Improve allocation to healthcare, stakeholders appeal to FG

Stakeholders have called on the federal government to increase funding of Nigeria’s primary healthcare system.

Over the years, sector stakeholders have decried budgetary allocation to the health sector as being inadequate in the face of increasing global health challenges.

Out of the total of N20.5 trillion for the 2023 fiscal year, the sum of N1.17 trillion was allocated to the health sector. Analysts are worried that despite the increase, only 5.75 per cent of the total budget is allocated to the sector in the 2023 budget.

According to Founder She Forum Africa, Inimfon Etuk at the Voices For Women’s Health #ICommit stakeholders meeting Thursday in Abuja, investments in healthcare will not only increase women and girls access to healthcare, it would also curb the country’s high maternal mortality rate.

She said: “There’s so much need identified, the gaps still exist and they’re getting wider by the day. And what our voices in the room today have echoed and resonated is that government must prioritize funding for women must prioritize investment in knowledge management investment in data management, and investment in our primary health care system because if that is improved, then you have the guarantee that the health needs of women and girls particularly at the grassroots, will be better addressed and then we will have a reduction in some of the challenges and gaps that still exist.”

Inimfon insisted that despite the continuous fall in the government revenue, there was a need for policy makers to prioritise access to healthcare for women and girls especially for those in rural areas.

“Proper decision making systems are about thinking smart, about smart strategies? If you don’t have money, even as an individual if you have 1000 Naira, you will prioritize where you apply that 1000 Naira if you wanted to buy the bar of chocolate, as opposed to buying a loaf of bread, which can take you for maybe three meals; you will go for the loaf of bread. And that is what decision making around the access to healthcare is about we have to reach on our resources to primary health care because a lot of the needs that exist for women for girls for people living in grassroots communities can be addressed at the primary health care level and that is what the voices for women’s health are echoing in the room today, she said.

She said She Forum Africa in partnership with Pathfinder International are adopting a new approach as they target women at the grassroots.

“That is why we are partnering with the National Council for Women societies. You know that that is a government body that was created, and it has a footprint in every community in Nigeria. So you know that we are prioritizing even the way that we engage in this advocacy because health is so fundamental. And we know that if our messaging is right, if how we push the narrative out there is right then even the awareness that needs to be created will happen at the lowest levels. It’s about strategising, it’s about applying innovative approaches. And that is really what this campaign is about. We cannot continue to act the same way and expect different results,” she explained

Earlier in her welcome address, Country Director Pathfinder International Nigeria, Dr. Amina Aminu Dorayi, said partnerships are crucial if efforts to improve ensure women’s health take centre stage come to fruition.

Dr. Dorayi noted that presently, the federal government is uniquely positioned to address women’s health and gender inequity as the country transitions to a new administration.

According to her, now is the time to identify and position women leaders in critical governance roles.

“Now we’re all here today to witness both the conviction that partnership is crucial for actualizing the health and wellbeing for all and in this respect, we recognize the unique roles played by women, men especially men and our civil society organizations.

“We’re all here seats actually match the continuation of renewed partnership to accelerate health and wellbeing for women and girls and Nigeria where there are no discriminatory laws, whereby women’s leadership and participation are removed where gender equality commitments are masked with action and funding.

While lamenting that Nigeria accounts for more than 25 per cent of global maternal deaths, which has been compounded by early marriage, teenage pregnancy, low levels of education, poor health and nutrition teachers, inadequate access to sexual and reproductive health and skilled attendance, among others, Dorayi said the patriarchal nature of the society have not helped the cause of women’s access to health care.

“The number of children and family will have and women and girls agency and choice economic inequalities for them marginalize women and girls with poverty perpetuating harmful practices such as female genital mutilation, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violence against women and girls, with women comprising about half of the population in Nigeria, gender inequity and unfair representation of women in leadership positions persist in the just concluded general elections, we all witnessed a dream in the proportion of women that got elected into policymaking positions.”

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