The World Health Organisation (WHO) has charged Nigeria’s new legislators on health in the 10th National Assembly to see their role as a great responsibility towards improving Nigeria’s poor health outcome and ensuring that all citizens have access to the healthcare they need without falling into poverty.
Walter Kazadi Mulombo, the WHO representative in Nigeria made the call at a strategic Health Legislative Retreat. He noted that there are areas of the health sector that require attention towards the achievement of universal health coverage (UHC), health security and alleviating poverty.
Molumbo said many opportunities exist in the reimagining Primary Healthcare Initiative, the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund, State Health Insurance and Contributory Schemes, National Health Insurance Authority Act 2022, and the Vulnerable Group Fund, hence deliberate decisions need to be taken to systematically move Nigeria from the current poor situation to the desired levels.
“As you are aware, UHC is a political decision. Countries have achieved UHC using public financing. With out-of-pocket expenditure on health from households consistently above 70 percent when the WHO benchmark is 30-40 percent, and per capita government health expenditure at less than $15 per annum, against the benchmark of $86, you will agree with me that the work to be done is enormous”, he said while urging Legislators to increase health expenditure.
‘My expectation, therefore, is for Legislators to leverage their unique and prestigious functions of appropriation, legislation, and oversight to improve health outcomes in Nigeria towards poverty reduction and economic prosperity,” he said.
Mulombo assured that the WHO is better positioned to support Nigeria in repositioning the health system that works for the people and is currently in the process of developing a new country cooperation strategy (CCS) which has taken the positive impact of the Legislative Network for UHC into consideration.
Ibrahim Oloriegbe, former chairman of the Senate Committee on Health emphasised the need for the 10th Assembly to sustain the 2023 budgetary allocation to health, and aim at achieving a 10 percent allocation by 2027.
Oloriegbe urged the new lawmakers not to focus on creating new laws but to review pending bills and reactivate the process to pass and sign them into law such as the public health emergency bill, and the NHA amendment bill, among others.
He also urged the legislators to ensure the implementation of already existing laws, especially the National Health Insurance Act. He regretted the 9th Assembly failed to include the critical Vulnerable Group Fund as provided in the Act in the 2023 budget, and urged the 10th National Assembly to ensure it is included in the 2024 budget.
“For you coming in, there is likely to be a supplementary budget, so your work starts there as a committee, negotiate and get Vulnerable Group Fund to be added there, it should be in your agenda. The National e
Emergency Agency Bill is another important one, for now, if anybody collapses in this country even in Abuja here we have no ambulance. It is a very big musing link to strengthen emergencies. The cancer fund still has money not spent”, he urged.
pioneer of the Legislative Network for Universal Health Coverage (LNU) and president of LISDEL, Lanre Tejuoso, also urged the lawmakers to ensure implementation of the health insurance Act and aim at achieving 90 percent of Nigerians being insured by 2027.
The Senator further decried that Nigeria has 30,000 Primary Health Care centres, but only 3,000 are functional. He, therefore, urged them to always work with the Ministry of Health in setting PHCs and ensure that there are health personnel.
“We have so many health centres in the country but most of them are like poultries, and piggeries because we did not plan with the Ministry of Health. What is the point of building infrastructure in your name that cannot stand the test of time because it won’t be functional.
“So, in planning your constituency project, because you are allocated funds every year to do any constituency project, plan along with the ministry. Put some human face to your appropriation and implementation,” he said.