By Asmau Ahmad
The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), a Civil Society Organisation has unveiled a draft bill on the proposed Health Development Bank of Nigeria to its members and some stakeholders in the health sector.
The proposal for the bank was put forward by the Lead Director of CSJ, Mr Eze Onyekpere, at the closing session of a two-day workshop.
Thee workshop, which was tagged “Innovative and Alternative Funding of the Health Sector”, was with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
It was under the USAID palladium project “Strengthening Civil Advocacy and Local Engagement (SCALE).”
NAN reports further that some stakeholders in the health sector had advocated for the establishment of a Health Development Bank of Nigeria (a specialised bank) to assist in solving the sector’s financial challenge.
The call for the Bank’s establishment has been spearheaded by CSJ, on the basis that the specialised bank was needed to help finance most of the capital projects usually associated with the health sector.
He said most of the equipment, things and other technological devices used in the health sector were capital intensive, hence the need for a specialised bank.
Onyekpere said that establishing a health development bank would strengthen the country’s healthcare system.
He said: “the current state of healthcare financing in Nigeria has been a cause for concern, with allocations to the health sector averaging a mere 4.982 per cent of the federal budget over the last five years (2018-2022).
“These allocations encompass capital, recurrent, statutory transfers, and other vital aspects of the health sector, but still fall far short of meeting the sector’s demands.
“The CSJ’s proposal for a health development bank seeks to address the financial constraints faced by the health sector.
“If implemented, the bank will provide a predictable and sustainable source of funding for critical health projects.”
According to Onyekpere, the health development bank will ensure that funds are tied to specific results and milestones, in line with national health policies and goals.
He stressed that currently, a significant portion of Nigeria’s health budget was dedicated to recurrent expenditure, “leaving minimal room for capital investments in health infrastructure and upgrades.”
“The proposed health development bank will enable targeted investments in areas such as health facilities, medical equipment, and digital technology for telemedicine.
“It will help in the improvements of pharmaceutical production, including the manufacture of critical vaccines and pharmaceutical ingredients.
“One of the pressing challenges in the health sector is the lack of access to basic medical equipment in primary healthcare facilities,” he said.
The CSJ director quoted the World Health Organisation (WHO) as saying that only 41 per cent of the country’s health facilities had access to basic medical equipment in 2018.
He said that many health facilities do not have adequate access to electricity, water, and sanitation, adding that this affected the quality of healthcare services provided.
He said that the health development bank aimed to address these issues by supporting infrastructure provision and upgrading of the health facilities, fostering an enabling environment for quality healthcare delivery.
Onyekpere said this, in turn, would also reduce the need for medical tourism, saving the country over $1 billion annually.
According to the CSJ boss, the bank will be instrumental in improving Nigeria’s pharmaceutical industry, which currently relied heavily on imports.
He said that by providing funds for infrastructure, technology, and human resource development, the bank would stimulate local production of critical pharmaceuticals and vaccines, enhancing the nation’s health security.