The Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, has called on the media to be more professional in their reportage on the health sector budget.
Prof. Adewole made the call in Abuja at the Maiden Edition of Health Communications Conference organized by the organised by the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists,ANHEJ with support of Community Health and Research Initiative.
The Minister said adequate reports on the health sector would keep the sector in the front burner and ensure government meets its commitment towards adequate funding of the sector.
While expressing concern over the dwindling funds from the international donors, Prof. Adewole urged the private sectors to invest in the health sector.
“Nigeria is still far below the Abuja Declaration, a commitment by the African Union Heads of Governments to ensure that at least 15% of National Budgets are allocated to the health sector.”
“In 2017, the Health Budget is only around 4% of the National Budget. Though this represents a slight improvement from around 3.73% in the 2016 budget, the numbers are worrisome.”the minister said.
According to the minister”This would mean that only about N1, 500 (One Thousand and Five Hundred Naira only) is being spent on the health of every Nigerian per year. This is despite the huge and the unsavory indicators that Nigeria grapples with, including Maternal Mortality, Malaria, HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis among others.”
He also said that the proposed 2018 appropriation bill would be passed in October and called on the media to continue to highlight on the need for adequate funding.
“I can assure you, my friends in the media that I would work with you to deliver on our mandate to the people. The Ministry of Health under my watch will be completely Open, Transparent and Accountable. We will not tolerate corruption and will not cover it up.”
“I call on you to join us in fishing out corruption in this sector. I will not wrap up this remark without calling on the media to be responsible in discharging its duty to inform the people. Peddling falsehood in health reporting our people’s trust in the country’s health system and cumulatively weakens it. We are open to information sharing, constructive criticism and positive suggestions.”
The Niger State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Mustapha Jubrin who enumerated some of the challenges facing the health sector, called on the media to educate Nigerians on the National Heath Act and some other relevant health policies in the country.
He said all hands must be on deck for Nigeria’s health sector to progress and meet up with international standards.
The Executive Director, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr. Faisal Shuaib represented by a director in the agency, Dr. Eugene Ivase, expressed worry over the non-implementation of the Abuja declaration 2010, which stated that 15% of the country’s annual budget must be allocated to the health sector.
Dr. Shuaib however called on the Federal government to look into the issue with urgent attention to improve the healthcare system of the country.
Also Speaking the founder ‘Wellbeing Foundation For Africa and the wife of the Senate President, Mrs Toyin Saraki, who was represented by the Country Director of the Foundation, Dr. Luther-king Fasehun, advocated capacity building for the media to enable them carryout their duties more professionally.
She said the foundation would continue to involve the media in all its activities in improving the health sector.
On his part, the President , The Association of Nigeria Health Journalists, Mr Marcus Fatumole said the aim of the conference was to call the attention of the civil society, NGOs and government at all levels to accord priority to the health sector.
“The challenges bedeviling Nigeria’s health sector are compounded by self-aggrandizement by our leaders; mismanagement, incompetent leadership, poor releases of funds, bickering among workforce and sector’s leadership among other numerous ills.”
The maiden edition of the conference with the theme ‘Persistent Poor Implementation of the Health Sector Budget: The Role of the media’ was organised to create awareness on the poor implementation of the Nation’s health budget and to call on government to take urgent steps to fully implement the National Health Act for improved healthcare service delivery in the country.
According to Mr Fatumole “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.”
Highlight of the event was the unveiling of the association’s logo by the Minister of Health.