Group urges FG to resuscitate NHIS free maternal/child health programme

Health Policy Research Group an (NGO),has urged the Federal Government to resuscitate the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) free Maternal and Child Health programme to address the nation’s high mortality rate.

Dr Felix Obi, a Researcher with the group made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Sunday in Abuja.

Obi who identified the programme as NHIS-MDGs free maternal health programme, attributed the nation’s high mortality on the collapse of the programme , describing women and children as accounting for the nation’s highest burden due to their vulnerability.

He however said that scaling up the programme would go a long way in ensuring drastic reduction in the nation’s mortality rate.

“Where we have problem in Nigeria is women dying while bearing children, so if we must reduce women and childhood mortality rate, we have to make available services needed by women of reproductive age and children.

“We have to prioritise implementation of the National Health Act which stipulates that Nigerians should have access to minimum basic package of health which is universal health coverage,’’ Obi said.

Obi explained that the programme was initiated in 2008 against the backdrop of nation’s performance on maternal and child health indices.

He however described the programme as an intervention scheme geared toward addressing the high mortality among women and children by increasing access to maternal and child health services through an exemplified scheme.

The researcher blamed failure of the programme majorly on lack of legislation with regard to its proper execution, failure of state government to pay their counterpart funding among others.

Obi noted other challenges are lack of political support and interference by state government, noting that political office holders were used in implementing the programme instead of health commissioners.

Also, hiking number of enrollees by Health Maintenance Organisations (HMOs) among others.

Obi emphasized that the federal  gOvernment terminated the project or programme due to failure of states government to pay their counterpart funds.

The researcher however called for legislation to ensure appropriate funding and its sustainability.

He identified ways to ensure adequate funding to include increase of one per cent basic healthcare provision funds to four per cent adding that 70 per cent of the said amount could only cater for the children.

“The benefit package for pregnant women in the scheme covered services provided at the primary healthcare levels while complication were referred to secondary level while the benefits for under five children covered primary care intervention.

“Each pregnant woman enrolled in the programme then was expected to graduate six weeks post partum while a child graduates on reaching five years.

“Federal and state government should show commitment by providing adequate funding in a predictable and regular manner, reduce disruption in service delivery and ensure continuity among others.
“States should explore innovative financing strategies to raise more domestic resources to increase fiscal space for financing free maternal child health similar to SDGs financing risk protection programmes for achieving Universal Health Coverage.

NAN reports that the NIHS-MDGs free maternal and child health programme which commenced in Nov. 2008 stopped in Nov. 2015.(