By Iyemah David
The the African Health Budget Network (AHBN) has awarded $25,000 grant to the Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria (HERFON) and its two other Consortium partners, Vaccine Network for Disease Control (VNDC) and Gem Hub Initiative (GHI), to support the Nigerian Global Health Security Agenda.
The Executive Secretary of HERFON, Dr Celestine Okorie, made this known while addressing newsmen in Abuja.
The grant, Okorie said, will run for a period of 18 months is titled: “Strengthening accountability for Health Security finances and vaccines equitable access in Nigeria.”
Okorie explained that the grant, is aimed at advocacy to strengthen our ability to prevent, detect and respond to public health events which threaten our collective health.
“In view of this, we recently participated in the Africa Regional Advocacy Summit for NGOs and Media organized by the AHBN in its headquarters in Abuja, Nigeria.
“Stakeholders from eight African countries participated in the summit and exchanged ideas on how to strengthen the health security in Africa.
“We also participated in the recently concluded Joint External Evaluation – Health Security Action Plan organized by the Nigeria Center for Disease Control (NCDC) where a diverse team of experts, collectively evaluated our nation’s preparedness and response capacities across 19 technical areas, under the guidance of relevant Ministries, Departments, and Agencies.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us a valuable lesson that we must strengthen our national health security preparedness,” he said.
Okorie commended the Federal Government for the development of the National Action Plan for Health Security (NAPHS 2018-22) and for setting up the Public Health Emergency and Outbreak Response Fund (PHEORF) now domiciled with the NCDC.
Also speaking, Mrs Chika Offor, the Chairperson of Health Sector Reform Coalition (HSRC) said that there was an important need for the country to mobilise domestic resources to fund its national health security agenda.
“We need to look inwards rather than relying on multilateral organizations like the WHO and others to tackle our health security challenges.
“We take cognizance of the fact that the present budget line for health security is not much,” she said
Offor, who is also founder of the VNDC, called on the federal government to fully fund the national health security agenda as the country cannot afford to be caught unawares again during the next epidemic or pandemic.
To promote accountability in the national security agenda, she recommended that CSOs should have a permanent seat at the table during the development and implementation of the national health security agenda as the CSOs have the capacity to track accountability in the process on behalf of the civil society.
Also contributing, Mrs Oyeyemi Pitan, Executive Director of GHI called for improved coordination in the National Health Security Agenda development and implementation.
“The federal government needs to strengthen the coordination and include certain critical stakeholders in the process such as the office of the National Security Adviser: we are talking about our capacity as a nation to prevent, detect and respond to public health events which can threaten the lives of millions of Nigerians.
“The office of the NSA must be involved in this process. The National Biosafety Management Agency should also be involved as a critical stakeholder.
“The office of the Special Adviser to the President on Health should be part of the coordination for us to respond effectively on health security.” she said.
She said that the approach involves a collaborative, multisectoral, and transdisciplinary approach which recognised the fact that the interconnection between people, animals and plants.