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Health budget will worsen forex, human index, say experts

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Healthcare

The national health vote currently before the National Assembly is a “tacit support to the huge and ongoing foreign exchange outflow through medical tourism at the detriment of the economy.”

Experts, who gave the damning verdict yesterday in Abuja, added that the development portends a gloomy future for mothers and newborns as well as the overall human development index of the citizenry, as the “paltry provision of N366 billion for the nation’s health system would soon throw up new challenges.”

The situation, according to them, is more worrisome in view of support withdrawal by foreign donors amid allegations of non-transparent utilisation of previous donations and the country’s new classification outside lower income countries.

Consequently, there is a palpable anxiety over what becomes the state of the nation’s health sector, especially when viewed from President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent warning to Nigerians to prepare for tougher times.

In his presentation at the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) 2019 Budget Summit in Abuja, Dr. David Agu, lamented that government had “consistently ignored suggestions and calls by activists and international organisations with damning consequences in view.”

The yearly event is organised by the Centre for Social Justice |(CSJ) in partnership with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Nigeria Office.

Specifically, the sector’s total budgetary allocations fell by N1.05 trillion in the 2019 proposal compared to the recommended N1.42 trillion with some critical line items related to rural mass neglected.

“For a nation like Nigeria, with her huge population, to propose N15 billion against N189.8 billion for immunisation and N1.2 billion against N18 billion recommendation to provide for family planning is a far cry.

“Also, proposing N124 million against N100 billion recommendation for HIV testing; N7.6 billion in place of N120 billion for HIV treatments, and N2.35 billion against N6.2 billion for VVF treatment are plans for health crisis in the country,” Agu stated.

The Lead Director of CSJ, Eze Onyekpere, said he summit was to engage both the executive and legislature arms as well Nigerians on alternative causes of action, project ideas, new sources of funds, greater revenue realisation, enhanced transparency, accountability and sense of belonging.

He said: “The president last week told Nigerians to be prepared for tough times in the next four years. But how do we prepare? Living in denial will not help. This will involve a call for sacrifice to ride over the tough times, but this must be premised on cutting down waste, frivolities and reducing the cost of governance.

“If we tap all the available human and material resources and provide the leadership needed for political reforms, I see a new Nigeria where the economy grows at eight per cent a year; where millions are lifted out of poverty; agricultural yield per hectare increases and products benefit from intense value addition; industries are humming and producing automobiles and electronics. We only need to agree to do the right things.”


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