By Michael Peter, The Sight News
Abuja-As part of efforts to address the immunization gap in Nigeria, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has disclosed that it will be setting up emergency centers for routine immunization.
The Executive Director, