Nigeria has yet to allocate 15% of its budget to health as promised – WHO

Nigeria has yet to allocate 15% of its budget to health as promised – WHO

By Adedapo Adesanya

Almost 22 years after pledging to set a target of allocating at least 15% of its annual budget to improving the health sector, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that Nigeria was still far from achieving this goal.

In April 2001, African Union Heads of State met in Abuja and pledged to set a goal of allocating at least 15% of their budgets to the health sector.

In commemoration of this year’s World Health Day, which coincided with the 75th anniversary of the founding of WHO, the Abuja Declaration on Improving the Health Sector has been revisited and many setbacks remain .

April 7 each year has been dedicated by the United Nations as World Health Day, and this year’s theme was, Health for All – Strengthening primary health care to build resilient systems.

Speaking around the statement made by the then Olusegun Obasanjo administration, Dr Walter Mulombo, WHO Representative in Nigeria, explained that even after successive governments, “today we are still far to have achieved the objective”.

Dr. Mulombo advocated increased funding for the health sector to achieve the said goal, saying the sector was underfunded, compared to areas such as defense and military, among others.

According to him, health is a human right and not a luxury or consumable, the more politically wise decisions the country takes now will benefit this nation.

“We need to start talking about human rights abuses because it’s not acceptable for a child to miss a vaccine,” he said.

He said some areas the organization had accessed showed that 80% of the money had gone to tertiary hospitals.

According to him, primary health care is the place where 80% of the population of the communities get their first exposure to health services.

“Spending itself is skewed. It’s the biggest challenge that generated everything we’ve seen.

“The lack of adequate budget to prepare responses to a pandemic, for example, we have to struggle in many places,” he said.

The main challenge, he says, is how health is framed as a political choice, and sadly, many governments are falling short of the norm.

“Many countries continue to see health as a luxury or something that costs government money when it should have been seen as a factor for economic and socio-economic development,” Mulombo said.

He said it was worrying how countries dealt with the social determinants of health, factors such as socio-economic status, education, neighborhood and physical environment, employment, networks of social support and access to health care.

Addressing the social determinants of health is important to improving health and reducing long-standing disparities in health and health care, he said.

Dr. Mulombo further advocated for more facilities with dialysis machines and more expensive equipment to tackle non-communicable diseases as this was among the challenges of the organization.

He said the organization also had the challenges of the demographic transition because the facilities that were used during the colonial period were still the same in Africa, although it is possible that Nigeria had the same situation.

“The country is not spending in the demographic transition space, and the way the population is growing, Nigeria is projected have over 400 million people by 2040, 2050,” he said.

Dr Mulombo said there is also the issue of how the county prepares to respond to any large pandemic outbreak.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic was unplanned and therefore wreaked havoc in many counties.

“The health organization is still waiting for the flu pandemic and preparing for it.

“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, no country was ready, not even the US or the UK, and yet we have international health regulations and a global health security agenda.

“The way we prepare was one challenge, and the other was that the demographic transition and the importance of the civilization of diseases, non-communicable diseases, our health facilities are not prepared to deal with these challenges” , did he declare.

The International Health Regulations (IHR) 2005 is a legally binding agreement of 196 countries to strengthen the ability to detect and report potential public health emergencies worldwide.

It requires all countries to have the capacity to detect, assess, report and respond to public health events.

The Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) is a global effort to strengthen global capacity to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease threats.

According to him, it is necessary for the community to play its part by identifying its needs and providing the service to meet the challenges.

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