The chairman of the House Committee on Health Services, Hon. Tanko Sununu has highlighted the crucial role of public health legislation in ensuring Nigeria’s health security.
Sununu, who was speaking, alongside other stakeholders, at a media roundtable in Abuja, proposed a series of public health bills aimed at enhancing Nigeria’s response to public health emergencies.
Sununu stated that public health law and policy are vital tools for shielding Nigerians from health threats, preventing diseases and promoting healthy populations. He also mentioned that public health not only offers adequate and timely medical care but also monitors, tracks, and controls disease outbreaks, making it a crucial element of national security.
The managing director of Nigeria Health Watch, Mrs. Vivianne Ihekweazu stated that public health emergencies can happen at any time, and they can have severe consequences for individuals, communities and whole nations. She added that recent outbreaks of infectious diseases such as Ebola, Lassa fever and COVID-19 have highlighted the immediate requirement for a strong legal framework to guide the response to public health emergencies.
The proposed bills include the Public Health Emergency Bill, which aims to provide a comprehensive legal framework for managing public health emergencies. Also, the amendment of the National Health Act seeks to address gaps in the current legislation that impede effective response to public health emergencies. Lastly, the Port Health Authority Bill is meant to create and strengthen the Port Health Authority, responsible for health security at the country’s borders.
A global health advocacy incubator, Dr. Emmanuel Alhassan explained that GHAI’s goal is to strengthen health security funding in Nigeria. He mentioned that GHAI has been advocating for increased budgetary allocations towards epidemic preparedness and response (EPR) in Nigeria. He further explained that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the critical importance of sustained and robust funding for public health emergencies.
“We have made remarkable strides in securing increased funding for EPR, as well as implementing substantial enhancements to the country’s epidemic preparedness and response capabilities, at both national and subnational levels, through our tireless advocacy efforts,” he proudly stated.
The organisers, Nigeria Health Watch, in partnership with the Global Health Advocacy Incubator, stated that the Media Roundtable with Legislators aims to increase awareness and understanding of the proposed public health emergency bills among key stakeholders; Provide a platform for stakeholders to share their perspectives on the bills and discuss their potential impact on public health in Nigeria; Identify areas of strength and weakness in the proposed bills and make recommendations for improvement; Facilitate dialogue and collaboration among stakeholders in the health sector to ensure effective implementation of the bills and generate media coverage, public, and policymaker interest in the proposed bills and their potential impact on public health.
Nigeria’s public health legislation plays a crucial role in ensuring health security. The proposed public health bills would enhance Nigeria’s response to public health emergencies, which are essential in building back better and strengthening health systems to prepare for future public health emergencies. Therefore, all key stakeholders in the health sector must examine and discuss the proposed bills to guarantee effective implementation and ensure the protection of Nigerians from health threats.