By Aduragbemi Omiyale
A new report by ONE Campaign has revealed that the health sector in Nigeria is woeful, with key indicators showing that urgent steps are needed to put things in order.
For example, the report noted that despite the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria’s health budget as a percentage of the total budget is declining, with 13 states reducing their fiscal allocations to the health sector.
It was observed that only two states (Kaduna and Sokoto) consistently met the 15 per cent health allocation target between 2020 and 2022, while public health allocations per person have fallen from $10.8 per person in 2020 to $8.5 per person in 2022.
In 2020, while the globe was battling with COVID-19, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, confessed that the nation’s health system was in comatose.
However, the federal and several state governments have continued to fail to fund the sector, resulting in several medical doctors seeking greener pastures abroad, especially in the United Kingdom.
In the report titled Post-Pandemic Health Financing by State Governments in Nigeria 2020 to 2022, One Campaign noted that the proportion of total budgets allocated to health by most state governments is on a downward trend, reflecting the quality of healthcare delivery in the country.
In 2001, the heads of state of African Union countries met in Abuja and pledged to devote at least 15 per cent of their annual budgets to improving the health sector. But two decades after the Abuja Declaration, Nigeria still struggles to meet this goal.
The COVID-19 pandemic also revealed the challenges in Nigeria’s healthcare system, with stakeholders and many Nigerians hoping it would be the game-changer that finally motivates governments at all levels to prioritize healthcare, commit more funds to revitalize the sector, drive improved health outcomes and protect the masses from future health emergencies.
The report’s findings, however, show a deviation from this expectation, with more than 10 state governments in Nigeria reducing their fiscal allocations to healthcare since the pandemic hit in 2020, putting a strain on an already-stressed sector.
“Nigeria’s health indicators are reportedly some of the worst in Africa. COVID-19 has exposed additional gaps in the country’s healthcare system and has shown why the sector requires ambitious strategies and adequate funding in order to serve the masses, particularly the poor and most vulnerable in the society,” Nigeria Country Director at The ONE Campaign, Mr Stanley Achonu, said.
“It is, therefore, extremely worrisome that some state governments are slashing their annual allocations to health when they should be striving to meet the Abuja Declaration’s 15 per cent funding benchmark.
“As the 2023 budget season approaches, governments at all levels must prioritize health care and allocate a significant portion of their budget to improving healthcare delivery. Adequate disbursements should follow these allocations to finance health infrastructure and programs,” Mr Achonu added.
The report has urged governments to demonstrate strong political will and commitment to the Abuja Declaration by allocating at least 15 per cent of their total budget to health.
In addition, it stressed that governments must commit to evidence-based programming, ensure effective stakeholder participation in budgeting processes, invest in primary health care centres, and complement adequate funding with sufficient health workers and effective health system governance.
Business Post reports that the One Campaign report is a follow-up on the State of Primary Healthcare Service Delivery in Nigeria released in July to track state governments’ performance in implementing the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF).
It provides an in-depth analysis of sub-national and federal government health expenditure trends, revealing that while the combined budgetary allocations of all 36 states increased by 12.8 per cent between 2020 and 2022, in real terms, the health sector received less funding in 2022 than in 2020 when adjusted for inflation.