HFN calls for equitable distribution of pro-health taxes

The Healthcare Federation of Nigeria (HFN) has called for a more robust and equitable distribution of pro-health taxes across the country.

This call was made at the Health Financing Policy Dialogue organized by PharmAccess Foundation, the World Bank and the Nigeria Healthwatch held recently in Abuja.

The event championed discussion on the new health financing approaches in Nigeria while focusing on the implementation of the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages (SSB) tax in the country.

Pamela Ajayi, president of HFN, made a clarion call to use this opportunity of the implementation of the taxes to bridge the gap in the funding of Healthcare in Nigeria and move significantly towards achieving its SDG goals of universal health coverage and the Abuja Declaration.

She noted that HFN has been a strong proponent for the implementation of the pro-health taxes.

According to her, HFN had written to the Minister of Finance in 2021 to support the increase of existing taxes on alcohol and tobacco and the introduction of new tax on SSB, highlighting countries who have successfully used these taxes to improve healthcare such as Philippines, Australia, and Korea amongst others.

She recommended that these taxes be used to provide coverage to the indigent population and to scale up mandatory health insurance coverage for all Nigerians with a percentage of the revenue being earmarked for specific impact health-related schemes as well as research and development, particularly in the areas of diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.

She called for the creation of a legal framework to secure these funds ‘ring-fencing’ them for healthcare and the formation of a committee with relevant stakeholders to ensure equitable and sustainable disbursement of the funds for the improvement of healthcare in the country.

Also speaking, Njide Ndili, country director of PharmAccess Foundation and vice president of HFN explained the reason for the meeting, saying Nigeria as a nation needs to identify innovative and sustainable ways to finance healthcare without reliance on donor funds as these funds should be an add on to the country’s sources of financing the sector.

She talked about the need to discuss corporate funding for health and the need to mobilize local resources for healthcare financing.

Similarly, Kolapo Fapohunda, the West African health policy and partnership lead at Roche and publicity secretary of HFN commended the government of Nigeria for the establishment and implementation of the SSB tax.

He encouraged the government to ensure the funds are earmarked for the health sector to improve access to equitable health for Nigerians.

He further stated that as seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, the private sector has a major role to play in improving healthcare and ensuring the health security of the nation.

He encouraged the government to continuously and proactively bring the private sector to the forefront, stating also that this is what the HFN stands for.

The event hosted several distinguished dignitaries including Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe, chairman of the Senate Committee on Health; Mohammed Nasir Sambo, a professor and the DG of the National Health Insurance Authority; Ben Akabueze, the DG of the Budget Office of the Federation, and Zainab Bagudu, the first lady of Kebbi State among others.

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