Mathew Dadiya, AbujaThe Federal Government of Nigeria has signed a new innovative financing agreement with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation aimed at strengthening both Routine Immunization (RI) and broader primary healthcare (PHC) services. The deal was jointly signed on Tuesday in Abuja by the Ministers of Budget and National Planning, Udoma Udo Udoma; Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed and Health, Dr. Isaac Adewole. Under the agreement, Nigeria would receive an incentive financing of up to US$75 million over five years from the Gates Foundation as the government meets existing commitments to increase domestic funding of its RI program. Accordingly, the incentive financing will be directly invested in Nigeria’s Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCPF) and used in strengthening RI financing and other PHC services for the poorest. The government said that the deal would direct new funds to the nation’s broader health sector even as more domestic resources are dedicated to critical childhood vaccines specifically; creating a win-win opportunity for essential PHC services to grow in tandem. Udoma said, “Childhood immunisation is one of the most effective and cost-effective health interventions, and I can think of few better long-term investments in Nigeria’s human capital and future prosperity.” The Daily Times recalls that in April 2018, the Federal Government, through the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, finalized its Nigeria Strategy for Immunisation and PHC System Strengthening, 2018-2028 (NSIPSS), which outlined plans to spend US$1.95 billion on immunisation services over ten years via the national budget and some World Bank loan financing. In June same year, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, committed to supporting the NSIPSS with extended donor financing as domestic resources scale up. During this extended transition window, international donors via Gavi will provide Nigeria with US$1 billion, on top of the US$1.95bn domestic commitment. Together these funds will cover procurement of vaccines – the lion’s share of the costs as well as operational costs for routine and supplementary immunisation activities, and PHC system support. However, even with the additional Gavi support and loan options, the NSIPSS financing strategy requires significant annual increases in funding for vaccines until the government assumes full responsibility after 2028. While Federal Government planning accounts for this, the incentive financing with the Gates Foundation will help reduce the pressure this creates on the overall health budget by providing new grant financing for PHC each year as domestic vaccine financing commitments are met. The Minister of Finance, Mrs. Zainab Ahmed said, “There’s no question that immunisation is an all-around ‘best buy’ for Nigeria and extremely high value-for-money, but we still have limited resources. This innovative financing will allow us to limit trade-offs in the health sector by ensuring that every additional Naira released for vaccines unlocks additional resources for broader PHC improvements.” Nigeria Country Director, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Paulin Basinga said that with the NSIPSS, the Nigerian government was committing to a long-term investment in its people and to ensure that children will have the vaccines they need for the next ten years and beyond. “We know this isn’t easy given the many demands on Nigeria’s limited resources. So, we’re pleased to extend the health benefits of fulfilling this pledge even further, by supporting PHC for all of Nigeria’s children and families”, Basinga said.