Ehanire: Impact of $500m World Bank Grant to States for Maternal Health, Others not Felt

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Osagie Ehanire

Udora Orizu in Abuja

The Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, yesterday said no meaningful impact has been felt from the $500 million taken as a loan by the federal government and given to the states as grant to reduce the number of mortality recorded at primary and secondary health facilities across the country.

Ehanire stated this while addressing participants at a three-day retreat of the House of Representatives Committee on Health Care Services toward commencing the amendment of the National Health Act of 2014 in Abuja.

He said, ‘’That investment was $500 million taken as a loan by the federal government and given to the states as grant. While technically that was successful, the actual impact of reducing one million death became questionable. Did we really reduce? In reality, we needed to have addressed the gaps and one of the biggest gap is lack of access to health care.’’
The minister lamented that Nigeria had one of the worst indices in maternal, reproductive and child health and under-five mortality in the world.

He opined that the National Health Act was the best instrument available in the health sector, even though it needed serious rejigging to be able to effectively take the nation’s health sector to its desired destination.

According to him, ‘’We are one of the worst in the world. There was time we were getting over 900 maternal deaths per 10,000 live births. In the last five years, it stagnated because of the investment. The very concept behind the save 1 million lives was because of the fact that we are having nearly one million needless death in Nigeria that could be avoided if certain things were done and we created some pillars to achieve that.

“If a woman is in the village and goes into labour at 1.00am, she is on her own because if she has complication, some of them will not see or have tomorrow. The same thing applies to children. Add the accident on our roads. Some are taken to the hospital and are asked to make payment before being attended to or nobody will attend to you because you cannot have access to ambulance.’’

Earlier, while declaring the retreat open the Speaker of the House, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila said the Act had not lived up to expectations, hence the need for the amendment.

The Speaker, represented by the Deputy majority leader, Hon. Peter Akpatason, said that the role of lawmakers did not end after a bill was passed into law but extends to ensuring its implementation.
According to him, ‘’Every legislation passed by the National Assembly has one ultimate goal, to improve the circumstances of people’s lives and making the country better.’’

On his part, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health Services, Sen. Ibrahim Oloriegbe, said when the House of Representatives first passed the amendment bill, it did not pass in the Senate.
He drew the attention of lawmakers to other interests fighting against the passage of the bill and the need to ensure that national interest won.

The senator said internal complexity in the health sector was also a bottleneck in the implementation of the Act.
Also, the Chairman, House Committee on Health Services, Hon. Yusuf Sununu said that retreat was crucial as the amendment of the Act required deep understanding.
He added that the amendment was necessary to incorporate the new challenges in combating pandemics such as the COVID-19.