World Bank specialist identifies public finance as UHC enabler

 Dr Olumide Okunola, Senior Health Specialist at the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank Group, has said that Universal Health Coverage (UHC) was not achievable in any country without public finance.

Okunola stated this on Day Two of the Fourth Annual Legislative Summit on Health themed: ”Universal Health Coverage and Health Security: Two sides of a coin for an efficient health system”, on Monday, in Abuja.

The summit, holding from May 23 to 25, 2021, was convened by the National Assembly with support from partners.

Okunola noted that the National Assembly was responsible for the appropriation of public finance, and without the legislatures UHC cannot be achieved in the country.

He called on Nigeria to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic and prioritize the issues around public health financing and institutional structures.

“I saw a draft Bill for Bayelsa State Center for Disease Control is  very commendable.

“We must set up institutional structures to combat pandemics. COVID-19 will not be the last, we need to  prevent future epidemic in Nigeria,” he said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) representative in Nigeria, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombos, also noted that COVID-19 had revealed the fractures in the health system and had  provided an opportunity for countries to take charge and build functional health infrastructure systems.

Dr. Njide Ndili, Country Director, PharmAccess Nigeria, added that without government commitment to funding, achieving UHC by 2030 would  be impossible.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ibrahim Oloriegbe, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, has stated that the purpose of the summit was to review the state of Nigeria’s health system in the light of emerging pandemics like the COVID-19, and to strengthen the nation’s health security.

Oloriegbe, who noted that UHC and Health Security were interrelated, said: “We have to ensure that all health needs of people are met with sufficient quality without leading to financial hardship”.

NAN recalls that the overall objective of setting up the Legislative Network on Health was to effectively leverage statutory functions of the Legislature in Nigeria for improved health financing, through effective and efficient utilization of the resources for UHC.

The Summit has been identified as one of the tools used by the legislators to collectively strategise on how to achieve these objectives. Every year, since the first Summit was convened in July 2017 (except 2020 because of COVID-19), Legislators had gathered with this singular purpose in mind.

It seeks to discuss, analyse health situations in the country, make decisions and take a stand on the way forward to solve whatever challenges each State may face, within their respective contexts.

What ensures success and nationwide reach is the fact that the discussions include all states of the federation, and the summit clearly identifies the role every stakeholder needs to play and leverages these to achieve identified objectives.

A major output of these meetings is a strategic framework called the Legislative Health Agenda, an actionable work-plan developed by each State to address existing challenges in respective health sectors by applying their statutory functions of Legislatures, that include Appropriation, Oversight and Representation. (NAN)