THISDAY Newspaper policy dialogue: Health Financing in Nigeria for Universal Health Coverage
Thank you to Nduka Obaigbena, Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of THISDAY newspaper, for the kind invitation to attend this policy dialogue on “Health Financing in Nigeria for Universal Health Coverage.” As a Global Champion for Universal Health Coverage, or ‘UHC’, I commend Mr Obaigbena for instigating this timely discussion.
The World Health Organization, led by its first African Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has placed UHC at the forefront of its global campaigning because at least half of the world’s population still cannot obtain essential health services. Here in Nigeria, with our estimated population of 194 million, less than 5% of the population is covered by the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS). The extent of unmet need for essential health services makes the pursuit of UHC an urgent priority.
There are however significant signs of progress and causes to be optimistic. In Nigeria, our civil society organisations, health professionals, private organizations and indeed legislators have taken on the challenge of UHC. Last week, in my role as Founder-President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA), I took our partners at Johnson & Johnson and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine to visit our programs in Ilorin, Kwara State. We met with legislators at the State House of Assembly, who have a proud record of pioneering health care reforms and action. Their enthusiasm for UHC and pragmatic partnerships to improve health outcomes should be replicated throughout Nigeria.
The last twelve months have seen milestones in the pursuit of UHC across Nigeria. Last July my husband, the Senate President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, launched the Legislative Network for Universal Health Coverage to address “the issue of financing in healthcare in a sustainable manner to reach all Nigerians.” The issue of funding was also addressed by the Senate late last year, as it adopted a resolution to urge the Federal Government to increase the annual funding of the Federal Ministry of Health to meet the Abuja Declaration (2001) and to fully implement the National Health Act 2014. The resolution to mandate the Committee on Appropriations to include the one percent Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) for the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) was ground-breaking.
We must also recognise the importance of a well-designed civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) system in order to collect and produce accurate data – and thereby ensure effective delivery, evaluation and monitoring of sustainable, effective public health strategies in Nigeria. At the WBFA we designed the Personal Health Record (PHR), a book in which the medical records of each mother and child are recorded and stored for future reference and analysis. The PHR evolved from a child immunisation and growth record to a comprehensive CRVS tool. Without a centralised health database for many families to rely upon to keep them informed of the necessary health processes in a child’s first thousand days of life, the PHR came as an innovation that placed this knowledge directly into the mothers’ hands, and empowered her to provide, analyze and follow-up on her own data. A comprehensive CRVS system in Nigeria will enable us to deliver health for all as a measurable demographic dividend.
I commend today’s critical dialogue on Health Financing in Nigeria for Universal Health Coverage and look forward to closely following the proposed solutions and commitments which will emerge. My call is now for action – we must act to ensure that every person, rich or poor, living in cities or rural areas, can access quality healthcare.
H.E. Mrs Saraki was represented by Dr Yewande Ayoola, WBFA Programs and Policy Manager