In a significant step toward enhancing Nigeria’s health security, the Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria (HERFON) and its consortium partners Vaccine Network for Disease Control (VNDC) and Gem Hub Initiative (GHI), have been awarded a grant by the African Health Budget Network (AHBN).
The grant, entitled “Strengthening Accountability for Health Security Finances and Vaccines Equitable Access in Nigeria,” will span the next 18 months.
The executive secretary of HERFON, Dr. Celestine Okorie addressed journalists in Abuja on Thursday to unveil this development. He emphasised that the grant’s purpose is to advocate for a reinforced ability to prevent, detect and respond to public health events that jeopardise collective well-being. Okorie highlighted their participation in the Africa Regional Advocacy Summit for NGOs and the media organised by AHBN, where discussions centred on domestic resource mobilisation for health security and systems in Africa.
The consortium’s engagement also extended to the Joint External Evaluation – Health Security Action Plan conducted by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (NCDC). This evaluation involved diverse experts evaluating the nation’s preparedness and response capabilities across 19 technical areas.
The emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the necessity of bolstering health security preparedness. Okorie lauded the Federal Government for developing the National Action Plan for Health Security (NAPHS 2018-22) and establishing the Public Health Emergency and Outbreak Response Fund (PHEORF), currently under the purview of NCDC.
The chair of the Health Sector Reform Coalition (HSRC) and founder of VNDC, Mrs. Chika Offor emphasised the urgency of domestic resource mobilisation to fund the national health security agenda. She called for less dependence on multilateral organisations like the WHO and emphasised the need for increased accountability and transparency in the management of funds for public health security.
To enhance accountability, Offor suggested that civil society organisations (CSOs) should have a permanent seat at the table during the formulation and execution of the national health security agenda. She posited that CSOs can play a crucial role in tracking accountability on behalf of civil society.
Executive director of Gem Hub Initiative, Mrs. Oyeyemi Pitan echoed the call for improved coordination in developing and implementing the National Health Security Agenda. She stressed the involvement of critical stakeholders like the office of the National Security Adviser and the National Biosafety Management Agency.
Moreover, Pitan advocated for the adoption of a “One Health” approach, which recognises the interconnectedness of people, animals, and plants in the shared environment. This approach promotes a collaborative, multi-sectoral and transdisciplinary strategy to achieve optimal health security at local, regional, national and global levels.