By Lynette Manzini in Nigeria
Nigeria (Lagos) – NIGERIA has joined Zimbabwe in its failure to honour pledges to dedicate at least 15 percent of their national budgets towards health.
Ironically, the pledge was agreed on by African leaders in its (Nigeria) backyard 15 years ago.
The Abuja Declaration, signed among African states April 2001, saw each country pledge at least 15% of its national budget towards the health sector.
The countries also appealed to international partners to continue to scale up support for the sector within their territories.
It has emerged however that Africa’s most populous country was still far from meeting the target after allocating a miserly 4.15 percent of its 2017 budget towards the sector.
In its 2017 budget, Africa’s largest economy forecasted a budget of N7.298 trillion budget which is equivalent to US$23.9 billion and went in to allocate N303 billion (over US$1,5 billion) towards the sector.
This was in contrast with its defence allocation which was pegged at N465 billion.
Unveiling the budget a fortnight ago, President Muhammadu Buhari said in 2017, his government will strengthen primary health care systems.
“We propose with regard to healthcare to expand coverage through support to primary healthcare centres and expanding the National Health Insurance Scheme,” he said.
Similarly in Southern Africa, Zimbabwe is still to meet the Abuja declaration target but more often allocates more funds towards defence at the expense of health.
In the 2017 budget, Zimbabwe’s defence ministry was allocated US$340,5 million while the health ministry received US$281 million.
Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa went on to introduce a five cents health levy for every dollar spent on airtime and data, although many doubted government’s intentions given its long history of financial misuse.
The health sector in the Southern African country has faced numerous challenges in 2016 ranging from job actions by medical personnel, state run medical institution suspending surgeries as a result of the unavailability of the necessary medication and supplies required for the procedures.
While Nigeria and Zimbabwe are still to meet the benchmark as stipulated by the Abuja Declaration, countries such as Rwanda, Malawi, Zambia have managed to allocate 15 percent of their budgets to health with many of them surpassing the mark. – RadioVop Zimbabwe