By Iyemah David
The Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, said the country is yet to meet the pledge by African governments to allocate 15 per cent of annual budget to health.
Ehanire said this in Abuja when he featured on the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) ministerial forum in Abuja.
The 2001 African Union (AU) meeting in Abuja which hosted heads of states of African countries, pledged to devote at least 15 per cent of their annual budgets to the health sector.
However, even with the increase from N9 billion health allocation in 2022 to N1.58 trillion projected budget for 2023, the target is not achieved, as it is not up to 15 per cent of the country’s budget as pledged.
The minister, therefore, explained that there are many competing priorities, as many things needed to be attended to.
He said that the budget of issues that relate to education, sanitation and hygiene, among others, were not added to health budget because such issues were being handled by either the Ministry of Education or Ministry of Agriculture and Environment.
He, however, said “we are pleased to have an increase in the budgetary allocation this year over last year.
“We also know that other health expenditure is not necessarily added, for example, what are the states budgeting?
“If you want to know what Nigeria spent on health, you have to look at the federal and state budgets, and look at other expenditure which are not necessarily captured directly in the allocation to the health sector.
“The allocation to education to train nurses and doctors, for example, is also part of health expenditure.”
On the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) established in 2014 under the National Health Act as catalytic funding to improve access to Primary Health Care, he said the fund is supposed to cater for the health of the vulnerable segment of the population in the country.
The BHCPF, he added, serves as fund for Basic Minimum Package of Health Services (BMPHS) aimed at increasing the fiscal space for health, strengthen the national health system particularly at PHCs by making provision for routine daily operation cost and ensure access to healthcare for all, particularly the poor.
The minister, therefore, said that direct flow of funding to the facilities was ongoing and the ministry is still observing the situation.
He said that the ministry is still learning with every move as over one million Nigerians have registered so far.
According to him, the ministry is also expecting more funding as the new act begins to be implemented for the National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA).
The minister said this would increase the fiscal space for health and also the participation of partners and donors trying to increase the number of people covered by insurance.
He added that “we have many lessons we are learning in the flow of fund from the BHCPF to take care of both the vulnerable and the poor.”
The minister also explained the task of the National Emergency Medical Treatment Committee (NEMTC), saddled with the responsibility of starting the pilot phase of National Emergency Medical Service and Ambulance System (NEMSA) to facilitate access to first aid and healthcare in life-threatening situations.
According to him, the committee is to roll out a public-private ambulance service system so that Nigeria will join other countries of the world that have national emergency medical service.
He said Nigerians who need emergency medical care could call a three-digit number –112 and have the response made to them immediately.
He added that “the ministry is working with the private sector on the principle of pay as you work.
Ehanire said that the system has taken off in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on a pilot study, adding that the NEMTC is getting ready to commence in four other states.