Open letter to President Buhari

Honour the 2001 Abuja declaration and Deliver a genuinely Pro-Poor 2016 Budget

Your Excellency,

We thank you for prioritizing the needs of the poorest Nigerians, and the fight against corruption in your recent proposals. Your leadership on both is timely as the start of your presidency (2015) is marked by your adoption of the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If followed through, these proposals and the new SDG commitments will create a new Nigeria, as they will unleash opportunities that will transform our country, our continent, and the world. We are writing because we want to help you realize these goals. We believe the starting point is through bold and targeted pro-poor public investments spelt out in your 2016 budget.

Specifically, we salute you for your stated commitment to spread basic health benefits to a majority of Nigerians because access to basic health care in the country is still the privilege of a few. Secondly, we commend your commitment to ensure that Nigeria’s wealth is shared with the poorest Nigerians and that they are given a hand up through the planned social welfare program.

Regarding the health focus, I am sure you are aware Mr. President that our great country, Nigeria, is amongst the worst places in the world to be a child, infant or mother. This is because one in eleven of all children who die in the world under the age 5 are Nigerian. Every year 58,000 Nigerian infants receive HIV from their mothers during childbirth – a completely preventable tragedy for want of pills that cost a few Nairas. This is a glimpse of the situation we believe your administration has a historic opportunity to reverse, starting with the upcoming 2016 Budget, particularly by implementing the key provisions of the 2014 National Health Act(NHA). We urge you to ensure that the Basic Health Care Provision Fund provided in the NHA (which requires 1% of the consolidated revenue fund) is provided for as NEW funding to be invested in child vaccines, expansion and upgrade of health facilities, research and human capital development to address key communicable diseases. Without these investments, the economy will continue to lose billions of Naira through Nigerians that travel abroad to access medical services, while the poor continue to die from treatable and preventable diseases.

A healthy population is truly the best insurance we can have for our economy to thrive. This was the main premise of the 2001 Africa Union “Abuja Declaration” where the leadership of the continent right here in Abuja, committed to prioritizing the development of the health sector by investing 15% of their national budget to the health sector. Rwanda, Swaziland, Ethiopia, Malawi, the Central African Republic and Togo have kept this promise. Nigeria keeping this promise in the 2016 budget would translate in not less than N900 billion for Health, in view of the proposed N6 trillion budget. It’s about time the government in Abuja lived up to its commitment in the Abuja Declaration.

Your Excellency, malnutrition in Nigeria remains a silent killer that must be stopped. It particularly affects mothers and children. It contributes to the deaths of about half a million children each year. In Nigeria 36% of children fewer than 5 are stunted. Nigeria as part of the African Union in 2014, pledge to work towards reducing this number to less than 10%. To ensure that Nigeria’s children have a fair shot at life, we also respectfully request nutrition specific investments in the 2016 health and agriculture budgets that address the stunting and wasting among Nigerian children, especially girls. The planned social welfare programmes must help achieve this objective. To ensure the potential multiplier and sustainable effects of the feeding programs, we recommend that they must be delivered through locally sourced nutritious produce which would directly boost markets for local agriculture. This approach will ensure that this expenditure is not merely consumption but spurs long term production and employment especially of Nigeria’s small holder farmers and young people. The success of the social welfare program pilots will need these elements and require inter-ministerial coordination managed by a senior political champion. When the world meets in Rio De Joiner in 2016 to take stock on actions and progress in the fight against high levels of malnutrition, a successful implementation of this type of social welfare program, will demonstrate Nigeria’s leadership on this pressing matter.

All these urgent priorities across health, agriculture, school feeding and social safety payments must target to lift up the poorest, and be administered through accountable national and local budgets that are transparently implemented. This will help targeted beneficiaries to monitor and provide automatic feedback to improve program delivery and limit pilferage. We therefore call upon you to fully open the budget making, approval, implementation and evaluation process to the common Nigerian, within our current resource levels, high levels of citizen’s engagement will triple the impact of the budget.

We believe your bold leadership on these issues will catalyze and guarantee economic expansion and sustainable inclusive growth that ensures that Nigeria leads the world on SDG progress starting in 2016.

Your Excellency, you have shown the political will to move our country forward in the pursuit of social justice, economic diversification and transparency for the benefit of each and every Nigerian. The eyes of the world are on Nigeria’s 2016 budget. We urge you to make fighting preventable diseases and malnutrition a hallmark of your legacy. A healthier Nigerian population would help our great nation leap-frog economically and socially by 2030.

Signed by:
1. ONE campaign
2. BIIRE Child and maternity health Foundation
3. Nigeria Health Watch
4. Rotary Club of Abuja spearheading the Polio campaign
5. Sustainable Health Initiatives
6. Evidence for Action Nigeria (MAMAYE)
7. Silver Lining for the Needy Initiatives
8. Ummah Support Initiatives
9. White Ribbon Alliance
10. Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria
11. National Association of Nigerian Traders
12. Strengthening Advocacy and Civic Engagement
13. Public Health Foundation of Nigeria
14. Civil Society Scaling-Up Nutrition in Nigeria
15. Health Policy Research Group
16. Nigeria Health Economics Association
17. West African Academy of Public Health (WAAPH)
18. Wellbeing Foundation Africa
19. Glamorous Mothers Development Initiative.
20. SDGs Children
21. Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre
22. Pan-African Community Initiative in Education and Health (PACIEH)
23. Journalists Against AIDS

Statistics in the open letter are from 2013 – 2015.

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