By Zayamu Hassan
The Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN) have been concluded plans to enrol over 50 journalists under the umbrella of the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ) in health insurance in early January 2023.
The President of ANHEJ, Hassan Zaggi, disclosed this at the 6th annual conference of the group which took place in Akwanga, Nasarawa State.
He further disclosed that the group will unveil Fellows which will serve as ambassadors of the group.
The Fellows, he explained, will be among those who have consistently cover the health sector for many years, with good reputation, integrity and have performed creditably well.
The health insurance enrolment and the inauguration of the Fellows, according to him, will be supported and funded by the AHBN, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO).
“I am glad to announce to you that the Association of Nigeria of Health Journalists has concluded plans to launch a health insurance for our members next month.
“One of our reliable partners, the Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN) has committed to support us achieve this and for the first phase, we are considering enrolling up to 50 health journalists. The selection process will be very stringent with performance as one of the criteria for enrolment.
“We also intend to inaugurate Fellows for the association who will serve as our ambassadors. These are people who have remained committed to reporting health for a long time and have performed creditably well,” Zaggi said.
He, however, called on the governments at all levels, to fashion out ways of ensuring that residents of their areas are enrol in health insurance.
The ANHEJ President lamented that: “When people in the rural communities are sick, the first and nearest health facility to them is the Primary Health Centre (PHC) but unfortunately most people cannot access services at these health facilities because of Out- of- Pocket- Payment.
“Government at all levels must take the health of our people serious, in fact, it should be at the top of their priority, because, as we all know, health is wealth. It is only a healthy society that can be productive.
“Lawmakers at both the federal, state and local government levels must also ensure they enact the relevant laws that will support and improve the attainment of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) through health insurance.”
He insisted that in order to eliminate out-of-pocket expenses, communities and associations must begin to adopt models that suit their enrolment in health insurance to enable them access health care services when the need arises without catastrophic expenditure.
While calling on lawmakers at all level to device a way of enrolling the poor residents of their areas in health insurance, Zaggi said: “I, therefore, call on our Senators, House of Representative members, House of Assembly members, Councilors to adopt villages, communities and individuals in their constituencies by paying their health insurance premium annually.
“Since democracy has come to stay in Nigeria, sustainability and continuity of this model should not be a challenge for our current leaders’ successors.
“This will go a long way in reducing the out-of-pocket expenditure for health care among our people.”
Earlier, in his goodwill message, the Chairman, National Advocate for Health (NA4H), Mohammed Usman, lamented that health indicators in Nigeria show very high mortality rates among women and children.
He regretted that the health sector was still facing a lot of challenges, which, according to him, “at the PHC level where millions of Nigerians reside the country has over 30,000 PHC Centres. Sadly, less than 5,000 are functional.
“Second, low budgeting allocation as evident over the years hovering around 5% far below the Abuja Declaration of 15% of National Budget and thirdly, little that is being budgeted is not released as at when due.
“For instance, from 2018 – date over N300b allocated for the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) and less than 1/3 have been released.
“And, looking at FP Budget amounting to N2.8b for year 2021 and 2022, there has not been single release. Thus, Advocates find it difficult raising voices for more funding because of the non-release.”
Hon. Usman, however, applauded the members of the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists for writing and reporting on Health over the years in order to reposition the sector.