The African Health Budget Network (AHBN) has called on the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) to do more on the implementation of reproductive, maternal, newborn, child, adolescent health and nutrition (RMNCAH+N) in the country.
The AHBN coordinator, Dr. Aminu Magashi, made this call at a three-day validation meeting on the Nigerian RMNCAEH+N Recovery Plan during the COVID-19 Performance Scorecard and the Review and Validation of COVID-19 and Health Security Accountability Scorecard Template in Abuja.
Recall that in January 2022 AHBN convened a retreat with CSOs, the media and young people where the Nigeria RMNCAEH+N Recovery Plan was presented and advocacy engagement was planned to influence CSOs and young people’s participation in and the implementation of the RMNCAEH+N COVID-19 Response Continuity Plan 2020-2022 which was officially launched by the minister of health in 2021, costing N12.1 billion over three years.
The projected population in 2020 was 214,392,163, with women having 51.5 per cent. Of this, 38.06 per cent are of reproductive age.
Despite the considerable progress in the development of the health sector according to the 2018 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (DHS), the health status is still characterised by an unacceptably high maternal mortality ratio of 512/100,000 live births with under-five and neonatal mortality rates of 132 and 39 per 1000 live births, respectively.
The continuity plan was developed as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on RMNCAEH+N services.
The AHBN coordinator said that on the implementation of RMNCAH+N in the country, the government scored 50 to 60 per cent which he said was not too bad.
“What this means is that the government has to do more in the area of implementation. You are aware that COVID-19 crippled the economy. A lot of funding from the government is not available.
“So, the government must be innovative and efficient in spending money. We need to ensure that every facility has electricity, security as well as adequate manpower not only during the day time but also at night and weekends,” he said.
The coordinator said that the RMNCAEH+N Recovery Plan during the COVID-19 accountability scorecard was developed through rigorous analysis of the plan, 2021 and 2022 federal government-approved budget and independent monitoring of the activities of the RMNCAEH+N coordination platform.
“The scorecard serves as an evidence tool to be used by all stakeholders including CSOs, media, advocates, young people and development partners to strategically influence actions that will promote performance, transparency and accountability in the implementation of Nigeria’s RMNCAEH+N COVID-19 Continuity Response Plan (2020-2022).
“The scorecard has three categories; governance and leadership, budgetary allocation and disbursement, accountability and transparency,” he explained.
He said the government should strengthen coordination mechanisms for the provision of RMNCAEH+N services during the COVID-19 pandemic and other outbreaks at National and sub-national levels.
He said that RMNCAEH +N can be strengthened through its implementation services through prioritisation, sustained access, optimized health workforce and logistic support for services during the COVID-19 and other outbreaks.
Magashi stressed that the government should enhance and improve the existing risk communications and community engagement networks to halt community transmission.
He added that government can also track and document lessons learnt in the implementation of RMNCAEH+N services during the COVID-19 outbreak and beyond.
In his remarks, the former vice chairman of the House committee for healthcare services, Hon. Muhammad Usman, said that Nigeria has continued to make significant progress in reducing child and infant mortality, but significant challenges remain.
Usman called on the government to adopt RMNCAEH+N scorecard as an accountability and management tool to drive improvements in child and maternal health across the country.
He said that there was a need to sustain the gains made while committing more resources to high-impact interventions with measurable outcomes in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Also speaking on behalf of health journalists, the president of the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ), Mr. Hassan Zaggi, applauded AHBN for putting together the scorecard which, according to him, followed a meeting to assess the implementation of the RMNCHA+N early this year.
Zaggi noted that after the initial assessment of the funding and issues around the Nigeria RMNCHA+N, the media picked interest in the issues and gave them wide publicity.
This, according to him, led to the successes so far recorded in the past few months in the implementation of the policy.
The ANHEJ president, therefore, called on the government to improve the funding of issues around the Nigeria RMNCHA+N for the benefit of women, children and the elderly.
Zaggi further assured that: “As we have been doing, we are prepared to give our utmost best to ensure that the outcome of the scorecard gets the needed publicity and attention by the government and other relevant authorities.
Similarly, the head, monitoring, and evaluation, AHBN, Mrs. Maimuna Abdullahi, pointed out that considering the massive number of financial resources committed to COVID-19 response in Nigeria.
Abdullahi said that the importance of adequate utilisation of the resources cannot be overemphasised and the government, CSOs, media and young people have a huge role to play.
She said that the government need to be more transparent and accountable by providing information on the allocations, spending and releases while the media and NGOs must be able to track the utilisation of the funds effectively to ensure it was used for the purpose that it was meant for.
“The Performance Scorecard Template being reviewed and validated by stakeholders at this retreat will aid the NGOs and CSOs to easily track the performance of the COVID-19 and health security at the national and also the state levels,” she added.