Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Coalition of CSOs, professionals deliberate on 2016 health budget

•Calls for increase funding, timely release

Paucity of funds that is rocking major institutions in the country and have been taken crippling effect on proper health care delivery would soon nosedive to public health crisis, unless there is urgent government’s intervention in strengthening of health care financing as concerns 2016 budget. Raising the concern on Tuesday, were stakeholders, experts and civil society organisations who decried the continued absence of budgetary provisions for key and essential line items for child and family health, even in the highly debated 2016 budget.

The group expressed grave concerns over what it considers a disparagingly rising low health budget, indices in the country as well as the missing N60 billion in the 2016 budget, equivalent of one per cent of consolidated revenue guaranteed by the National Health Act to fund basic health. These were part of the issues which took centre stage at a workshop on 2016 budget with regards to healthcare, organised by the Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health (PACFaH) in coalition with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), experts, professional health associations, private sector, among others at the at the Tamarind 1 Hall of the Sheraton Hotel and Towers Abuja.

The PACFaH coalition advocates for mobilization, increased funding, timely release, and efficient utilization of resources Child and Family health generally and specifically Nutrition, Family Planning, Routine Immunization and Childhood Killer Diseases. The group lamented that President Muhammadu Buhari’s N6.08 trillion “budget of change” only provides N1, 448 per capita health spending, lower than the N1, 546 per capita spending in 2015, compared with a recommendation of N6, 908 by the World Health Organisation.

From L-R (front table): Chairman: Dr. Kayode Obembe, National President, Nigeria Medical Association (NMA); Dr. Ben Anyene, Chairman HERFON Board of Trustees; Pharm. Remi Adeseun, PSN-PACFaH Program Director Strategy and a cross-section of participants at the one-day meeting of Civil Society Organizations/professional health associations/private sector on the 2016 budget, held on Tuesday, at the Tamarind 1 Hall of the Sheraton Hotel and Towers Abuja.
They therefore challenged the federal government to ensure transparency in the implementation of the 2016 health budget. NMA President, Dr. Lawrence Obembe, said: “There are lot of loopholes, lacunas deficiency in the 2016 health budget, we also know that the percentage is very low, it’s about 3.7 per cent. Nigeria’s commitment is supposed to be 15 per cent.”

Obembe also called for strengthening of health care financing as a way to address various health challenges in the country. But in a communique at the end of the workshop signed by Chairman of the occasion, Prof. Ben Anyene and PACFaH National Coordinator, Dr Judith-Ann Walker, they observed that the “prospects and opportunities for domestic mobilising for health financing of the 2016 budget compliance with inherited and new international obligations in the health sector- benefits and challenges” are the key to attaining set goals in the sector.

They called for “adequate funding in the context of the deficit financing- the best arguments for the health sector advocate. Tracking timely releases, value for money and cost effectiveness of the health budget after releases-most effective strategies. “Health financing is challenged by dwindling revenue, poor fiscal management of resources and weak private sector financing.”

They also maintained: “The framework and guideline for implementation of the National Health Act 2014 is yet to be put in place, including the non-recognition of the provisions of the 2014 National Health Act in the 2016 budget proposal.”

“The absence of budgetary provisions for key and essential line items like child and family health, service wide votes has not been disaggregated for many line items in the 2016 health budget. Example is the allocation for the MDGs and SDGs,” they observed.

According to them, government should put in place a plan and framework for a graduated increase in funding to reach the FGN’s commitment of 15 per cent of annual budget for health in line with the Abuja 2001 declaration.

The group observed the following: Health financing is challenged by dwindling revenue, poor fiscal management of resources and limited private sector financing; The 2016 health sector budget of the FGN is characterized by lack of transparency, responsiveness and misplacement of priorities.

The meeting made the following recommendations: “Federal government should take immediate steps to ensure full implementation of the provisions of the National Health Act 2014; must insist on full use of the new zero-based budgeting framework and template by all MDAs and especially the FMoH in subsequent budgets.”

The group said: “FGN should establish a platform for health financing interface between Federal, State, and Local Governments to increase synergy and reduce duplication and wastages; more funding options should be explored to ensure sustainable health financing for better health outcomes.” The group called on the National Assembly to strengthen its oversight roles and functions to ensure more transparency and accountability in the budget process.

The meeting urged government to ensure that it keeps all its commitments and obligations on health financing including those made Nationally and Internationally (bilateral and multilateral), adding; “FMoH should work for improvement in targeted capital expenditure in the health sector budget.”

According to them, “Government should put in place a plan and framework for a graduated increase in funding to reach the FGN’s commitment of 15 per cent of annual budget for health in line with the Abuja 2001 declaration; must open up the budget process for more transparency responsiveness and accountability,”

“Government should develop a framework for participation of CSOs and Professional Associations in all budgeting process; from conception to design and implementation; CSOs should as a priority, establish a strong coalition for budget advocacy, tracking and accountability,” they said.

The one-day meeting of health-focused CSOs in Nigeria was convened by the Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health (PACFaH), a coalition of eight CSOs: Development Research and Project Center (dRPC); Association for the Advancement of Family Planning (AAFP); Civil Society for Legislative Advocacy (CISLAC); Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN); Community Health Research Initiative (CHR); Federation of Women Muslim Associations (FOMWAN); Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria (HERFON) and Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN).

The following Professional Associations were also represented at the convening: Nigerian Medical Association (NMA); Federation of African Nutrition Societies (FANS);Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN) and Dietitians Association of Nigeria (DAN); International Confederation of Dietetic Associations (ICDA) and Association of Women Nutritionists in Nigeria (AWNN).

