Journalists call for improved funding of health sector

The Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ) has appealed to the Nigerian Government to allocate one per cent of the federation’s Consolidated Revenue Fund to the health sector as prescribed in the National Health Act.

The group also called for prompt release and judicious use of approved funds made available to the sector.

ANHEJ made the call in Abuja at its maiden Health Communications Conference which had the theme”Persistent Poor Implementation of the Health Sector Budget: The Role of the Media”.

President of the association, Marcus Fatunmole, said it became imperative for government to fully implement the National Health Act, given the worrisome state of health services in the nation.

Fatunmole said that many less-privileged citizens of the country are dying due to inadequate health services.

He said that Nigeria’s health infrastructure and services would drastically improve if government fully implements the health Act.

“Our maternal mortality rate is the highest in the world, we parade a quarter of global malaria burden and we are among the only three polio-endemic countries in the world. Nigeria at present has one of the highest number of acutely malnourished children in the world; a situation that has been worsened by activities of Boko Haram insurgents.

Nigeria loses about 2,300 children who are below five years of age and 145 women of child bearing age every day.

Our country is faced with increasing burden of non-communicable diseases such as cancer, diabetes and hypertension and mental-related ailment,’’ he said.

Fatunmole appealed to the government to commit enough resources to the sector for the masses to access health care at affordable cost.

He said that Nigeria could not significantly attain the Sustainable Development Goals if the Act, especially the portion demanding “at least one per cent” of the consolidated revenue allocation to the health sector, is not implemented.

On his part, Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, called on the media to continue advocating for accountability, increased funding and good governance in the sector.

He expressed delight with the initiative and said the ministry would be more open to the media regarding information dissemination among others.

Adewole appealed to the media to put health issues in the front burner to attain the needed improvement in the sector for the benefit of all citizens, adding that investment in health yields more dividends than any sector of the economy.

The minister said “media represents a segment that is considered one of the most important partners in the health sector.The role of communications in health goes beyond the traditional reporting and coverage of activities that most people would naturally expect.The media is not just a platform for information dissemination but a tool in delivering health interventions and ensuring positive outcomes that further our agenda which is to promote the health and well-being of our people’’ .

The minister also said the problem in the sector was not poor implementation of budget, but poor release of funds approved for the sector.