THE Presidency on Tuesday, July 25, pledged to commit 10 per cent of the nation’s annual budgets to the health sector.
Special Adviser on Health, Salma Ibrahim-Anas, made the commitment during the Gatefield Health Summit held in Abuja. The event was titled Taxing Sugary Drinks and Other Fiscal Policies for Health Financing.
She said with the current structure and funding; it would be difficult for the Federal Government to attain the Universal Health Coverage (UCH).
Ibrahim-Anas stressed that under the current administration, the 10 per cent proposed allocation to the sector would be the starting point as there are strategic moves to ensure the health sector secures the right funding in accordance with the Abuja Declaration, where member nations agreed to at least 15 per cent of annual budgetary allocation to the health sector.
“Mr. President has said he is going to increase allocation for health. He will start from 10 per cent of the total budgetary allocation for health, which is just the beginning…. he is ready to support us mobilising additional resources, wherever they are,” the medical expert stated.
“We will like to deliver integrated health care delivery that is well connected around primary, secondary and tertiary levels of care. Another strategy will be the public health emergency response will be established at the national and sub-national levels.
“We are moving towards local production of pharmaceuticals, consumables and other basic medical equipment, including sophistical equipment in Nigeria in partnership with several partners,” she noted.
She recognised the increasing cases of epidemic diseases in the country and the need to nip them in the bud as soon as possible.
While referencing data from the Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDDHS) 2018 and World Health Organisation, the public health expert disclosed how non-communicable diseases (NCDs) have accounted for about 29 per cent of deaths in the country; heart disease 11 per cent, cancer four per cent alongside chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes.
She added that most victims of diabetes are mostly unaware of their status as diabetes patient until it gets to its worse stage. She frowned at the excessive consumption of sugary drinks.
The ICIR, in an investigative piece, had earlier documented how excessive sugar consumption often leads to diabetes, kidney failure, heart disease and other NCDs.
However, amidst the NCDs, she recommended evidence-based policies, public awareness and innovative funding alternatives such as the Sweet-Sugar Beverages (SSB) Tax to secure adequate funding for the health sector.
In his remarks, the Director General, National Institute for Cancer Research and Treatment (NICRAT), Usman Aliyu, advocated creative means of funding the health sector. He identified the SSB Tax as a measure which could go a long way in providing accessible healthcare services.
Aliyu disclosed that as of 2021, about 20 million cancer patients and more than half of the figure will die by 2030.
However, he said beyond advocating for a 20 per increase in the SSB tax, the Federal Ministry of Health should be carried along in implementing the funds in addition to the existing one per cent deduction from the Consolidated Revenue Account used to fund the Basic Health Fund.