This story was published in Newswatch Times on February 20, 2016.

Beware, that painful menstruation could be endometriosis

Each month, Titi Delani, aged 17, undergraduate, often misses her lectures at least for two days because of complaints from painful menses. Worse still, the pain relieving drugs recommended by her doctor could not ameliorate the situation.

Titi as she is fondly called represent millions of women and girls, who are monthly, trapped by the debilitating disorder, medically termed – endometriosis.

Simply put, endometriosis is related to the excruciating pains that some women experience during menstrual flows.

How many times have your wife, sisters, daughters, granddaughters and great grand daughters have had to skip work, business or social functions and even school because of menstrual pains that have defied pain relief medication?

The name which is jaw-breaking is not also common, but the symptoms are rampant. One in every 10 women of reproductive ages, suffers symptoms of the health disorder, which is inexplicably unknown to several people. Even some of those in the medical circles began only lately to identify the symptoms and pay proper attention to   the health   condition.

The hidden toll and extraordinary neglect of this condition leave millions of women across the world, in pains, debilitated and sometimes cause infertility. Regrettably, some primary care doctors often do not know what it is and the specialists to whom patients are sent are not simply thinking of it. It is estimated that the world loses at least $100bn annually to the effects of the female gynaecological disorder.

Omolara Amubieya COSSE TTL; Dr. Abayomi Ajayi, Managing Director, Nordica Fertility Centre and Dotun Adebowale, Brand Shepherd, during a press briefing to announce the Endometriosis Support Group Nigeria 2016 activities on Monday, by Nordica Fertility centre, at Nordica clinic in Ikoyi, Lagos.
Endometriosis does not only affect the woman or girl, it also has consequences on her relationship with her family, employers, colleagues, friends, and teachers and loved ones.

Doctors note that though the monthly flow may come with some discomfort it does not have to cause so much pain.

According to the Managing Director, Nordica Fertility Centre, Lagos, a clinic that specialises in In-Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and treatment of infertility for the couples facing fertility problem, Dr. Abayomi Ajayi, the condition is a serious female reproductive disorder, which occurs when the endometrial lining of the uterus spreads into the pelvic cavity, implanting itself on the pelvic structures causing inflammation and pain.

The consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist says all these processes going on in and out of the endometrial lining cause either mild or severe pains which can last for days, causing discomfort and cramps in the pelvic region and lower abdomen.

Other symptoms of endometriosis apart from painful menstrual periods, which cannot be relieved with the typical over-the-counter pain medications, are irregular periods, pelvic pain, or difficulty conceiving a pregnancy.

Without detection and treatment, endometriosis can lead to chronic pelvic pain, infertility, and disability in affected persons, the obstetrician states.

Ajayi, who is also the Executive Director, Endometriosis Support Group Nigeria (ESGN), notes that there is a need to raise awareness on the symptoms of the disorder among women.

He adds this year’s theme is ‘End the Silence’ is geared toward creating awareness of the disease, stating that “any woman of reproductive age who is free of this trauma should count herself especially lucky and continue to count her blessings.”

Speaking during a media briefing in Lagos to mark this year’s Endometriosis Support Group Nigeria (ESGN) activities, Dr. Ajayi says the aim is to fight the challenge of Endometriosis in Nigeria and West Africa.

The idea, he continues, is to enable those affected to seek medical treatment, care and support to reduce the frustrations that come with the condition.

He adds: “Endometriosis is not a lifestyle disease. It is not a sickness you get later in life. It attacks teens and young women when they should be active, working, having children and having sex. In fact, 50 per cent of women suffering from this condition are struggling with sex because it is too painful. It is also a major cause of infertility among women.

According to him, many women with the disorder are often diagnosed after several years and in developing countries like Nigeria, many cases are either misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all.

The Executive Director ESGN further says: “Like many other disorders, endometriosis can be a chronic condition, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. He adds that even when detected, many women do not get proper treatment.

“Even in developed countries, a woman may have suffered from the condition for up to eight years before she gets a proper diagnosis, Ajayi states. “In Africa, the situation is worse because very little is known about the condition. Therefore, many women live with it without ever going for diagnosis.

Hitherto, the condition was believed not to be common among blacks. However, it has been discovered that no race is left out of this excruciating ordeal.” “It is a common condition that occurs in between five and 10 per cent of women within the reproductive age group (15 and 44 years) globally. Women with this condition have 20 per cent less chances of having children.

This is why we should draw attention to the fact that early diagnosis and treatment is key to your being cured of this condition,” Ajayi affirms. According to experts, women suffering from this disease may not enjoy sexual intercourse; therefore, there is the need to get help as soon as possible.

Since it is not a life-threatening disease, the condition is often dismissed by doctors as “woman troubles”, making it more traumatic for the sufferer to talk about it and seek immediate treatment, according to gynaecologists.

Have you been experiencing painful menstrual period since your teens? It could be signs of endometriosis, regardless of your age. Call a specialist for proper diagnosis and help today. It is time to act!

This story was published in Newswatch Times on February 18, 2016.

Group laments poor health sector budget allocation

… Questions revenue leakages

The Civil Society Legislation Advocacy Centre (CISLAC)’s attention has been drawn to the persistent nation’s revenue leakages and sharp reduction in the 2016 budgetary allocation to health sector, despite the rising challenges confronting child and family health in the country.

