Universal Health Coverage SCI calls for more funding
By: Femi Oyelola
Save the Children International (SCI) advocates for improved health security and increased funding for the health sector to achieve Universal Health Coverage (UHC) by 2030.
Advocacy Campaign and Policy Manager for Save the Children International (SCI), Abuja Field Office, Mr. Ifedilichukwu Ekene Innocent, asserted this during the 2023 Universal Health Coverage (UHC) event held in Kaduna yesterday.
According to him, more funding is required to facilitate good health services for Nigerians, enabling a better quality of life.
Ifedilichukwu Ekene Innocent appreciated the past efforts of the government and other independent bodies in ensuring that Nigerians enjoy good healthcare services.
“Today is December 12, a day the world is marking universal health coverage, which is the opportunity given to health stakeholders, the government, the private sector, and individuals to promote issues that relate to health, especially how quality can be given to people at low cost or at a cost that is affordable by them and it will be given to them, not minding their social status or opportunities they have in society but health for all Nigerians.”
He highlighted the responsibility of the group, which is to support the government in achieving its mandate, to put in policies, structures, strategies, and plans that will help bring health to all Nigerians, especially those living in rural and hard-to-reach communities.
“The way Save the Children is structured is to support the government at all levels. In Kaduna state, for example, we have support from the Bill Mindagate foundation and other donors who are supporting us to carry out advocacy engagements in supporting the government.”
“We have been working with government structures, the contributory scheme, Primary Health Care, the Ministry of Health, NAFDAC, and others. These agencies are key towards achieving universal health coverage, and so because they have different roles that are defined within the national health acts as to what they need to do to promote health in the state, Save the Children is working with these structures to achieve their mandate, and we will continue because that is how we are structured.”
Using budgeting as a yardstick to assess government efforts, the campaign manager said that while allocation is always made, they still suffer from the issue of cash backing, which is very much needed to facilitate and implement health programs and policies. This is one of the reasons why they are working closely with these government agencies to ensure that the policies and plans they put in place are properly costed and funded.
“I think the last government has done so well in terms of meeting up with the Abuja declaration of 15 percent, but the challenge with the last government is the issue of cash backing. There is the political will to do what is proper is there, and that is why they were able to meet up with their 15 percent Abuja declaration, but if you look at the releasing and cash backing, there may be other political issues that relate to it.”
Mr. Ekene said that they hope to work closely with the new government in 2024 to ensure that more funding is released or to utilize the available funds to provide the needed quality health services for all citizens living in Kaduna State.
The Advocacy and Campaign Coordinator for the Kaduna field office of Save the Children International, Mr. Farouk Abdulkadir, stressed the importance of the ongoing project centered on advocacy for health and how policies beneficial to the health sector can be implemented.
“We have several projects in Kaduna, but this one specifically talks about advocacy for health. What we have been doing is working with citizens and government officials to ensure that we have policies in place that advance health, especially making sure because when you talk about coverage you talk about one, the package of heart services that are being provided, and second, the proportion of the population that is being reached.
He, therefore, stressed that SCI in Kaduna State plans to leverage the international UHC day to advocate for increased domestic public investment in health and adopt nationally appropriate spending targets.
He also said SCI prioritized Primary Health Care as a cost-effective and equitable investment for both universal health coverage and the future of health security.
Abdulkadir restates SCI’s commitment to advocating for children’s survival against preventable diseases.
He commended the Kaduna State Government for enabling the environment for the organization to thrive in achieving its mandate towards ensuring a healthier population.
Earlier, the State’s Commissioner of Health, Hajiya Umma Ahmed, said, however, the efforts of the Government, it is doing its best to achieve UHC in the state.
Ahmed, Represented by Dr. Danga Sule, the State’s Malaria Elimination Programme Manager, disclosed that the state government has recently built another set of 255 primary health centers across all the geopolitical wards in the state.
Describing the primary health centers as the gatekeepers where the public could access health, he said having the infrastructure, human resources, finances, and collaboration with the relevant stakeholders would help achieve the UHC in the state and country at large.
She called for increased collaboration with private organizations, and CSOs, among others, noting that the government alone cannot shoulder the responsibility of more than 10 million of its citizens in the state in achieving UHC.
She also called on the public to ensure hygiene and proper sanitation of the environment to avoid diseases.