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‘Nigeria’s health sector worse than those of war-torn nations’

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• $186b spent on HIV/AIDS in 14 years to put 15 m people on treatment
• Only six nations meet Abuja Declaration on 15% of budgets for sector

WITH less than six months to the end of the deadline for attainment of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and two months to the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Nigeria still has one of the worst health indices and far worse than worn-torn countries like Liberia.

Reasons: The Guardian investigation has shown that since the Abuja Declaration in 2001 Nigeria has never spent more than eight per cent of its annual national budget on health. In fact, the country has been spending an average of six per cent of its budget on health in the last six years.

Indeed, Nigeria and 27 other countries have worse health care systems than Liberia’s. A report from the non-profit organisation, Save the Children, published in March 2015, ranked 72 countries on six measures of health-care provision for children, including the newborn mortality rate, the number of health-care workers per 10,000 population, immunisations and skilled birth attendance.

The result, Save the Children found, is that 28 nations fared less than Liberia (which ranked 44th), including Nigeria (70th), Haiti (68th), Pakistan (57th), India (55th) and Kenya (47th). The two other Ebola-ravaged countries, Sierra Leone (46th) and Guinea (65th), also fell below Liberia. Somalia is last at 72.

Meanwhile, stakeholders at the ongoing ‘Third International Conference on Financing and Development’ in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, have said that countries like Nigeria, Ghana, Namibia, Kenya, South Africa do not need donor funds to run their health programmes.

The stakeholders include African Union Commission (AUC), Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria, United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, World Health Organisation (WHO), Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Health Policy Project, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) among others.

They said African countries need to spend $86 per capita for minimum health care and spent $186 billion on Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in 14 years to put 15 million people on treatment with 55 per cent of the money coming from domestic funding especially in Africa.

The WHO estimates that $86 per person per year is the minimum spending required to provide essential health-care.

UNAIDS announced that the goal of 15 million people on life-saving HIV treatment by 2015 has been met nine months ahead of schedule. The world has exceeded the AIDS targets of MDG 6 and is on track to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the SDGs.

The stakeholders at a side event on “Increasing Domestic Financing for Health,” said that only six countries – Niger, Zambia, Burkina Faso, Malawi, Rwanda and South Africa – have met Abuja Declaration that all African countries should allocate at least 15 per cent of national budgets for health.

Heads of State in Africa met from April 26 to 27, 2001 at a special summit in Abuja to address the exceptional challenges of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and other related infectious diseases. At this meeting, the governments committed to allocating at least 15 per cent of their total annual government budgets to the health sector. They also called upon donor countries to meet their commitment of devoting 0.7 per cent of Gross National Product (GNP) as official development assistance and cancel African external debt in order to allow increased investment in the social sector.

According to the WHO, since 2001, a number of countries have made progress in increasing their domestic funding towards the Abuja 15 per cent target. The WHO states that only Rwanda and South Africa have reached 15 per cent, while the African Union Commission reports that six African Union (AU) member states have met the 15 per cent benchmark- Rwanda (18.8 per cent), Botswana (17.8 per cent), Niger (17.8 per cent), Malawi (17.1 per cent), Zambia (16.4 per cent), and Burkina Faso (15.8 per cent).

The stakeholders are worried that the huge successes recorded in recent times in the control and treatment of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis (TB) and malaria may be lost as international donor funding begins to dwindle and limited resources are focused on the most urgent needs. They, however, made recommendations on how to improve domestic financing for health in Africa.

Executive Director of UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Mr. Guido Schmidt-Traub said: “The good news is that the main constraint on health is financing and achieving it will require international co-financing for low income countries. Domestic resources alone cannot solve all the problems in low-income countries. We need more leadership to make more case for investment in health in Africa.”

He added: “Global vaccine alliance (GAVI) and Global Fund have shown that pooling resources is the way to go. Their investments have led to technological innovation in preventive and treatment measures such as the insecticide treated nets, rapid malaria diagnostic tests. This is unprecedented development but the real challenge is to sustain the financing. Even the countries that do not need donor funds, like Namibia, need the knowledge and international cooperation. We need to sustain the innovation and the fight. Without good health, there is not going to be sustainable development.”

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