A recent report by Tax Justice and Governance Network (TJ&GN) reveals that revenue leakage arising from corporate tax incentives granted multinational companies after the end of initial five-year tax break has cost Nigeria billions of dollars, disclosing Nigeria lost over US$20 billion to tax fraud evolving from incentives between 2010 and 2014.

The corporate tax incentives in the analysis of Tax Justice Network Africa, include reduction in corporate income tax, rates and tax ‘holidays’ offered by governments to investors for specified periods, to attract new foreign direct investment by companies operating in special economic zones.

A cross section of participants at a one-day validation meeting for Audit of maternal and child health in four key states of the North, organised by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in Abuja recently.
In a recent published comparative report by ActionAid on tax incentives granted over the years by four African countries—Nigeria, Ghana, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal, Nigeria recorded the biggest loss of about $2.9 billion (N577 billion) to tax waivers annually. The loss according to the report is more than the Federal Government’s annual budget to the health sector.

The report further stated that the tax holiday extension meant the loss of about $2 billion in revenue, and the rolled over allowances where the same tax was effectively foregone twice, a further $1.3 billion, adding that tax foregone in the first five years was not counted, as this was the normal tax break.

It would be recalled that in 2014, Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC) had raised alarm over the incessant loss of the nation’s revenue to tax waivers. It was on this observation that Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) reported that between 2011 and 2013, import waivers granted various individuals and groups by the Ministry of Finance cost the Federal Government N1.4 trillion.

CISLAC finds it worrisome that despite persistent decrease in nation’s revenue from the oil and gas sector, the government has remained adamant to innovatively embrace alternative sources of funding by blocking identified massive revenue leakages and redirect revenue therefrom to support important sector like health.

Meanwhile, in 2013, a study conducted by CISLAC gathered that in Nigeria, one in 13 women dies during pregnancy or childbirth, and 12% of children die before reaching the age of five. The study observed that every 10 minutes one woman dies from conditions associated with childbirth; and only 39% births take place with assistance of medically trained personnel, coupled with the scarcity of skilled attendants, absence of personnel, among other factors impeding the effectiveness of health services in the country. The identified factors are largely attributed to poor budgetary allocation to health sector.

Similarly, the Association for the Advancement of Family Planning (AAFP) has confirmed that Child Spacing has direct impacts on the health of the family and grossly the economy of a nation as a whole with tendency to mitigate maternal and child deaths in the country. Yet, budgetary allocation to Child Spacing in the contexts of Nigeria Family Planning Blueprint and the Costed Implementation Plans is an endemic challenge.

Also, the recent announcement by the World Health Organisation (WHO) declaring Nigeria free from the longtime dreadful polio endemic may soon resurge in the absence of provision of adequate finances by the government to sustain intervention on Routine Immunization in the country. Consequently, as the Nation Assembly deliberates on 2016 Appropriation Bill, there are serious public outcries by various stakeholders advocating for effective child and family health in Nigeria such as Community Health Research Initiative (CHR) agitating for adequate finances for immunization to ensure sustainability and avert future resurgence of polio virus.

With over 11 million stunted children, Nigeria is without doubt confronted with the daunting challenge of malnutrition and ranks second with highest number of stunted children globally. Civil Society Scaling-up Nutrition (CS-SUNN) has reported that malnutrition contributes to nearly half of all child deaths globally, amounting to more than 3 million children each year. The country continues to face malnutrition challenges as a result of inadequate budgetary allocation to nutrition line items.

Pneumonia and diarrheal diseases remain the major killers of children, with no fewer than 2.1 million Under-5 years and neonatal deaths occurring in Nigeria in 2014. As stated by the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN). The country signed into 15 essential commodities in the United Nations Commission on Life-Saving Commodities (UNCoLSC) recommendations, among which three are itemized for the survival of the Under-5 death.

The recommended commodities for the survival of the Under-5 include: Amoxicillin antibiotic in dispersible tablet form (amoxicillin DT) as first line treatment in the management of childhood killer pneumonia disease; and Zinc and Oral Rehydration Salt Solution (Zn/ORS) both for the treatment of childhood diarrheal disease. However, efforts to tackling childhood killer diseases have been impaired by lack of specific budget line for the quantification and procurement of the recommended commodities at all levels.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on February 18, 2016.

Improved policies, critical to curtailing female genital mutilation – Idris

Improved guidelines, trainings and policies to ensure health professionals can provide counseling to young girls and women has been highlighted as a major solution to the challenge of female genital mutilation in Nigeria.

This concerned was expressed by the Commissioner for Health Lagos State, Dr. Jide Idris during a review of the family health programmes of the State.

He disclosed that female genital mutilation is a socio-cultural practice that is hazardous and mostly done by traditional circumcisers.

He pointed out that the act is usually very harmful to the health of women since it can lead to urinary tract problems, tetanus infection, severe bleeding, cysts, genital swelling, complications during child births and increased risk of neonatal death.

According to the Commissioner, “Female genital mutilation or intentional alteration of the genital for non-medical reasons does not have any health benefit as wrongly believed by the proponents, it does not reduce libido in women nor contribute to chastity as erroneously claimed.

Lagos state University Teaching Hospital
He noted that, on the other hand, female genital mutilation can have long term consequences such as pain in intercourse, decreased sexual satisfaction, problem with menstruation as well as the need for later surgeries.

Idris also addressed the assumption that the procedure is safer when done by health or medical personnel demanding that no health workers should support such gross infringement on the well-being of women. While advising health workers to desist from performing female genital mutilation, he also expressed concern about psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder that accompany such procedures.

