Group Launches ‘Make Naija Stronger’ Health Campaign

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Mary Ekah

In bid to persuade government to keep its promise to address health crises and drastically improve the country’s health system, a coalition of civil society organisations recently launched a campaign to amplify Nigerian citizens’ demands that the government fulfill its promises and save the health system by funding the 2014 National Health Act and also allocate 15 per cent of the national budget to health.

Anti-poverty organisation ONE and its partners, including Nigeria Health Watch, the Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria, Africa-Dev, the Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre and the Centre for the Right to Health, are calling for improved access to lifesaving health services for all Nigerians.

The group posited that 15 years ago, all African governments made a commitment in Abuja to increase health spending to 15 per cent of their national budget and to address the health crises Nigeria is facing, the coalition launched a new public health campaign, calling on the Nigerian government to keep the promise to increase funding for healthcare.

“Successive governments have failed to deliver on the Abuja commitment and Nigerians–particularly women and children–continue to die from treatable and preventable diseases”, the group noted.

It further stressed that the historic Abuja declaration has never been met by Nigerian policy-makers as only 4.37 per cent of the budget is allocated to health in the 2016 Appropriation Bill – and the recent National Health Act has not yet been funded nor fully implemented.

“We are all hopeful for change,” says Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu of NHW. “But as responsible citizens, we must learn how to hold our governments accountable for the promised change. Fulfilling the Abuja promise will make a difference for millions of Nigerians who die needlessly from lack of access to basic healthcare. It’s hard to imagine that in our beautiful country, millions of Nigerians from Lagos to Wawa, from Sokoto to Yola, die preventable deaths every year because of poor investment in the health sector” said Waje, top Nigerian recording artiste and ONE’s Strong Girl campaign activist.

“I am asking all Nigerians to join us in calling the implementation of these life-saving plans and promises, starting with the 2017 budget. This is not beyond Nigeria, I know it is doable and we need to support government in rolling out those plans”, she noted further.

Despite being Africa’s biggest economy, Nigeria spends relatively little on the health of its citizens and is facing both a health and a nutrition crisis, as women and children continue to die from treatable and preventable diseases. It is therefore believed that, if fully implemented, the National Health Act could save the lives of over three million mothers, newborns and children under-5 by 2022.

“Nigeria has a large rural population and many of these people are impoverished. The Nigerian government owes welfare to her citizens especially in the area of healthcare delivery services,” said, Dr. Nkem Onyejizu, ONE champion working in Kano State. “President Muhammadu Buhari and the Minister of Health last year reaffirmed their commitments to prioritising healthcare by agreeing to pursue the new Sustainable Development Goals. We therefore urge President Buhari to keep his promise to increase the quantity and quality of funding to implement the National Health Act, and ensure all Nigeria’s children not only survive, but thrive,” said Mwambu Wanendeya, Africa Executive Director of the ONE Campaign.