Saturday, November 30, 2013

Group Asks Nigerian Government To Honour Its Health Commitment


The Accountability for Maternal and Newborn Child Health in Nigeria (AMHiN) on Wednesday at a media briefing in Abuja said that health system in Nigeria would be better; if half of the money collected by the ‘cabal’ that duped Nigeria of billions of Naira in petrol subsidy payment is channeled into health commitments made by the country.
Nigeria is estimated to have lost several billions of naira to subsidy fraudsters, with some of them currently being prosecuted. AMHiN is a national coalition of Civil Society Organizations, Media and Professional Bodies committed to promoting accountability and transparency in the health sector through regular media engagement, generating evidence and using such to advocate to government for better accountability that will reduce the maternal and child deaths in Nigeria.
Moderating, Bilikisu Yusuf said the event was a call to action for the Nigerian government to fulfill pledges and commitment made so far on Family Planning and improving Maternal, Newborn and child Health (MNCH). “We are concerned about accountability because if you give us (Health) half of the money with our subsidy cabal, most of our health issues in the country will be solved.
It will pay for our commitments, most of the commitments we have made and don’t seem to find money to redeem them. What the cabal is keeping can do a lot of what we are asking the government to do for us,” Ms. Yusuf said. Encouraging accountability from political leaders, she said that most of the unfulfilled commitments made by the Nigerian government have been the major cause of setback in the nation’s health system especially on issues of MNCH.
Such commitments include: the 2001 Abuja Declaration of 15 per cent budget allocation to health, $54 per capital spending needed to provide basic health services by World Health Organization standard (Nigeria is currently spending $20 per person annually) and annual release of $3 million for the procurement of Reproductive Health/ Family Planning commodities which has not been released for the 2013 fiscal year.
“Accountability in maternal health is a very serious issue, all of us should ask questions like where is the money going and for whom, it is not about those of us working to promote advocacy for health and politicking, everybody has a stake in this issue,” she said She said that the just concluded 2013 International Conference on Family Planning at the African Union Conference Centre had provided the opportunity for African Health Ministers to review performance and progress with respect to pledges and commitment made over one year ago in London.
The Regional Coordinator, North, Evidence for Action, Aminu Magashi, said that the media must be encouraged to demand accountability from political leaders on issues concerning MNCH. Mr. Magashi also noted that health stories should not be hidden from readers as part of culture to improve advocacy and access to information.
Also speaking, Ejike Orji, a gynecologist, said the level of resources in the country was enough to take care of the commitments Nigerian leaders have made at various times at improving health systems; especially when compared to countries not as rich in human, natural, and financial resources like Bangladesh and Ethiopia. “We have looked at the resource level that we have in the country. Do we have the resources in terms of funds and in terms of human capital to be able to do all this we’ve committed ourselves to? The answer is a resounding yes! “Now the problem is at the implementation level, not just government decisions, we need to find out if we are doing the right thing or not.
It’s everybody’s responsibility, the more we ask government to do, the more we should be asking ourselves and our community what we are doing for ourselves.” Mr. Orji said Mr. Orji noted that every Nigeria must work towards engaging women in all its activities to find out what is available in the health centers in their communities and make an effort to report to their local government chairman and demand accountability.
He also encouraged citizens to improve and keep themselves informed on health education, advising people to seek information from health experts to an improved and healthy living. Also speaking, Reproductive Health Advisor, Partnership for Transforming Health Systems (PATHS 2), Amina Aminu, said women must be educated on the need for family planning and child spacing.
She said lack of education and poverty cycle especially in the North are major hindrances for women and girls of child bearing age to access available family planning and reproductive health commodities.

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