According to the Commissioner, female genital mutilation is an unnecessary pain inflicted on women by people they know and respect, usually family members and leaders of the community, hence, it can be a precursor of mental and psychological problems for the affected women.

Idris noted that those at risks are the vulnerable segment of female population who are either minors and/or usually financially dependent, citing this act as gross violations of the rights of the person’s health, security and physical wellbeing.

Speaking on the panacea for this situation, Idris pointed out that in addition to government policy, there is need for the development of a robust advocacy to educate, enlighten community and religious leaders on the harms of the practice and engage them on the need to abandon it.

He further added: “There is also the need for training and orientation of health and social workers to manage and counsel victims of this barbaric act; this will help in no more small measure to alleviate their sufferings and reduce the burden of psychological trauma being experienced.”

Idris stated that the Ministry has an adolescent/youth sexual reproductive health unit to cater for the youths of Lagos state especially with regards to Counseling, Reproductive health clinic, and Provision of Preventive and Clinical services.

He added that the centre is expected to bridge the gap by providing a “safe and confidential centre for young people”.

“From experience, young people would rather patronize quacks instead of facilities offering health and counseling services, as these quacks are perceived as “confidential though not safe”, while the hospitals are ‘safe’ but not ‘confidential.’

“It is therefore important to create a safe and confidential place for these young people, hence, the establishment Adolescent/Youth Sexual Reproductive Health unit also known as Hello Lagos; a place to reach out to the young people of Lagos State,” he said.

Idris stated that one important determinant of adolescent and young people’s sexual and reproductive health is their access to and uptake of information about reproductive health services stressing that Youth friendly sexual and reproductive health services available at Hello Lagos are tailored to ensure confidentiality and privacy; train non-judgmental providers and have youth participation.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on February 18, 2016.

… Pregnant woman disappears from home to avoid exercise

Following the insistence of an Islamic cleric that his pregnant wife undergoes circumcision after childbirth, the embattled wife has gone into hiding. The 29 years old woman was said to be hiding at yet to be identified location in a suburb of Lagos, Lagos State.

Investigation indicated that the lady, simply identified as Rukayat Tairu, was at the time of the incident had disappeared from her matrimonial home for the fear of being forced to undergo the painful circumcision process.

Exercises for pregnant women
Findings also show that she had earlier had a child for her first husband who happened to be a Christian which the parents were opposed to. But on getting to the new husband, he insisted that she must be circumcised according to the Islamic injunction.

According to close family sources, the lady will have to go through the circumcision after the delivery of her child.

Born into Islamic religion family, Rukayat, it was learnt had opted to embrace Christian religion, an action which had set her on a collision course with her father who continues to insist she must make amends.

It was also learnt that Rukayat had gone ahead to have her first baby for a Christian to worsen an already strained relationship with her parent.

It was further gathered that in order to assuage her parent’s ill-feeling towards her, Rukayat had agreed to move in with the Islamic cleric who her father had recommended as his favourite.

According to investigations, some religious faiths or are still holding on to this outlawed practice of female genital mutilation, which they believe is a way of restraining their wives from engaging in any form of fornication or extra-marital affairs.

The case, we learnt, has been reported to the police, who assured that she would be found. However efforts to reach the Police command’s spokesperson was not successful as her numbers were switch off.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on February 18, 2016.

JOHESU, AHPA threaten to embark on strike over unfulfilled demands

… Issues 15-day ultimatum

To press home their demand, the Joint Health Sector Unions, JOHESU and the Assembly of Healthcare Professionals, AHPA, have issued a 15-day ultimatum from February 3, 2016 to the Federal government to pay attention to their demands or face an industrial action.

In a statement made available to NEWSWATCH TIMES, JOHESU/AHPA which is a coalition of unions constitutes 95 per cent of healthcare providers in the health Industry nationwide.

The statement said that JOHESU is made up of five registered Unions in the health sector namely; Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives (NANNM), Senior Staff Association of Universities, Teaching Hospitals, Research Institutes and Associated Institutions (SSAUTHRIAI), Nigeria Union of Allied Health Professionals (NUAHP), Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational and Associated Institutions (NASU).

According to the statement, JOHESU’s demands includes, “the Implementation of the spirit of the new circular on promotion of our members from CONHESS 14 to 15 as directors which places premium on the need to sanction defaulting hospital managements.

Specific steps must be taken by the Head of Service of the Federation to ensure the expedited issuance of an enabling circular authorizing consultancy cadre for health professionals that have adhered to due process, to be vested with consultancy status as a prelude to including this cadre into the schemes of service of these health professionals.

Empty hospital beds during recent health workers’ strike
“This must be worked out with the Federal Ministry of Health in line with the spirit of circular on consultancy and specialist allowances Ref. SMH.491/S.2/VOL.II.221 of 29th March, 1976, which authorizes consultancy status for all health professionals, and the condition precedent of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) that provides for a nod of the Federal Ministry of Health for the appointment of consultants,” It reads.

The union however seized the opportunity to remind government, that the Federal Ministry of Health cannot continue to be seen as an impartial abiter that does not disguise its bias towards the preferences of only one profession in a multi-disciplinary sector.

JOHESU said the clamour becomes even more valid against the background that the union caters for the interest of the workforce in the Healthcare industry it represents.

The statement further said that payment of arrears of specialist allowances to qualified hospitals based health professionals with effect from January 1, 2010, should be ensured without any delay whatsoever.

