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2018 budget maintains abysmal allocation to health sector

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Over the years, Budgetary allocations to Nigeria’s health sector have remained abysmally low, and 2018 is no different.

This is in spite of the numerous challenges that has bedeviled the health sector, the most recent being the outbreak of monkey-pox disease in various parts of the country.

In 2016, President Muhammadu Buhari’s first full year in office, out of the approximately N6 trillion budget proposal, only about N250 billion was voted for the health sector, representing 4.17 percent of the total budget.

Given that the budget was prepared using an estimated exchange rate of N199 to $1, it meant that the dollar equivalent of the health budget stood at $1.25 million.

2017 witnessed a budget proposal of N7.4 trillion, with the health sector getting N308 billion, or 4.13 percent. This time, the estimated exchange rate was estimated at N305 to $1, meaning that the dollar equivalent of the health budget for 2017 was approximately $1.01 million.

So while it appeared that budget allocation to the health sector grew from N250 to N308, it was actually a reduction when represented in dollar.

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On Tuesday, Buhari presented a budget estimate of N8.62 trillion to the National Assembly for 2018.

Out of this sum, a total of N340.45 billion was voted for the health sector. This represents a paltry 3.9 percent of the total budget, lower than the 4.1 percent in 2017.

Further breakdown of the health budget reveals that N269.34 billion was voted for recurrent expenditure, while only N71.11 billion will be used on capital expenditure.

This is a far cry from the Abuja Declaration signed by African leaders at an AU meeting in Abuja in 2001, where they pledged to devote at least 15 percent of their countries’ annual budget to the health sector.

Nigeria is one of the signatories to that agreement but the country has never lived up to that commitment.

Similarly, the National Health Act, which was signed into law in December 2014 by then President Goodluck Jonathan, stipulates that one percent of the consolidated revenue fund of the federal government should be set aside to finance health initiatives in the country. That too has never been complied with.

Yet, available statistics show that five women die daily across the country as a result of pregnancy related issue.

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Thousands of medical doctors continue to flee from Nigeria in search of better life in the United States of America and United Kingdom.

Between December 2016 and June 2017, meningitis disease killed about 1,166 people in 27 states of the federation.

Within the same period, more than 500 persons had contracted Lassa fever in about 17 states, 104 of them did not live to tell the tale.

Strike actions by medical doctors, nurses and other health workers have become regular occurrences in the country.

Even the State Hose Clinic, which is supposed to be the exclusive health facility for the President and his family, is in comatose.

This year alone, Buhari has spent approximately 155 days out of office, appointing Vice President Yemi Osinbajo as Acting President while he flew to London to attend to his health.

Anthony Anwuka, Minister of State for Educatin, is currently in the US receiving treatment for an undisclosed ailment, and recently, Alex Ekwueme, former Vice President of Nigeria, was flown abroad for medical treatment.

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It beggars belief why the government has consistently, or perhaps deliberately, starved the health sector of the funds needed to turn the sector around, and the question remains: will Nigeria ever abide by the Abuja Declaration of 2001?

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