A coalition of civil society organisations has launched a campaign to amplify Nigerian citizens’ demands that the government fulfil its promises and save the health system by funding the 2014 National Health Act and by allocating 15% of the national budget to health.
Anti-poverty organisation ONE and its partners, including Nigeria Health Watch, the Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria, Africa-Dev, the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre and the Centre for the Right to Health are calling for improved access to lifesaving health services for all Nigerians.
15 years ago today, all African governments made a commitment in Abuja to increase health spending to 15% of their national budget. To address the health crises Nigeria is facing, the coalition today launched a new public health campaign, calling on the Nigerian government to keep the promise to increase funding for health care.
Successive governments have failed to deliver on the Abuja commitmentand Nigerians – particularly women and children – continue to die from treatable and preventable diseases.
The historic Abuja declaration has never been met by Nigerian policy-makers - only 4.37% is allocated to health in the 2016 Appropriation Bill - and the recent National Health Act has not yet been funded nor fully implemented.
“We are all hopeful for change,” says Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu of NHW. “But as responsible citizens, we must learn how to hold our governments accountable for the promised change.”
Fulfilling the Abuja promise will make a difference for millions of Nigerians who die needlessly from lack of access to basic healthcare.
“It’s hard to imagine that in our beautiful country, millions of Nigerians from Lagos to Wawa, from Sokoto to Yola, die preventable deaths every year because of poor investment in the health sector” says Waje, top Nigerian recording artist and ONE’s Strong Girl campaign activist. I am asking all Nigerians to join us in calling the implementation of these life-saving plans and promises, starting with the 2017 budget. This is not beyond Nigeria, I know it is doable and we need to support government in rolling out those plans”.
Despite being Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria spends relatively little on the health of its citizens and is facing both a health and a nutrition crisis, as women and children continue to die from treatable and preventable diseases.
Nigeria’s health expenditure puts it in the bottom third of the ranking of countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Out of 49 lower-middle income countries, only seven country governments spend less per capita than Nigeria does on health. In 2014 this figure stood at $55 per person - $31 dollars short of the minimum expenditure required to ensure proper health services
If fully implemented, the National Health Act could save the lives of over 3 million mothers, newborns and children under-5 by 2022.
“Nigeria has a large rural population and many of these people are impoverished. The Nigerian government owes welfare to her citizens especially in the area of health care delivery services,” says Dr Nkem Onyejizu, ONE Champion working in Kano state.
“It is also not news that there are also wide regional disparities in child health indicators in the North East and North West geopolitical zones of the country which have the worst child survival indices,” added Dr Onyejizu. “We laud the Nigerian government plan to build 10,000 PHCs across the country, but these must well planned, mapped and staffed to ensure success as well as development of a comprehensive community health insurance scheme.”
President Buhari and the Minister of Health last year reaffirmed their commitment to prioritising healthcare by agreeing to pursue the new Sustainable Development Goals. These goals present an opportunity for government to translate their commitment into time-bound and measurable outcomes to dramatically cut avoidable deaths of mothers, children and the marginalised. Now is the time for increased implementation of these important commitments.
“We urge President Buhari to keep his promise to increase the quantity and quality of funding to implement the National Health Act, and ensure all Nigeria’s children not only survive, but thrive,” says Mwambu Wanendeya, Africa Executive Director of the ONE Campaign.
See video for the highlights of the event.