NIGERIA – The World Health Organization (WHO) is advocating for an increase in funding for Nigeria’s health sector in order for the country to meet its 2001 Abuja Declaration target of 15 percent on improving the sector.

WHO’s Country Representative to Nigeria, Dr. Walter Mulombo, noted that in April 2001, heads of state of African Union countries met and pledged to set a target of allocating at least 15 percent of their annual budget to improve the health sector.

“In Nigeria, a proposed target was set that 15 percent of the total government budget should go to health. Until today, we are still far from achieving the target,” he said.

Dr. Mulombo also noted that the sector was not adequately funded, when compared to others such as defense, and the army, among others.

According to him, health is a human right and not a luxury or consumable, adding that the more wise decisions taken by the country, the more beneficial it will be to the citizens.

“We need to start talking about human rights violations because it is not acceptable for any child to miss a vaccine,” he said.

Dr. Mulombo also added that some areas where the organisation was accessed, showed that 80 percent of the money went into tertiary hospitals.

Going further, he revealed that primary healthcare is where 80 percent of the population in the communities get their first exposure to healthcare services.

“The spending itself is distorted. That is the biggest challenge that has generated everything that we have seen. Lack of adequate budget to prepare responses to a pandemic, for instance, we have to struggle in many places,” he said.

However, Dr. Mulombo noted that the main challenge lies in the way health is featured as a political choice, adding that unfortunately, many governments did not live by the standard.

“Many countries continue to consider health as a luxury or something that is costing the government money, whereas it should have been taken as an enabling factor for economic and socio-economic development,” he added.

He said it was worrisome the way countries are dealing with social determinants of health, like socioeconomic status, education, neighborhood, and physical environment, employment, social support networks, and access to health care.

According to him, addressing social determinants of health is important for improving health and reducing longstanding disparities in health and healthcare.

Dr. Mulombo further advocated for more facilities with dialysis machines and more expensive equipment to combat noncommunicable diseases, noting that such was part of the organisation’s challenges.

“The country is not expanding in the space of demographic transition and the way the population is increasing. Nigeria is projected to have more than 400 million population by 2040, 2050,” he added.

Dr. Mulombo added that there the problem of how the county prepares for response to outbreaks of pandemics was inclusive.

He said the COVID-19 pandemic was not expected and has caused havoc in many counties.

“The health body is still expecting the flu pandemic and has been preparing for it. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, no country was ready, not even the United States and UK, yet we have International Health Regulations and Global Health Security Agenda,” he concluded.

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