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Doctors, pharmacists fault proposed 4.15% vote for health


PSN President, Ahmed I. Yakasai

PSN President, Ahmed I. Yakasai

Stakeholders in the health sector have faulted the 4.15 per cent proposed vote in the 2017 national budget for health, saying it fell short of the minimum 15 per cent recommended by African heads of state in Abuja in 2001. The position was popularly known as The Abuja Declaration.

In April 2001, the African Union countries pledged to allocate at least 15 per cent of their annual budgets to improve the health sector. In 2012 only Tanzania reached this target, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). In 2014, four countries met this target: The Gambia, Malawi, Swaziland and Ethiopia (at 15.7 per cent).

Despite the Abuja declaration, Nigeria is at the low end of this range in Africa.

The Guardian’s investigation, however, showed that it is an improvement on the 2016 budget when 3.73 per cent of the national budget was allocated for health.

The stakeholders led by doctors and pharmacists said that with 4.15 per cent of N7.29 trillion, which is about N303 billion the health sector would not be able to meet its goal of universal health coverage through increasing access to health insurance by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) and strengthening the primary health care system.

In 2017, the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH) plans to refurbish 10,000 primary health centres (PHCs) spread across the 772 Local Government Areas (LGA) and at least seven teaching hospitals in six geo-political zones of the country.

Some stakeholders, however, wondered why the budget proposal was silent on the provision by the National Health Act 2014 that one per cent of the Consolidated National Fund, which amounts to about N1 billion should be dedicated to NHIS and PHC development.

The President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Ahmed Yakasai, commended the increase of N81.3 billion in 2017 budget compared to 2016 but said the vote still fell short.

Yakasai said the 4.15 per cent budgeted for healthcare in 2017 even though higher than the 3.65 per cent of 2016 is still less than one third of what is expected by any country according to WHO.

The PSN chief said compared to the United States 20.7 per cent, Germany 19.4 per cent, Iran 17.5 per cent, China 12.6 per cent, and Turkey 10.7 per cent budgeted for healthcare for their citizens in 2015, Nigeria must do the right thing and be a global player.

The pharmacist said: “While we await the dramatic improvement for healthcare budget from single digit to double digit within a short while in our national budget, the immediate implementation of the National Health Act by the Federal Government will go a long way to cushion the effect of 4.15 per cent budgeted for healthcare in 2017 and help us as a country to truly safeguard the health of Nigerians.”

President, Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), Dr. Mike Ozohehe Ogirima, said: “We are yet to receive detailed budget breakdown to look at the specifics by the finance minister. We understand there is marginal increment. We heard during the presidential address that his human capacity development would be channeled mainly to education and health sector. We are waiting to see if the provisions of the National Health Act are captured as we swing into analytic stage of the budget…”

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