cent of its budget to health during the Abuja Declaration 15 years ago.

On April 25, 2001 governments of African countries met in Abuja, the Nigeria capital, and agreed to increase health spending to 15 per cent of their national budgets.

According to One Campaign, an international advocacy organization fighting extreme poverty and preventable disease, the programme is also intended to make government allocate adequate funding toward the actualisation of the 2014 National Health Act.

In the yet-to-be-signed 2016 budget, only a paltry 4.3 per cent of the total amount was allotted to health.

“Currently, Nigeria has no public health system,” said Rotimi Sankore, coordinator of Afri-Dev. “It does not exist. There is a skeleton and intention but it does not exist. Let’s stop deceiving ourselves, what we have now is the normalisation of death.”

Mr. Sankore then proceeded to reel out a series of statistics that places Nigeria at the lowest rung of healthcare indices in Africa and the world.

“Nigeria has the fourth highest maternal mortality ratio in Africa,” he said. “In fact, we are worse than South Sudan and Somalia. There is another way to look at the situation we are in. Nigeria is third in maternal death risk in Africa. We are only better than Sierra Leone and Chad. Almost a million children under five die every year from preventable diseases.”

Mr Sankore called on government to urgently ramp up investment in health facilities.

According to him, a situation where the per capital investment in health in Nigeria is $31 dollar compared to between $1,500 to $2,000 per capital investment in the West does not bode well for the country. He said there was a 20-year gap in life expectancy between Nigerian and the developed countries.

Similarly, the Chairman Board of Trustees of Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria (HERFON), Ben Anyene, sasid healthcare delivery in the country was unplanned and without focus.

Describing the country’s public health system as “everything goes”, he said in order to roll back years of decay in the healthcare system the government needed to urgently begin the implementation of the National Health Care Act of 2014.

He said 10 million children and 600,000 women died of preventable diseases in the 10 years period it took to pass the National health care Act into law.

Performance at the Make Naija Stronger campaign in Lagos
Performance at the Make Naija Stronger campaign in Lagos

He lamented the absence of a declaration of health in the country’s constitution adding that the healthcare situation in the country was so dire that the World Health Organisation (WHO) rated the country 187 out of 197 countries in world health performance.

Also speaking during the launch, Chikwe Ihekweazu of Nigerian Health Watch said Nigeria should hold government to its promises.

“We are hopeful for change but as responsible citizens, we must learn how to hold our governments accountable for the promises made.

The singer, Waje, who is the One Campaign ambassador of the “Make Naija Stronger” campaign, stated that fulfilling the Abuja promise would make a difference for millions of Nigerians who die needlessly from lack of access to basic healthcare.

“It’s hard to imagine that in our beautiful country, millions of Nigerians from Lagos to Wawa, from Sokoto to Yola, die preventable deaths every year because of the poor investment in the health sector.”

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