Health advocates have applauded the Nigerian government for improving budgetary provision for sub-sectors of the national health including health security and infectious diseases, but insisted that budgeting alone cannot be enough except accountability is ensured.
This was part of the deliberations at a one-day multi-sectoral review forum which was held at the weekend in Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and organised by the Legislative Initiative for Sustainable Development (LISDEL), a non-governmental organisation.
The forum was organised to review the health security financing and accountability framework which the organiser launched in 2021 as part of its Prevent Epidemics (PE) project, and funded by Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI).
The aim of the initiative, the group said, is to boost domestic spending on Epidemic Preparedness and Response (EPR).
Themed: “Appraising the Accountability Framework for Health Security Financing in Nigeria– What Can We Do Differently?,” the organisers said the workshop focused on ensuring transparency and proper utilisation of health security funding.
LISDEL’s PE project director, Gafar Adewole, said the advocates’ engagement campaign with the National Assembly and other relevant stakeholders paid off evidently in the improved budget for health security related programmes such as routine immunisation.
He said; “We started this campaign last year and we have made progress which is evident in the improved budget at the national level and at the level of one of the states.
“You discover the efforts translated to improved budget for NCDC. At the state level, we engaged relevant stakeholders and supported workshops that saw to the improvement in the budget line for health security in Kano state.”
Mr Adewole said the event was aimed at identifying loopholes in the implementation and utilisation of funds which he noted has been identified as a major impediment to health security financing.
“We are here to appraise the framework used in improving accountability… look at what has worked and what has not worked. We are brainstorming with the stakeholders to look at the weaknesses in the framework and how to continue to have access to data,” he added.
The programme coordinator said while there was an improvement in funds approved, there are still gaps between what is needed and what was appropriated.
Also speaking, the chairman, committee on finance, Kano State House of Assembly, Magaji Dahiru, said the synergy between the state legislators and LISDEL, Budgit, NCDC, among other relevant development partners was the driver for epidemic response advocacy.
Health security aims to prevent, detect, and respond to infectious disease threats. In practice, this is limited to specific activities, including strengthening surveillance systems and improving risk communication.
In 2018, Nigerian authorities began developing the National Action Plan on Health Security (NAPHS) with the launching of the International Health Regulations (IHR).
NAPHS is a comprehensive multi-sectoral document that sets out a strategy for strengthening health security of the country. Developed by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in collaboration with other relevant government agencies, NAPHS is a five-year strategic plan to be executed from 2018 to 2022.
Some of the key issues raised and action plans activated during the LISDEL workshop were centred on implementing the NAHPS.
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Participants proffered solutions on how legislations can be channelled towards increasing investment in health security with the private sector complementing governments’ effort.
Iniobong Usen, senior research and policy analyst with Budgit, during his presentation on data mining for the accountability framework, explained the importance of data in advocacy for transparency in health security financing.
He said the major challenge in getting disaggregated data include unwillingness of relevant authorities to provide them.
Nigeria’s 2022 health budget
The Nigerian government has voted approximately N725 billion for health in the recently approved 2022 budget, providing nearly N70 billion for health security programmes and for reinforcing efforts towards curbing the COVID-19 pandemic among other infectious diseases.
Health advocates acknowledged the additional funding for health security and the fight against infectious diseases as a step in the right direction but said that alone is not enough.
“It is not just about putting in money, it is more about how it is utilised,” said Mr Adewole.
Role of media
Organisers of the event recognised the media as a key stakeholder in raising the accountability for EPR financing.
They concluded that brave, critical, and balanced reporting on the use of funds for EPR will generate conversations capable of putting the government under pressure to improve transparency and funding. Moji Makanjuola, veteran journalist and broadcaster, said thgis in her remark.
She urged attendees at the event to channel strategic plans towards making health funding a major campaign tool ahead of the 2023 general elections.
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