Time to transform the health sector
DESPITE the challenging economic environment, the government’s positive strides in the provision of significant resources to revive the public health sector in areas such as the reproductive, maternal, new-born and adolescent health and nutrition services is commendable.
However, more needs to be done to wean off the crucial sector from donor support and grants. This is essentially so as the second wave of Covid-19 beckons.
Treasury allocated $54,7 billion to the Ministry of Health and Child Care in the 2021 National Budget as it sought to increase the allocation to the health sector so that it gravitates towards the Abuja target of 15 percent of national budget to ensure the country achieves the desired health outcomes.
Compared to 2019, the health budget has increased by 139 percent. The health sector was allocated US$300 million in 2019 representing a 13 percent increase from the five-year average of US$264 million, recorded over the period 2015-2019.
In nominal terms the health budget amounts to US$300 million compared to US$141 million in 2019. In real terms this is equivalent to US$254 million in 2020 compared to US$131 million in 2019.
While the infrastructure gaps still exist in service delivery and availability, as well as readiness of health facilities to provide basic healthcare interventions in the country, it is pertinent to consolidate the gains attained so far.
Overall, the percentage of children that received vaccinations increased from 69,2 percent in 2014 to 76 percent in 2019. Maternal mortality rate dropped significantly from 614 deaths per 100 000 live births in 2014 to 462 in 2019. All Early Childhood mortality rate improved over the same period, except for neonatal, which increased from 29 deaths per 1 000 live births to 32 in 2019. The number of births attended by a skilled professional also increased from 78 percent in 2014 to 86 percent in 2019.
It is from this background that positive strides in the sector should be commended. However, more needs to be done to address challenges in the sector.
These challenges range from inadequate funding, shortage of foreign currency to import essential drugs and equipment to power outages and intermittent fuel supply. Such challenges have significantly impacted on the operations of most public healthcare centres in the country. This has been exacerbated by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
In the outlook, these downside risks will continue to hamper performance of the sector as the macroeconomic environment continues to be in distress