The federal government through the ministry of health has reaffirmed its commitment towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 3 and other national health targets in the country.
Speaking while declaring open the 3rd Annual Health Conference organized by the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ), in Abuja on Thursday, the Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire said that government has recognised the importance of Universal Health Coverage (UHC) in National Health System as part of social protection architecture for all Nigerians.
The minister said that the country was committed to meeting the targets by implementing policies and programmes that would ensure coverage of women and children.
‘’Health is at the core of societal development, because the development of a society is dependent on its human capital; and for the human capital to effectively function, citizens must be healthy.
‘’The administration of president Muhammadu Buhari is committed to institutionalizing policies to strengthen Nigeria’s health sector through the development of health human capacity, improving infrastructure and positioning the entire system for better health care delivery.
‘’This will discourage health tourism which is a huge loss of human and financial resources’’, Dr Ehanire said.
The minister further disclosed that the SDG goal 3, which has 13 targets, is focus on ensuring healthy lives and promoting the well-being of people.
‘’Nigeria is committed to meeting these targets by implementing policies and programmes that ensure coverage of women and children who are most hit by deprivation and inability to access health care services .
“This is viable in the budgetary provision for the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration.
“BHCPF should be accessed directly by Primary Health Care facilities for direct impact on citizens at the grassroots’’, he said.
The minister added that the theme of the conference; ‘’ Nigeria’s increasing population, achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and Sustainable Development Goal 9SDG) 3: Any hope?’’ was apt as it is in line with the current discussions within the health sector as led by the United Nations.
Earlier in his key note address, the Country Director of U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Health Policy Plus Project, Dr Gafar Alawode, said that the performance of Nigeria towards achieving UHC was not encouraging.
He stressed the need to do more to improve its performance toward achieving UHC adding that UHC means that all people and communities can use the preventive, curative, rehabilitative and palliative health services they need without experiencing financial hardship.
“UHC cuts across all the health-related SDGs and it has a number of objectives which are: equity in access to health services relative to need and not the ability to pay.
“The quality of health services should be good enough to improve the health of those receiving services and financial risk protection for all.’’
Alawode urged journalists to support the ongoing reforms in the health sector such as BHCPF and State Social Health Insurance by ensuring adequate coverage of activities.
On his part, Hassan Zaggi, the President of ANHEJ, in his welcome address urged government agencies, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and international organisations to collaborate with journalists for effective coverage of the sector.
He tasked NGOs and international organisations to see the association as reliable partners that they could work with to get the needed health information to Nigerians at all levels.
“As parts of efforts to motivate and encourage actors in the health sector to continue to work for the improvement of the health status of our people, we have selected few exceptional Nigerians who contributed to the development of health sector over the years for award.
“We worked closely with these people and we know their works.
“We, therefore, call on Federal Government to continue to provide an enabling environment for medical and health experts to put their best for the growth of the sector.”
The ANHEJ awarded seven Nigerians who contributed to the development of the health sector in the country.
Some of the awardees were Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, Former Minister of Health, Mrs Moji Makanjuola, a veteran broadcast journalist who worked and retired with NTA and Dr Godwill Okara, a renowned medical laboratory scientist.