“JOHESUstrongly demands that the Federal Ministry of Health must now come up with a circular on residency programmes for all health professionals in Nigeria to ensure professional capacity development in the health sector as this will strengthen our national health system and stem medical tourism.

“Immediate and full payment of arrears of the skipping of CONHESS 10 which remains outstanding since the year 2010. Immediate and unconditional release of the circular on adjustment of salary since January 2014 and immediate payment of at least two months arrears, while the balance is accommodated with proven evidence in the 2016 budget.”

Giving a background of its demands, the statement reads, “this coalition of JOHESU embarked on an industrial action in November 2014 which stretched into 2015 February when it was suspended at the instance of the former President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, whom JOHESU met in February, 2015.

“The strike was suspended as a result of assurances by the Jonathan that our issues shall be looked into and our demands met. From January 2014 to December, 2014, series of meetings were held at the office of the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Senator Anyim Pius Anyim and other Federal Government Officials in attendance.

“Consequent upon the suspension of JOHESU/AHPA strike on February 2, 2015, and subsequent meetings held at the levels of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the immediate past President on the listed issues without any resolution; and bearing in mind that the leadership of JOHESU/AHPA has exercised enough restraints and our members have been patient enough with the Federal Government on the issues at stake; it is important we put on record that all our demands that led to the strike are still pending which still makes our members restive,” the statement added.

The letter titled “Resumption of suspended industrial action by Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) AND Assembly of Health Care Professionals” was signed by Com. Biobelemoye Joy Josiah, National President, MHWUN; Com. Silas G.Adamu, Ag.Secretary General, MHWUN; Com. Adeniji A.A, National President, NANNM; Com. Shetima Thomas A, Ag. Secretary Genral NANNM; Com. (Dr) B. A. Akintola, President, SSAUTHRAI; Com. Akinade M. O. General Secretary, SSAUTHRAI; Com. (Dr). Ogbonna O. C, National President, NUAHP; Com. Obisesan O. A, General Secretary, NUAHP; Com. Chris Ani, National President, NASU; Com. Peters Adeyemi, General Secretary, NASU and Com. (Dr) G. C. Okara, President, AHPA.

The letter was addressed to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Abuja, further said: “In view of the failure of the present Federal Government to accede to our demands as itemised above, the Joint health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and the Assembly of Healthcare Professionals (AHPA) at their joint meeting, held on Wednesday, 27th January, 2016, at the Medical and Health Workers’ Union of Nigeria Secretariat, Abuja, resolved to give a 15-day ultimatum beginning from 3rd February, 2016.

“It is our hope and desire that the Federal Government would take necessary steps to ensure that our demands are met on or before Tuesday, February 17, 2016 in order to forestall the impending avoidable industrial action,” it warned.

It was copied to the Senate President, Speaker, House of Representatives, Minister of Health, Federal Ministry of Health, Minister of Labour and Productivity, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, the Chairman, House Committee on Health, Inspector General of Police; Director General, State Security Service; the Chairman, National Salaries, Incomes and Wages Commission and the Director General, Budget Office.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on February 13, 2016.

Nigeria risk drug insecurity as forex scarcity lingers

•Pharmacists inaugurate new boss

Ahead of the inauguration of the new President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN), Ahmed Yakasai, come February 18, pharmacists have warned against impending risk of drug insecurity, occasioned by absolute drought of raw materials that is active pharmaceutical ingredients in the face of scarce foreign exchange (FOREX) in the country.

The pharmacists gave the warning on Wednesday, under the aegis of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) and Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (PMG-MAN), on Wednesday, insisting that if the scarcity of foreign exchange for importation of critical raw materials persists, the country may soon be plunged into drugs circulation crisis, a situation that could be dangerous to the health of the citizens.

According to the new PSN boss, the looming catastrophe can only be prevented if the Federal Government should make available foreign exchange to bonafide pharmacists to procure critical raw materials, and provide intervention fund for the pharmaceutical sector.

The duo of top executives of pharmacy association, Yakasai, and Okey Akpa, who is the Chairman, President inauguration and Fellows investiture Committee, lamented that despite government policy that targeted 70 per cent utilization of local capacity in drug production, Nigeria is currently utilizing only about 35 per cent of its local production capacity.

Akpa, who spoke in Lagos, at a press conference heralding the inauguration of the new PSN President, Yakasai and investiture of 70 new fellows of the society next week, in Abuja, said:

“At this time, the only thing is to alert the nation on an impending risk and threat to drug security in the country. This is going to happen if the current level of scarcity of FOREX persists. There is going to be absolute drought of raw materials. This time around, we are talking about critical raw materials, what we classify as active pharmaceutical ingredients.

Nearly every manufacturer is using about the last set of raw materials they have got and what we see and foresee that is going to happen is scarcity of medicines, essential medicines and when they are available, the cost will go up,” he added.

Ahmed Yakasai

Akpa, who is the chief executive officer of SKG Pharma and Chairman of PMG-MAN, added: “Our recommendation is that we are appealing to the government to please prioritise pharmaceutical raw materials, treat them as top priority and allocate FOREX directly to bonafide pharmaceutical manufacturers to ameliorate that scarcity of raw materials that may create drug insecurity.”

On his part, Yakasai restated that to begin of the reduction of the nation’s disease burden by over 50 per cent from 2016, the gospel of good hygiene and other public health issues must be spread by health professionals in their practice facilities at community levels, while Environmental Health Officers must begin enforcement of health statutes.

The new PSN President lamented that the fundamental problem with the nation’s health system is the unfortunate emphasis on curative rather than preventive health care, adding that the norm in civilised climes is to nurture and build a virile as well as viable primary health care model which embraces the utilisation of the skills, expertise and hands-on experience of all health care professionals and workers.

