Tinubu to invest in health as fundamental human right – Presidency

PRESIDENT Bola Tinubu will prioritise health for all Nigerians, make it a fundamental right for citizens, and use it to promote the nation’s security, his Special Adviser on Health, Salma Ibrahim Anas, said on Thursday.

Anas stated these at a webinar to discuss Nigeria’s new administration’s health agenda, the trajectory toward achieving the government’s health manifesto, and its implications for a strengthened health system, organized by Nigeria Health Watch in conjunction with The Conversation Africa.

This webinar was themed “Nigeria’s new administration: Setti ng the health agenda.”

The ICIR reports that Tinubu’s promise shows his government’s readiness to comply with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) constitutionwhich makes the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political belief, economic or social condition.

Anas explained that before the 2023 elections, stakeholders, including herself, made deliberate efforts to ensure the inclusion of health in the country’s political agenda, culminating, among others, in Tinubu’s renaming the Health Minister’s office as the Coordinating Minister of Health and creation of Anas office – the Special Adviser on Health (to the President) – the first in Nigeria.

She argued that Tinubu Renewed Hope Agenda aimed to achieve health for all through an efficient and effective universal health care coverage system, using the continuum model as contained in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Anas regretted the state of the country’s health and promised a rapid turnaround under Tinubu.

“We are making a slow progress over a long period of time. In some areas, we are not even making progress. We are almost stagnated, with no progress as the trends remain the same despite all efforts. 

“We have witnessed significant efforts in the past ten years, either by government at the national level or the sub-national level, and huge investments by our development partners, donors and all relevant stakeholders. But unfortunately, they have not given us the desirable results. So, what is wrong? How do we address this? These are the questions that we ask ourselves.”

She blamed the “weak health system” on the outbreak of diseases, including diphtheria, from which the nation suffered major blows in the past weeks.

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On July 31, The ICIR reported how diphtheria killed 83 people in seven states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

“This administration ably led by President Bola Tinubu strongly believes that Nigeria deserves quality health,” Anas stated, adding, “The overall goal is to move Nigeria closer to the universal health coverage aspiration with a key focus to reduce the huge gaps between those in need and the use of services. “As we all know, experiences have shown that quality of services is very poor, especially at the primary healthcare level and the unregulated private sector, where the majority of Nigerians access services.”

The Renewed Health Agenda offers several laudable changes to the health system, including an increase in public health financing, prioritising the poor and vulnerable.

She said the agenda focused on new funding for the expansion of PHC, adding that the funding would be used for the purpose for which it is made available.

Other focus areas are health governance and institutional reforms, increased budgetary allocation for health for high impacts, increase in national insurance coverage to cover a significant per cent of the population, presenting the National Health Insurance Health Authority (NHIA) for better performance, and improving on existing private-public partnerships.

Others are:

  • Delivery of integrated, comprehensive health care services.
  • Boosting preventive health care services.
  • Linking the primary, secondary and tertiary levels of care.
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  • Guaranteeing human resources for health.
  • Reducing brain drain.
  • Ending rivalries among workers.
  • Promoting local manufacture of essential health commodities.

Meanwhile, panellists at the webinar lent their voices to the need for the Tinubu government to raise the bar in health governance, funding and services.

Ibrahim Oloriegbe, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health in the 9th Assembly, urged the Federal Government to increase its contribution to the National Health Act from one per cent of the consolidated fund from one per cent to two per cent.

“The National Health Act can help the new administration to efficiently raise health allocation in the 2024 budget. This must happen before the budget presentation in December to ensure the inclusion of the two per cent consolidated fund for the 2024 allocation,” he said.

Morenike Folayan, a professor of Paediatric Dentistry at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, noted that the nation had an impressive library of policies but struggled with effective policy implementation. 

“What we anticipate from this administration is the transformation of existing policies into tangible actions. Unless a strategic approach is adopted for implementing health policies and promoting community ownership of health outcomes, progress in health system indicators like antenatal care access in Nigeria will remain elusive.”




     

     

    Mairo Mandara, an Obstetrician/Gynaecologist, and a former Country Representative of the Bill Gates Foundation in Nigeria, urged the nation to prioritize the functionality of its PHCs.

    She emphasized the need to invest in the right healthcare level and focus on training nurses, midwives, and health assistants for effective deployment. 

    “This approach should prioritize practical skills and stop the excessive craze for academic certification.”

    Similarly, Obinna Onwujekwe, a professor of Health Economics and Policy Pharmaco-economics/pharmaco-epidemiology, said that the weak health system and tiers of government’s indifference to health are some of the challenges facing Nigeria’s health system.

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    Marcus bears the light, and he beams it everywhere. He's a good governance and decent society advocate. He's The ICIR Reporter of the Year 2022 and has been the organisation's News Editor since September 2022. Contact him via email @ [email protected].

    Usman Mustapha is a solution journalist with International Centre for Investigative Reporting. You can easily reach him via: [email protected]. He tweets @UsmanMustapha_M

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