Thursday, December 7, 2023

BHCPF: Less Than One-Third Of Released Since 2018, Health Advocates Reveal

Friendly smiling young doctor supporting older patient during visit
Friendly smiling young doctor supporting older patient during visit.

The National Advocates for Health (NA4H) has revealed that less than a third of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) – of over N300 billion – has been released from 2018 till date. 

The chairman of the NA4H, Hon. Mohammed Usman, made the revelation while speaking today (December 8, 2022) in Akwanga, Nasarawa State, at a three-day conference themed “Universal Health Coverage (UHC): How Can Nigeria Get it Right – the Role of the Media”, organised by the Association of Nigerian Health Journalists (ANHEJ) in collaboration with the WHO. 

Usman said that little of the country’s health budget was released when due. 

He cited an instance with the family planning budget amounting to N2.8 billion for 2021 and 2022, which has not been released. 

Usman said that the country’s health indicators show very high mortality rates among women and children. 

“The health sector is still facing a lot of challenges. First, at the primary health care (PHC) level, where millions of Nigerians reside, there are over 30,000 PHC centres. 

“Sadly, less than 5,000 are functional. Second, low budgeting allocation is evident over the years, hovering around five per cent far below the Abuja Declaration of 15 per cent of the national budget.”

He said health advocates find it difficult raising voices for more funding because of the non-release of the already budgeted funds, among other factors which are hindering the nation’s progress in the sector.

Usman, however, said that all these factors were hindering the country’s attainment towards UHC.

He commended President Muhammadu Buhari for the allocation of almost six per cent to the health sector in the 2023 national budget. 

Usman called on the ANHEJ to question all political aspirants at the federal and sub-national levels to prioritise health in their blueprint as the country goes to the polls next year.

The head of Development Governance International (DGI) Consult, Dr. Abdul-Gafar Alawode said a lot of states were yet to release their commitment – at least, a per cent of their consolidated revenue funds – towards BHCPF. 

Alawode, who was represented by Dr. Terfa Gabriel, called on the association to call on the political class to incorporate the citizen-led agenda into their manifestoes and ensure they are implemented.

He called on journalists to ensure that health is on the political front burner ahead of the 2023 elections.

“It is important. Politics drive our policies and any policy that technocrats put together without the input and backup of the political class is not likely to see the light of the day,” he said. 

Earlier in his welcome address, ANHEJ president, Mr. Hassan Zaggi expressed worry over the poor state of PHCs across the country. 

According to Zaggi, when people living in rural communities took ill, the first and nearest health facility to them is the PHC. Unfortunately, most of them cannot access services, as they pay from their pockets.

Zaggi called the theme of the workshop “apt”, as it allows participants to “examine the current issues in the health sector”.

Science Nigeria reports that the event comes ahead of the International UHC Day celebration on December 12, 2022, with the theme “Build the World We Want: A Healthy Future for All” and underscores the need to meaningfully engage critical stakeholders like the media towards accelerating UHC in Nigeria. 

Racheal Abujah
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