By Celestina Obiekea – ONE Champion in Nigeria
So, a few days ago, I engaged a friend in a conversation about the ONE Campaign as an organisation and our current #MakeNaijaStronger campaign. One of the questions he asked me was why I thought the current health budget allocation was insufficient. It occurred to me then that maybe a lot of Nigerians might have the same question.
I have put together five reasons why Nigeria should increase its health budget:
1. Health is paramount
They say “Health is wealth” and if you still doubt this, recollect the last time you had to spend the night in a hospital. It does not matter how strong you are or how much money you have, if the services are not available (and yes, presently, a lot of these services are pretty much unavailable in Nigeria), then nothing else matters.
I remember when one of our leading professors died last year in one of our topmost teaching hospital in Nigeria because there was no oxygen! And there are times I wonder if my father would still be alive today if we had better emergency care services in Nigeria.
Presently, Nigeria has unacceptable health indices, statistics show that we have one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world and Nigeria is one of the worst places to be a child. Deaths from preventable communicable diseases such as Pneumonia are very common and we have not even begun to look into the rising burden of deaths from non-communicable diseases such as cancer.
2. The government has promised to invest more
In 2014, the National Health Act was signed into law. This law provides that the government must direct one percent of the annual budget for the health sector. In 2015 President Buhari publically pledged additional funding for health, so that 1% of the Consolidated Revenue Fund would fund the Basic Health Care Provision Fund. As Africa’s biggest economy and making up almost a fifth of the region’s population, Nigeria’s leadership and progress on health targets is crucial not only for the country’s developmental gains and economic growth, but as a leading factor in progress of the whole region. Through implementing the 2014 National Health Act, proceeding onwards to meet the Abuja Declaration, and rooting out corruption in the health sector, the Nigerian government now has an historic opportunity to leverage global support, save millions of lives, and build a more prosperous and secure Nigeria.
3. Decrease in international funding
It is no secret that the majority of our infectious diseases programs are largely funded by external sources including the Global Fund. Over the years, this funding has reduced and there is a need for us to start looking inwards to funding our health interventions. The Global Fund have recently suspended funding of HIV, TB and Malaria programs in Nigeria and by 2017, Nigeria will enter accelerated transition phase with the Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, making it critical for the country to begin to mobilise resources for immunisation. More than ever before, we need to start looking towards funding these programs internally. So, more money MUST go to the health sector or else whatever gains we have made in immunization, HIV/AIDS and other infectious disease prevention programs over the last couple of decades will be lost.
4. Rising cost of healthcare worldwide
Globally, there is an increase in the cost of health products and services due to international costing and pricing mechanisms. Nigeria is by no means exempted from the effects of these rising costs so we must prepare by ensuring that adequate funds are set aside for this all too important issue. By investing in health will ensure that vulnerable Nigerians such as rural women and children are cushioned from the challenges this pricing increase presents.
5. The right thing to do!
The current allocation to the health sector is insufficient to cater to the myriads of health problems Nigeria is facing. If it is insufficient, the right thing to do is to INCREASE IT! After all, if countries like Rwanda can do it, why can’t Nigeria?
If you support the movement to ensure that Nigeria gets its health funding right, sign the petition by clicking here and together we will #MakeNaijaStronger.