Concerned Nigerian citizens, civil society activists and experts in the health sector have appealed to President Muhammadu Buhari to release the Basic Health Care Provision Fund without further delay to save millions of Nigerian citizens from dying owing to inability to get medical treatment.
The Basic Health Care Provision Fun is the minimum of one per cent of the consolidated Federal Government revenue and contributions from donor grants set aside to fund the basic health need of the citizens.
Fifty per cent of the fund is expected to be used for the provision of basic minimum package of health services under the National Health Insurance Scheme, while 5 per cent is meant to cater for emergency health interventions.
Forty-five per cent of the fund is expected to be used for provision of primary health care under the National Primary Health Care Development Agency.
Out of the 45 per cent for NPHCDA, 20 per cent is meant for provision of essentials drugs and vaccine, 15 per cent for provision and maintenance of facilities, equipment and transport for eligible primary health care facilities, while 10 percent is for the development of Human Resources for Primary healthcare.
But the fund, which was provided for in the 2018 budget, has not been released till now as the year is coming to an end.
The failure of the Federal Government to release the fund has continued to generate concerns amongst the citizens, particularly experts, civil society activists and groups advocating access to healthcare delivery for the citizens, especially the pregnant women, infants under age five and the downtrodden.
The Executive Secretary of Osun Health Insurance Scheme, Dr. Niyi Oginni, sent a “Save Our Souls” plea to President Buhari, urging him to release the Basic Health Care Provision Fund to stop children, pregnant women, the aged and other vulnerable citizens from untimely death.
Oginni noted that the fund was in the 2018 budget that was passed by the National Assembly and that Osun State has met all the requirements to benefit from the fund.
He lamented that the Federal Government has not released the fund just one month to the end of the year.
Also, concerned citizens who spoke at a Strategy Session on advocacy for the implementation of the BHCPF, organised by Engaged Citizens, Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn, a programme of the Department for International Development, frowned at the non-release of the fund.
The strategy session, which was organised by EC-PERL in collaboration with Health Sector Reform Coalition, was attended by stakeholders, including health experts, civil society health advocacy groups and journalists.
The DFID Federal Partnership Facilitator, Chika Okoh, expressed the need to sustain the advocacy for the implementation of BHCPF so that the fund would be released and used to enhance improvement in the healthcare delivery services for the good of the people.
The National Media Engagement Adviser, Engaged Citizens Partnership to Engage, Reform and Learn, Hadiza Abdul-Abubakar, charged the media to amplify the voices of the citizens on the demand for the release of the fund.
Abdul-Abubakar said the release of the fund would enhance the delivery of healthcare services to citizens without facing catastrophic heath expenditure and prevent avoidable deaths in the country.
Also speaking, a Research and Development expert, Dr. Emmanuel Abanida, said President Buhari can save lives of millions of pregnant women, children under age five, the elderly and other numerable citizens with the release of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund, which is in the 2018 budget.
Abanida, who is the Senior Technical Adviser for Development Research and Project Centre, said lamented that the non-release of the fund was delicate and dangerous given its importance to health care delivery in the country.
Abanida warned that failure to release the fund means that more pregnant women, children and other citizens would die needlessly when such could be averted.
He said it was worrisome that the fund, which was captured in the 2018 budget, was not released a month to the end of the year and that this was a dangerous indication for provision of health care services for the citizens.
Abanida urged Buhari to ensure the release of the fund immediately to save lives of the indigent citizens who need access to health care services.
Speaking further, Abanida said failure to release the money was having a negative effect on health care delivery in the country, especially in the rural areas, as it could have been handy in the revitalisation of primary health care centres.
The fund is expected to help reduce out of pocket spending on health care through the National Health Insurance Scheme.
“As we move to the end of the year, if we do not get this money, obviously, when they are doing the 2019 budget they will put zero application to 2018,” he said.
He lamented that because the year is already running to an end, whatever is not released now would be mopped up by December, otherwise it must be returned to the government treasury.
He said: “In 2018 we are talking of about N55 billion and people have given reasons why it is not forthcoming, like the discordance among the three health agencies to utilise the fund when disbursed.
“If we see health as a topmost priority, then they should start getting their money.
“We cannot continue running from Geneva to London, London to Paris looking for money, whereas we need to tack basic care of our people.
“I believe that the political will to make sure that it happens is not strong because if it is strong, it will certainly come.
Health in Nigeria is not a priority.
“We prioritise security, power food security, but you need to be healthy to be able to provide food.
“It is when you are healthy that you can solve security problem and the Human Development Indexwill certainly improve.”