The Nigerian minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole has charged the media to play a critical in ensuring that the health budget is implemented.
Prof Adewole gave the charge at the inaugural Media Summit of the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists, in Abuja.
He said ‘’While the Budget is not enough to meet with the challenges that we face. The media has a critical role to play in ensuring that the health budget is implemented. Our Universal Health Coverage Agenda is hinged on the delivery of the revitalization of Primary Health Care Centers (PHCs) across the country. The majority of the healthcare needs of Nigerians can be addressed at the primary level. Another issue of concern to us is ensuring the availability of medical supplies and commodities including lifesaving vaccines across the country’s healthcare system’’.
The minister assured Nigerians that the government is working towards a much higher implementation rate and emphasised that there is a need to have a people focused media that will put all arms of government on their toes in order to ensure the health and wellbeing of Nigerians.
‘’More importantly, we need to demand for accountability and transparency in the implementation of health sector budget. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that our monies are spent on what they are meant for. The media is a key factor in ensuring this,’’ the health minister said.
Prof. Adewole also assured the association that he would work with them to deliver on the administration’s mandate to the people through openness, transparency and accountability.
The Chairman Board of the Association for the Advancement of Family Planning in Nigeria, Dr.Ejike Orji, said that Nigeria needs to begin to implement health budget in the country.
He noted that there was the need to continue talking and for advocacy.
He said‘’ for me, we must strategically fight things that resonate. If things are bad, we must say things are bad. The task is daunting but winnable’’
The Niger state commissioner for health, Dr. Mustapha Jibril, said that the media has a great role to play in the improvement of the health sector.
‘’The media need to educate the people on the content of National Health Acts as many Nigerians do not know how it works’,’ he said.
He said that though a lot of work is being done, if the 15% budget allocation to health is not implemented in Nigeria, little improvement will be achieved.
The Executive Secretary of the National Primary Health Caare Development Agency, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, who was represented by a director in the agency, Dr. Eugene Ivase, urged the association to continue with the advocacy.
‘’ The Association of Health Journalists should take health advocacy as a very serious mantra. It is their voices that would represent the voices of the common Nigerians who are advocating for their health rights, for the funding of health to ensure that all Nigerians get quality, affordable and accessible healthcare services in Nigeria’,’ he said.
The president of the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists, Mr. Marcus Fatunmole, said that the summit is aimed at urging government to implement the National Health Act, three years after passage.
He said that the National Health Act needed to be implemented for better healthcare delivery in the country.
‘’Our country and government can no longer hide from the truth that there is poor funding of the sector. This association agrees with claims that the little made available is being misused. While we advocate full implementation of the Act, we promise to investigate and report expenditures of funds going into the sector,’’ he said.
He said that the country has come to a stage where the National Health Act must be implemented.
‘’ Its implementation will drastically solve funding challenges associated with primary and secondary levels of care in the country. It will, among others, help government’s drive towards attaining universal health coverage. Nigerians particularly want the one percent of the consolidated revenue of the country allocated to the health sector as approved by the law,’’ the president added.
The Country Director of the Community Health and Research Initiative, Dr. Aminu Magashi Garba who is the grand patron of the association, urged the members to remain focus and work towards the realisation of their goals.
There were goodwill messages from relevant stakeholders at the event.
The summit has as its theme: Persistence Poor Implementation of the Health Sector Budget: The Role of the media. NHAct Yet to Be Implemented Three Years after Passage, Where is the media?