On the inauguration, he said that the august ceremony is scheduled for 7pm at Transcorp Hilton Abuja, with the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, as the guest of honour and the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, as the special guest.

According to him, the association will be inaugurating him as the new president, as well as conducting the investiture of 70 members, comprising of 20 females and 50 males.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on February 13, 2016.

Bananas can detect, cure skin cancer – Study

The black spots on old banana peels may unlock a faster, easier diagnosis of human skin cancer, boosting survival chances, scientists said Monday. When bananas ripen, their skin is covered in small, round black spots caused by an enzyme known as tyrosinase.

The same enzyme is present in human skin, and in greater quantities in people suffering from melanoma — a potentially deadly form of skin cancer. A team of scientists used this observed commonality to build a cancer scanner, which they then refined and tested at length on banana peels before moving on to human tissue, an online report said Wednesday.

First, researchers at the Laboratory of Physical and Analytical Electrochemistry in Switzerland concluded that the enzyme is a reliable marker of melanoma growth. In the earliest stage 1 of cancer, the enzyme is not very apparent, becoming widespread and evenly distributed in stage 2, and unevenly distributed in stage 3 — by when the cancer has started spreading to other parts of the body.

The earlier the cancer is detected, the greater the chances of survival. According to the American Cancer Society, people have a 10-year survival rate of 95 percent if the melanoma is detected in stage 1 — falling to 43 percent by mid-stage 3.

The team developed a scanner and tested it on banana peel spots — which are roughly the same size as melanoma spots on human skin. “By working with fruit, we were able to develop and test a diagnostic method before trying it on human biopsies,” team leader Hubert Girault said in a statement.

The scanner has eight flexible microelectrodes, spaced like comb teeth, that pass over the skin to measure the quantity and distribution of tyrosinase. “This system could obviate the need for invasive tests like biopsies,” the team said.

Girault believes the scanner could be used one day to destroy tumours, hopefully rendering biopsies and even chemotherapy unnecessary. “Our initial laboratory tests showed us that our device could be used to destroy the cells,” he said. The research was published in the German science journal Angewandte Chemie.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on February 13, 2016.

Female Genital Mutilation: 19.9m Nigerian women endangered

As the country joined to mark the International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting(FGM/C) on Saturday, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) lamented that an estimated 19.9 million Nigerian women have undergone the practice. The number approximately represents 16 per cent of 125 million FGM/C survivors globally.

UNICEF’s Child Protection Specialist, Maryam Enyiazu who stated this at a two-day UNICEF media dialogue, titled: ”Media partnership towards female genital mutilation/cutting abandonment in Nigeria” noted that 82 per cent of women in Nigeria undergo FGM before age five.

L-r: Gender Analyst, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Damilola Obinna; Professor Modupe Onadeko, President, Inter-African Committee on female genital mutilation (FGM) and Doune Porter, Chief of Communication, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), during a facility visit to Ife Local Government, Osun state, part of a two-day UNICEF media dialogue, “Media partnership towards female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) abandonment in Nigeria,” at the weekend.

“However, due to its large population, Nigeria has the third highest number of women and girls (19.9 million) who have undergone FGM/C worldwide, after Egypt and Ethiopia,”she said.

According to her: “FGM is more prevalent in the southern zones than in the northern zones. States with the highest prevalence Osun (77 per cent), Ebonyi (74 per cent) , Ekiti (72 per cent), Imo (68 per cent) and Oyo (66 per cent)”

UNICEF’s Child Protection Specialist also observed that those promoting the practice are mainly grandmothers and mother-in-laws. Although, majority of men and women prefer the practice of FGM to be discontinued, it remains a major problem within specific communities, Enyiazu said.

Gender Analyst, United Nations Population Fund, (UNFPA), Damilola Obinna,during a presentation on female genital cutting and the female child said, FGM violates the sexual and reproductive health and rights of girls and women.

According to her, girls and women that have undergone FGM are 70 per cent more likely to suffer hemorrhage after giving birth and are twice as likely to die during childbirth.

The President, Inter-African Committee (IAC), on FGM, Professor Modupe Onadeko, said there was need for the federal government to take responsibility, create political support and raise awareness to end FGM.

Prof.Onadeko who advocated for relevant laws on FGM to be domesticated called for community involvement to ensure the right platform was created.

UNICEF, Chief Of Communication,Doune Porter called for the support of the media to end FGM in Nigeria.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on February 11, 2016.

Fidson Healthcare, GB Pharma unite to achieve global pharmaceutical outreach

Fidson Healthcare Plc, one of the leading pharmaceutical companies in the country, has recently made a giant leap toward addressing Nigeria’s pharmaceutical needs by entering into an agreement with the American company, GB Pharma Holdings. Their business agreement is expected to provide Fidson with the guidance it needs to establish its foothold within the US and to develop strategic relationships with other business entities.

Of all these entities, US Pharmacopeia (USP) is the most critical. It will insure Fidson’s growth by helping it sustain U.S. and international standards. Founded in 1820, this scientific nonprofit organization will share with Fidson its expertise by overseeing the identity, strength, quality and purity of medicines, food ingredients and dietary supplements that Fidson will manufacture and distribute.

With the support of GB Pharma Holdings, Immune Therapeutics Incorporation and American Hospitals & Resorts (AHAR), Fidson will gain from this partnership exclusive distribution rights to the internationally recognized immune therapy LodonalTM (Low Dose Naltrexone). It is expected that such collaboration will bring global recognition to Fidson’s pharmaceutical enterprise.

