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Five Women Die Hourly Due To Low Health Budget

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By Obiejesi Kingsley

Health experts at a round-table in Abuja have made the shocking revelation that at least five women die across the country as a result of pregnancy related issue.

Concerned health practitioners, Civil Society groups as well as Non-governmental Organisations, who gathered over the weekend in Abuja to review the 2016 health budget, said about 576 women, out of every 100,000, die in Nigeria due to pregnancy related problems and asked for a significant improvement in the  2017 health budget.

The round-table was facilitated by the Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health, PACFaH.

The total amount of money voted for Nigeria’s health sector in the 2016 budget stands at N257,382,151,746, according to the official website of the Budget office of the federation.

The amount represents just a little more than 4% of the entire 2016 budget, in a developing country like Nigeria which is battling myriads of diseases, including polio, malaria, tuberculosis among many others.

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Nigeria is said to be the fourth worst country to get pregnant, and also ranks as one of the worst countries to be a child under the age of five.

Children under the age of five die in good numbers in Nigeria as a result of Malaria, Pneumonia and other such diseases.

All these challenges, experts at the roundtable event say, would be better handled if government lived up to its commitment of allocating at least 15 per cent of its yearly budget to improve the health sector as agreed by leaders of African Nations at the April 2001 meeting of African Union, AU, countries in Abuja.

They also want government to implement the National Health Act which stipulates that one percent of the consolidated revenue fund of the federal government be set aside to finance health initiatives in the country.

Participants at the event were also informed that come 2017, Nigeria faces an enormous funding gap for the countries routine immunization programme due to the fact that the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization, GAVI, will be graduating the country to another phase of the Vaccine support, meaning that Nigeria will be contributing more for provisions of vaccines than it did in 2016.

The development makes it even more necessary for the federal government to significantly improve the nation’s health budget so as to better cater for the health needs of the populace.

Countries in Africa, that are considered poorer than Nigeria, are keeping to the 15 percent budgetary allocation to their various health sectors, while Nigeria is yet to march even 5 percent.

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Rwanda for instance, reportedly devoted 18 percent of its total 2016 budget to healthcare. Botswana budgeted 17.8% to health; Malawi, 17.1%, Zambia, 16.4% and Burkina Faso, 15.8%.

Many of these countries also perform better than Nigeria in the global Reproductive Maternal Newborn Adolescent Child Health, RMNACH, ratings.

“We (Nigeria) just claim big brother for nothing. What type of big brother are we?” queried one of the facilitators of the event.

“Right to health is a fundamental human right, guaranteed by Nigeria’s constitution. That government is not paying enough attention to healthcare is a crime, a suable offence,” he added.

In Nigeria, Bauchi state is the only state of the federation that marched the 15% budgetary requirement to the health sector in the 2016 budget; followed by Lagos state with 9% and with a projection of 11% in the 2017 budget.

The experts say things must change for the better as an unhealthy populace cannot contribute effectively to the growth of the Nation’s economy.

They urged Politicians to begin to take the issues of health seriously, asking citizens too to make health issues top on the agenda when politicians come canvassing for votes.

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“They (politicians) must be made to understand that health is not just about electoral promises, it must be implemented with all seriousness, else there won’t be any economy in the first place,” said one of the health activists at the roundtable.

Appreciable progress has been made already with regards to the preparation of the 2017 Budget proposal by the Federal Executive Council, FEC.

Stakeholders in the health sector therefore wants President Muhammadu Buhari to muster the political will to fulfill the many promises he made to Nigerians during his campaigns.

The president, in his manifesto had promised to: reduce infant mortality and maternal mortality rates through provision of free ante-natal care for pregnant women, as well as babies and children up to school going age; improve life expectancy in the country by an additional 10 years on average; increase the number of physicians from 19 per 1000 population to 50 per 1000; increase the quality of all federal government owned hospitals to world class standard by 2019; ban medical tourism by our politicians from May 29, 2015; Create an Insurance Policy for our Journalists as the nation faces hard times and our Journalists face more dangers in the discharge of their investigative work, to educate Nigerians in their rights and responsibilities, among many others.

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