A Research and Development expert, Dr. Emmanuel Abanida has said that President Muhammadu Buhari can save lives of millions of pregnant women, children under age five, the elderly and other numerable citizens with the release of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund which is in the 2018 budget.
Abanida who is the Senior Technical Adviser for Development Research and Project Center (DRPC) said this at a Strategy Session on advocacy for the implementation of BHCPF organised by Engaged Citizens, Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn, EC-PERL, a programme of the Department for International Development (DFID).
He lamented that the non release of the fund is dangerous given its importance to health care delivery in the country. Abanida warned that failure to release the fund signifies means that more pregnant women, children and other citizens would die needlessly when such could be averted.
Abanida said it was a source of concern that the fund which was captured in the 2018 budget was not released less than 40 days to the end of the year.
Abanida urged President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure the release of the fund immediately to save lives of the indigent citizens who need access to health care services.
Speaking further, Abanida said failure to release the money was having a negative effect on health care delivery in the country, especially in the rural areas as it could have been handy in the revitalisation of primary health care centres. The fund is expected to help reduce out of pocket spending on health care through the National Health Insurance Scheme.
“As we move to the end of the year, if we do not get this money, obviously, when they are doing the 2019 budget they will put zero application to 2018,” he said.
He lamented that because the year is already running to an end, whatever is released now would be mopped up by December otherwise it must be returned to the government treasury.
“In 2018 we are talking of about N 55 billion and people have given reasons why it is not forthcoming, like the discordance among the three health agencies to utilise the fund when disbursed,”.
“If we see health as a topmost priority, then they should start getting their money. We cannot continue running from Geneva to London, London to Paris looking for money whereas we need to take basic care of our people.
“I believe that the political will to make sure that it happens is not strong because if it is strong, it will certainly come. Health in Nigeria is not a priority. We prioritise security, power, food security but you need to be healthy to be able to provide food. It is when you are healthy that you can solve security problem and the Human Development Index (HDI) will certainly improve,” Abanida said.
The strategy session which was organised by EC-PERL in collaboration with Health Sector Reform Coalition, (HSRC) was attended by stakeholders including health experts, civil society health advocacy groups and journalists.
The Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) is the minimum of one percent of the consolidated federal government revenue and contributions from donor grants set aside to fund the basic health need of the citizens.
50 percent of the fund is expected to be used for the provision of basic minimum package of health services under the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) while 5 percent is meant to cater for emergency health interventions.
The DFID Federal Partnership Facilitator, Mrs Chika Okoh said the objective of the meeting is to galvanize media action on the implementation of BHCPF so that the fund would be released and used to enhance improvement in the healthcare delivery services for the good of the people.
The National Media Engagement Adviser, Engaged Citizens Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn (EC-PERL), Hadiza Abdul-Abubakar charged the media to amplify the voices of the citizens on the demand for the release of the fund.
Abdul-Abubakar said the release of the fund would enhance the delivery of healthcare services to citizens without facing catastrophic heath expenditure and prevent avoidable deaths in the country.