The World Health Organization (WHO) has disclosed that Nigeria has been unable to make significant progress on attaining the 15 percent Abuja declaration pledge made in 2001, targeted at improving the health sector. This was said by Walter Mulombo, WHO’s country representative in Nigeria, during a press conference held in Abuja. In his statement, Nigeria is still a long way off from meeting the 15 percent of budget goal that was pledged to be allocated to the health sector.
During a conference in Abuja in April 2001, African Union (AU) member states pledged to commit 15 percent of the state’s annual budget to the health sector. This is because more funds were needed to address the then severe health challenges, such as the HIV & AIDS, Malaria, and Tuberculosis. The commitment, commonly referred to as the “Abuja Declaration,” served as a rallying call to generate more resources from government coffers to drive the health sector.
Health care is a basic human entitlement, not a luxury product.
Mulombo urged that more funding be directed towards the health sector in order to achieve the ‘Abuja Declaration’ goal, lambasting that the health sector was not sufficiently funded in comparison to other areas like the military. He argues that health care is a basic human entitlement, not a luxury, and that the country will benefit if its leaders make prudent policy choices today. The denial of children vaccination is at par with violation of human rights, he said and thus call for more emphasis to be laid on the issue.
Based on data from selected regions assessed by WHO, he claimed that tertiary hospitals received 80 percent of the sector’s funding. Whereas, he said that 80 percent of people in communities get first access to healthcare in the primary healthcare system. With this, spending is skewed and posed as the main obstacle, causing every little major issue that has arisen. Also, several difficulties and obstacles have arisen due to lack of funding for pandemic outbreaks preparation.
Many nations still see healthcare as a luxury or a drain on public funds.
Mulombo claims that the biggest hurdle is the promotion of health as a political option, and that many governments do not uphold this ideal. When it comes to economic and social development, many nations still see health care as a luxury or a drain on public funds, while in reality, it is a crucial enabler. He also voiced concerns in the international community’s approach to addressing issues related to social determinants of health, such as income, education, housing, community safety, employment, social networks, and access to healthcare.
Meanwhile, he said, tackling these socioeconomic determinants of health is more crucial to enhancing health and decreasing persistent healthcare inequities. As combating non-communicable disease remains one of the organization’s priorities, Mulombo called for an increase in the number of healthcare facilities equipped with dialysis machines and other contemporary equipment. He further stated that the organization is faced with the problem of a demographic transition, since much of Africa’s infrastructures remained unchanged from the colonial era.
Nigeria is not growing in the area of demographic transition.
With this, he said it may be possible that Nigeria is also facing a similar challenge given that the country is not growing in the area of demographic transition. This doesn’t sit well for the country at the rate at which the population is increasing as Nigeria is projected to have more than 400 million population by 2040 – 2050. Mulombo ultimately raised concern on the issue of how the country would respond in the event of an unexpected and massive epidemic. The unexpected outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic is an example which caused havoc in many countries.