As Fidson’s Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Fidelis Akhagboso Ayebae has turned his company into one of the top Nigerian pharmaceutical company, which is publicly traded with annual US earnings of $60.5 million, making it one of the largest such pharmaceutical companies in Nigeria.

“My goal,” Dr. Ayebae said, “is to provide Nigerians with excellent quality pharmaceuticals at affordable prices. I am very confident that working with USP will help me achieve this end.”

To prepare for major growth, Dr. Ayebae has invested $55 million into building a six-line pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in Ogun State, Nigeria. The new plants is expected to more than double production and expand Fidson’s outreach into Nigeria and Africa.

Left to Right: Dr. Paul Zeitz, PEPFAR; Ms. Jeannine Scott, President US-Angola Chamber of Commerce; Dr. Fidelis Ayebae, CEO Fidson Healthcare Plc; Dr. Gloria Herndon, CEO GB Pharma Holdings; Dr. Anthony Wutoh and Provost Howard University; Dr. Estelle-Marie Heussen, COO GB Pharma Holdings
Dr. Gloria B. Herndon, President and CEO of GB Pharma Holdings of Washington, DC, will assist in this growth. Positioned to provide affordable and sustainable healthcare solutions throughout Africa, she will be a behind-the-scenes catalyst that will offer specialized expertise and outreach for helping Fidson develop its pharmaceutical market.

“Our business arrangement will give Dr. Ayebae access to a variety of our products that are approved by the Nigeria’s National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control’s regulatory body,” Dr. Herndon said. “This includes the wonder drug LodonalTM which has been proven to be a true wonder drug for combating HIV and other immune system diseases. For this reason, we believe it will save many lives in Africa and beyond.”

Doctors Herndon and Ayebae are both excited about their important business relationship. “Dr. Ayebae and I both share the same core values,” Dr. Herndon said. “He not only supports excellence, but he is also an ethical leader who has created a world-class company. His plant in Nigeria is the best I have ever seen in Africa – and even in the world. We both believe our union will contribute to strengthening the ties between the U.S. and Nigeria. “How can we fail?” Dr. Herndon concluded. “It will be in the same spirit of collaboration that U.S. President Barack Obama and Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari have already discussed in the past.”

This story was published in Newswatch Times on February 11, 2016.

NAFDAC endorses four UN life-saving commodities production for women, children

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has approved the production of four United Nations life saving commodities for women and children. The commodities include: chlorhexidine gel used in neonatal umbilical cord care, amoxicillin dispersible tablet used in Pneumonia, Zinc Sulphate for diarrhoea and misoprostol.

Announcing this at a two-day Common Technical Document, CTD, workshop in Lagos, the Director General of NAFDAC, Dr. Paul Orhii said Nigerians now have improved access to locally produced safe, efficacious and affordable medicines.

Orhii explained that some of the drugs before now were not manufactured in the whole of Africa.

Giving further insight into the life saving commodities, he explained that the agency decided to give its technical assistance towards the production of these drugs to make Nigeria self-sufficient in the manufacture and supply of quality, safe and efficacious medicines at affordable prices.

Continuing he added: “We have actively encouraged the local pharmaceutical industry to work towards attaining WHO prequalification which will facilitate access to medicines that meet unified standards of quality, safety and efficacy for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.”

Represented by the Director of Registration and Regulatory Affairs, NAFDAC, Dr. Monica Hemben Eimunjeze, he explained that the CTD workshop was one of the strategies adopted to ensure access to quality regulated medicines in the sub region.

L-R: Executive Secretary, Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Mr. Olakunle Okelola; Director, Registration and Regulatory Affairs, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, Dr. Monica Eimunjeze and the Head, Drug Evaluation and Registration Department, Food and Drug Administration, Ghana, Dr. Mercy Acquaye, during NAFDAC’s Common Technical Document Workshop in Lagos ...recently
According to him, the agency   has   fostered   collaboration   with   relevant   international organizations to support its drive to ensure processes are in line with best global practice.

Orhii said also said that the collaboration include the engagements with the World Health Organization (WHO) through the agency’s participation in the Collaborative Procedure for Registration of WHO   Prequalified   Medicines   as   well   as   Expedited   Procedure   for

Registration of the world health body prequalified vaccines.

“We now have World-class regulatory staff as a result of NAFDAC-WHO and NAFDAC-Global   Fund   joint   activities   and   trainings;   unprecedented secondment of   NAFDAC Staff to the WHO in Geneva in 2015. The agency has joined the WHO Prequalification team as consultant assessors since January 2015,” he said

The NAFDAC boss also said that the agency has keyed into the United Nations Commission Life Saving Commodities for Women and Children (UNCoLSC) programme which seeks to improve access to the 13 life-saving commodities and has worked with several partners such as the Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) to build systems and pathways to facilitate access to these products.

“In order to increase efficiency, application pathways have been streamlined,” Orhii said, adding; “We are fostering greater collaboration with other government agencies, civil society and professional organizations.”

He further said that the agency is establishing and building closer ties with other nations and international organizations to ensure importation of good, quality, safe and efficacious medicines and other regulated products into Nigeria which has resulted in remarkable landmark achievements.

The NAFDAC DG said: “We have also partnered with stakeholders to build capacity of professionals, serving as Resource in several areas such as a biopharmaceuticals and biosmilars, cosmetic regulation and product development.

