Daily Trust (Abuja)

Nigeria: NCH - Uncertainty Looms Over MDG Targets

The probability of meeting targets set to reduce infant deaths to 30 per 1,000 live births is "low", says a report into Nigeria's progress towards Millennium Development Goals.

The report dominated the first technical session of the National Council on Health which began its 55th meeting in Abuja Monday.

Three years to the 2015 deadline, some 75 Nigerian children among every 1,000 live births still die in infancy, slightly down from an infant death rate of 87 recorded in 1990 when the MDG goals were set.

It also concluded as "low" the probability of achieving universal access to reproductive health and meeting all needs for family planning.

"It is possible that no progress has been made but the percentage of progress," said Fatima Bamidele, permanent secretary at the federal health ministry which convened the meeting.

"The indices, quite a number of them have been going up, but whether we achieve that by 2015 is a big question."

At least 9 other MDG targets related to health were ranked with "medium" probability of achievement by 2015.

Medium probability

The NCH is Nigeria's highest policy making body, attended by delegates for states, departments and agencies.

It meets every year to make health policies, and this year the delegates will "need to know where the actual gaps are in and what to do post 2015," said Bamidele.

At least 92 proposals, most from states, will be decided on when the council sits proper on Thursday, chaired by the health minister.

Among the proposals, the federal health ministry is pushing to schedule tramadol as a controlled drug.

Rivers wants to adopt killing of mosquito larva (which government proposes to start next year) as a strategy for eliminating malaria.

Similarly Kano wants to push for a national board for traditional medicine and stronger control of codeine-containing cough medicines.

It is a health challenge for Kano and one of the most pressing issues for the North East and North West, said Kano's representative, Dr Bello Dikko, executive secretary of Kano state health management board, who appeared for the state.

Mixed progress

The NCH will contend with mixed progress in health revealed in a Joint Action Review, which noted some improvement in measles vaccine coverage and polio eradication.

The JAR report said budget for health grew 67% from N156.4 billion to N266.7 billion last year, it remained a mere 5.4% of national budget and less than 1% of the country's national gross domestic product.

Both federal and state governments have being faced with targets to ensure at least 15% of budget is voted to health.

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