To achieve prompt release and appropriate use of funds budgeted for health, particularly, family planning, stakeholders have said that the media should champion the course by monitoring, tracking the Federal, State budgets for accountability.
The issue was the focus at a two-day capacity building workshop on ‘Budget Monitoring and Analysis with Health Reporters,’ in Lagos State where participants were tasked to on proper budget tracking and adequate funding of the health sector.
Health analysts who spoke at the workshop organised by the Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI) penultimate weekend, stressed that media’s role has become critical in view of the growing country’s poor health indices.
One of them, Barrister Ayo Adebusoye, the Chairman, Public Health Sustainable Advocacy Initiative, (PHSAI) lamenting said, Nigeria still contributes one of the largest health indices in terms of maternal mortality rate.
Noting that the workshop is important as health is life, Adebusoye stressed that the survival and well-being of Nigerians should be paramount to the government.
Using 2018 Lagos State budget allocation to health as an illustration, he said; “The State government estimated N1.46 trillion as overall budget. N92.495 billion goes to health with a population of 25,615,763 million and 177.5 million allocation to family planning,” he said, giving the breakdown to show the real value to the health sector.
He continued; “In order to get the proportional allocation to health sector as journalists, we need to always place the budget size over the health budget and multiply by 100.
“8.84 percent is the proportional allocation to health and by calculations also, 0.2 percent was allocated to family planning. For per capita budget, place the budget size over the population size, the result is N40,834 per individual.
“This simply means that, in 2018 Lagos State budgeted N40,834 for every individual for all sectors which includes; education, health, welfare amongst others.”
Based on health budget per-capita, only N40 was budgeted for family planning for every woman of reproductive age in the State on monthly bases, Adebusoye explained.
He regretted, even with the little amount budgeted for family planning in 2018, only N48 million was approved, though not released, noting, “So as a result, Lagos may witness a reverse in the health sector in 2019.”
According to him, “The implications of the non-release are not far-fetched, and are very obvious as Lagos Bureau of Statistics is planning 25 per cent increase in its population, the next fifty years. That is Lagos is estimated to be 50 million by population.”
Adebusoye who is also the Co-chairman, Lagos State Accountability Mechanism for Maternal And New Born Child Health (LASAM), said already we can see the unnecessary loss of lives because there was no proper planning for their pregnancy.
He added that government as a whole should increase budget allocated to health sector and not borrowing to pay salary, stressing that the budget should be followed strictly.
He said; “If government should borrow to facilitate something that will translate to bringing revenue for growth, there should be a percentage for borrowing, which is to borrow to start a capital project.
“Most citizens are just one sickness away from poverty and when most people get sick it drains all their savings. We have to look at the situation where at the Federal level we should be able to have four to five percent health budget as a share of the recommendation by African countries which is 15 per cent minimum for health budget.
“We don’t like foreign entities funding our health sector. It is not sustainable and shows our lackadaisical attitude towards the health sector. The Local Government Health Authorities (LGHA) are so critical. The National Health Act which came in since 2014 which also recognised the LGHA. It was inaugurated by the administration of Former Executive Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Raji Fashola in 2006. The function of the LGHA is to set targets for Primary Health Care, coordinate both public and primary health care.”
He however appealed to the Federal Government to declare State of Emergency on Maternal and Child health, pointing that there is need to see increases in health budget allocation and disbursement even as he hopes that the health sector will be brought to the top agenda of government.
Speaking earlier during his opening remark, Dr. Edun Omasanjuwa, the Team Lead, NURHI, was optimistic that at the end of the training, journalists would take away key knowledge and skill that will be helpful not just in health budget tracking, but in other aspects of journalism.
He however bemoaned high maternal deaths in the country. “Nigerian women don’t need to die just because they are carrying out their physiology responsibilities in the process of pregnancy, giving birth and nursing the babies,” Omasanjuwa said.