Health systems worldwide share central health policy and regulatory goals to ensure quality, accessible and affordable healthcare. This will be critical in 2018 for Nigeria as high expectations for better performance is at an all-time high.
But with 340.45 billion budgeted for health in 2018, which is just 3.9 percent of the total budget, lower than 4.1 percent of outgoing 2017 health budget, analysts are not very optimistic about 2018.
Almost 10 percent of new-born deaths in the world last year occurred in Nigeria, a new report by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) showed.
A joint report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and World Bank showed that Nigeria recorded 58,000 maternal mortality in 2015.
Due to poor funding, inadequate infrastructure and lack of government seriousness, these situations do not look likely to change, including rising cases of cancer, hypertension and deadly diseases.
“So, for 2018, the federal government must genuinely transform the health sector,” said Lekan Ewenla, publicity secretary of Health and Managed Care Association of Nigeria (HMCAN).
Larne Yusuf, general health practitioner based in Lagos, said the government needs to plan more for the sector as the decline of the budget allocation in the 2018 budget compared to other years against the backdrop of recent outbreaks and the country could set crisis in the sector.
Last year, 2017, was marred by outbreaks of diseases such Lassa fever, which occurred in 718 cases wherein 68 persons died. Cerebrospinal meningitis was suspected in 14,518 cases, across 181 local government councils and 1,166 people reportedly died from the diseases. Other reported outbreaks last year included monkey pox and cholera.
The outlook for 2018, analysts say, will depend on making funds available for capital expenditure rather than recurrent expenditure as seen in 2018 budget where only N269.34 billion is voted for recurrent expenditure and only N71.11 billion is voted for capital expenditure.
Doyin Odubanjo, chairman, Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria, Lagos Chapter, said disease outbreaks cannot be predicted but “we can only get what we have been having before because the country is yet to address prevention squarely.”
Analysts say focus should be made on building and equipping primary healthcare centres as first port of call for all patients that need to access health care, stressing that attention must now shift towards the preventive aspect rather than curative.
More efforts need to be directed at achieving Universal Health Coverage by putting proper policies in place and the National Health Act signed in December 2014 needs to be implemented, analysts say.
Last year also saw the departure of 300 medical doctors for greener pasture abroad sounding alarm of impending capacity gap in the sector.
“Also, the health sector will be further rendered pathetic with even greater emigration of health workers in masses,” said Odubanjo.
According to Ewenla, the health sector is a critical sector of any economy across the world, adding that government of this country should be looking at how to work with the mind-set that Nigeria is an independent country.
“As we speak today, the only success that is available across the world to make healthcare accessible, affordable and equitable is health insurance and it must be mandatory for all citizens in the country,” he said.
Ewenla added that the government must also begin to look at those agreements that were reached at the global level for healthcare services to penetrate to the grassroots.
“The government of this country is expected to contribute 1 percent of the consolidated revenue to provide healthcare services for the vulnerable, but the government is not saying anything about that and it is becoming more worrisome,” said Ewenla.