“In 2013, the Mycotoxin and Pesticide Residue Laboratory obtained ISO 17025 laboratory accreditation by the American Association for Laboratory Accreditation (A2LA).

In October 2014, an extension to the scope of this accreditation was obtained with the Food Chemistry Laboratory also becoming accredited.

“In December 2014, the Central Drug Control Laboratory, Yaba obtained ISO 17025 accreditation from the Ansi-ASQ National Accreditation Board (ANAB),” Orhii added.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on February 11, 2016.

OMRON Healthcare introduces low cost doctor-led hypertension care

Omron Healthcare EMEA weekend, launched, a Pilot project for Omron Medical Connect, a service that enables patients to receive remote consultation and prescriptions for hypertension from cardiologists at Lagos University Teaching Hospital directly at their community pharmacy.

Omron Medical Connect aims to provide patients with hypertension care in pharmacies close to their homes, reducing cost, travel time and time waiting for appointments.

Omron Healthcare EMEA will recruit 500 patients to the Omron Medical Connect Pilot to demonstrate feasibility and effectiveness of this innovative healthcare delivery model. The Pilot will take place from February to October 2016 in Lagos and surrounding areas.

Omron Healthcare EMEA has a global reputation for producing highly accurate blood pressure devices. However Omron’s mission is to go beyond tracking numbers to provide services that enable patients to take control of their health and live longer, healthier lives. Omron is working towards a world with zero occurrences of heart attacks, strokes or other cardiovascular related events. We call this ‘Towards Zero Events’. Partnering with health care providers enables Omron to support patients in gaining more insight into their health, receive advice and guidance and ultimately increase the number of years of healthy life lived for people around the globe.

Paul Stevens, Group Manager for Omron Healthcare EMEA explained the opportunity addressed by Omron Medical Connect: ‘Managing chronic illnesses such as hypertension effectively will be a critical challenge for Nigeria’s Healthcare system in the coming decades. By reducing the burden of chronic disease management on hospitals, while providing a platform for patients to receive high quality care at low cost, we believe that Omron Medical Connect can transform the way that people receive healthcare, and eventually increase affordability and accessibility for millions of patients’.

High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and associated deaths in Sub Saharan Africa14.Blood pressure lowering significantly reduces CVD risk but often requires lifelong treatment17. However, antihypertensive treatment coverage in Sub Saharan Africa is very low, mainly due to low awareness of hypertension and poor access to quality care. Even in settings were hypertension care is available, accessibility for patients is often poor because of high costs of care (fees for healthcare), high travel costs or long waiting times at the clinics, leading to loss of income and low patient satisfaction.

Omron Medical Connect will leverage Community Pharmacies as the patient’s main point of care where blood pressure will be measured, the patient will be counselled on lifestyle measures and drug use, and drugs will be dispensed. Blood pressure will be monitored by a doctor via digital data transfer through a ‘health cloud,’ doctors are then able to electronically renew prescriptions based on the blood pressure measurements performed at the pharmacy. Doctors from Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) will provide the remote monitoring service and this hospital will serve as the referral site for patients with an indication for usual physician-based care.

Pharmacy based care can have a significant positive impact on communities and families. Good blood pressure control leads to longer, healthier lives. Improved accessibility to carewill cut travel cost and time away from home, giving patientsmore time to spend with family, and more time to work and contribute positively to society.

Omron Healthcare EMEA will sponsor 10 community blood pressure screening events, targeting 5000 people, in collaboration with Lagos University Teaching Hospital in order to raise awareness of the issue of hypertension and to identify patients suitable for pharmacy-based hypertension care via Omron Medical Connect.

In order to confirm the benefits of Omron Medical Connect, an independent clinical observation study will measure the outcomes of the pilot, measuring patient retention in the Pilot, the impact on medication adherence and patient blood pressure, plus the cost of care to the patients and healthcare providers.

Omron Healthcare EMEA is a leading manufacturer and distributor of healthcare products. Omron’s market-leading products include home blood pressure monitors and respiratory nebulizers.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on February 11, 2016.

Bauchi committed to five-point health agenda -Commissioner

The newly appointed Bauchi state Commissioner of Health, Dr. Halima Mukaddas has reiterated the state government commitment to the five-point agenda on health declared by Governor Muhammad Abdullahi Abubakar.

The commissioner made the pledged when she received a roll-up banner containing the five point agenda from a non-governmental organisation, Community Health and Research Initiative (CHR) in her office.

Dr. Halima said the ministry will support to agenda by including its contents to the ministry’s health operational plan.

She expressed sincere gratitude for the banner presented to her and assured the advocacy team that she will always make sure certain activities to be carried out are in line with the five point’s agenda, developed by the state governor last year.

She said the administration has so far shown utmost zeal and passion to address health gaps in the state, as the governor’s drive to improve the health of the people in the state will be reflected positively in the role she would play as a commissioner.

Earlier, CHR Board of Trustees Chair, Dr. Aminu Magashi in his remark tasked the commissioner to take the lead by being behind the wheel so that all those on board would be taken to the right destination which is the ultimate goal of the whole health sector of the state.

Dr. Magashi advocated for the inclusion of the contents in the ministry’s operational plan. He further solicited for continuous partnership and cooperation with the ministry and also offered to render support where and when necessary.

Governor Abubakar has in September last year while commemorating his 100 days in office launched a five point health agenda, to improve the health sector.

The points are; Strengthening Primary Health Care, Reproductive , Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Services, access to quality and cost effective life-saving drugs and laboratory services.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on February 11, 2016.

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