The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has said that the Primary Health Care Leadership Challenge Fund (PHCLCF) is an important mechanism to ensure sub-national reforms take place in the country’s healthcare delivery system.
Speaking today in Abuja, at the induction/orientation of the independent judging panel (IJP) of the PHCLCF, the country director, UNICEF Nigeria, Ms. Cristian Munduate said UNICEF is delighted to be part of this historic partnership to drive state ownership and implementation of key PHC policies, including the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF), PHC Under One Roof and The Seattle Declaration.
“We are optimistic that these efforts will go a long way in fast-tracking the country’s progress towards achieving SDG3 targets,” she said.
She said there is a global consensus that achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and SDG3 targets would be possible with a robust and accountable PHC system which includes reinforcing equity considerations so that children can survive, thrive and transform.
Munduate said that strengthening PHCs has become an urgent global concern because the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed and exacerbated pre-existing weaknesses.
“Nigeria is not immune to this global crisis. With health expenditure less than five per cent of the total budget, high out-of-pocket expenditure by the population and slow progress towards under-five mortality reduction, the country needs to take urgent action to improve its PHCs,” she said.
She expressed hope that the national and sub-national governments have answered the call to action to strengthen the PHC system.
“The recent PHC summit and development of the PHC reimagining strategy are reassuring signals that the government is responding positively to the health sector challenge,” she said.
The director-general, Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Mr. Asishana Okauru, said that the IJP would ensure that all commitments are met.
Okauru said that the judging panel has been given the responsibility to ensure that they identify states and governments that have met the commitments.
He added that there is a team of other technical people such as the Independent Verification Agency (IVA) helping to ensure that this happens.
“The idea is to strengthen the PHC to ensure that we achieve universal health coverage. The secretariat has a health desk and we will be available to provide technical assistance to the panel,” he said.
Earlier, the executive director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib said that PHCLCF is an opportunity for the 36 states and the FCT to equitably compete within the six geopolitical zones for annual best-performing and improving awards in PHC delivery.
Shuaib, who is presently chairing the steering committee meeting, said the PHCLCF would bring high-level recognition, pressure for improving BHCPF and a monetary reward, while also encouraging neighbouring states to do better.
He disclosed that a national award would also be given to the performing state.
The NPHCDA boss assured that the meeting would review updates on activities carried out since the official launch of the PHCLCF.
Shuaib said that the meeting would take necessary decisions that would ensure effective, efficient and successful implementation to achieve key programme objectives.
“Today’s induction and orientation of the recently nominated members of the PHC IJP serves to unveil the roles and responsibilities as well as the performance evaluation framework to help the IJP to understand the project and deliver on their mandate,” he explained.
He was optimistic that eminent personalities in the panel would bring to bear the desired benefits of the overall goal of the PHCLC.
Recall that the Seattle Declaration aimed to improve the governance of the PHCs at a sub-national level by fully implementing the PHCs Under One Roof policy.
It would provide active leadership for PHC through regular engagement with relevant PHC stakeholders and quarterly PHC performance reviews at the State Executive Council meetings; Promote a progressive increase in primary health care funding by ensuring efficient budgeting that is aligned to annual operational plans, promptly releasing approved budgets to the state PHCs board and PHC facilities; Ensure that there is a mechanism in place for Basic Health Care Provision, fund implementation and oversight at the state and facility levels; Recruit requisite health workforce to ensure that all primary health care facilities have the minimum staffing requirements appropriate for their level in line with the state’s minimum service package.
Among others, it includes and institutes a culture of the use of evidence in decision-making by ensuring that the data quality across all PHC facilities was progressively improved.
The steering committee is a multi-agency body led by the NGF through the HCH and co-chaired by the NPHCDA director- general, the director-general of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, to provide strategic leadership and governance oversight for the project.