By Ndidi Chukwu
President Muhammadu Buhari’s first 2017 speech on Primary Health Care Revitilization is indeed mind blowing, it is not just a speech, but a promise about to be fulfilled, against the criticisms of relevant health stakeholders following the non-provision of National Health Act, Basic Health Care provision Funds in the proposed 2017 budget presented by the president in December 2016 to the National Assembly.
Mr. President Speech on January 10th at the flag off of the Primary Health Care Revitalization programme and commissioning of the Kuchingoro Primary health care center, is soothing to the ears.
The speech reiterates his commitment to health, and brings back hope for millions of Nigerians who will benefit from the revitalization of the 10,000 Primary Health Centers as promised during the campaigns. It also a relieving moment for all the stakeholders advocating for the implementation of the National Health Act to hear the president say;
“I want to assure Nigerians that Government will continue to ensure that great numbers of Nigerians have access to quality basic health care services. Accordingly, the provision in the National Health Act, 2014 for the Basic Health Care Provision Fund is in the process of being implemented. I also assure my fellow countrymen and women that
our Administration will fulfill all the promises made to the people”
He also added that “the provision of quality health care service will reverse the poor health indices in the country. I am hopeful that our women will no more be dying needlessly during childbirth; our children will no more be dying needlessly as a result of vaccine preventable diseases or common ailment; access to health care will not be limited
because of lack of money to pay”
The delay in the implementation of the NHAct 2014 became more worrisome when the president’s proposed 2017 budget did not mention funds allocated for the NHAct implementation. Despite the wonderful provisions in the Act, which will have great impact in the lives of the poor.
President Buhari in his speech has confirmed that he is aware of the challenges of survival for the rural poor in Nigeria and the fact that they have to pay for health from their pocket.
He said: “We did promise to provide succor to the poor while at the same time providing for all other segments of the society. I am aware that out of pocket payment for health constitute over 70% of total health expenditure. This is more than the globally recommended 30-40%.” President Buhari reiterated in Kuchingoro.
“Only less than 5% of the total population is covered by any kind of health insurance or risk protection mechanism which is against the recommended 90% coverage by the World Health Organisation. Our vision is to reverse this unsatisfactory situation and better care for the poor and needy”
This beautiful speech by the President is a guide to what the Nigerian Health sector is expecting to see in 2017, first that the provision for the 1% consolidated revenue funds for basic health care provision funds as recommended in the National Health Law, which the president has benevolently promised, Nigerians and the global community to implement from this year, is captured in the 2017 budget when it will be accented.
The need for the country to reach the 2001 African Union, Abuja Declaration and allocate 15 percent of the country’s annual budget to health, which is being implemented already by almost all African countries who were hosted by Nigeria when the declaration was made.
This is how Nigeria and the administration of the president can set the pace, end medical tourism and make the nation Africa’s health hub the world desire to see.
It is clear that the country’s resources have been in great turmoil, and lots of sectoral needs are competing for funds, however, health in its uniqueness remains the only way the government can give back to the people who have trusted power in their hands.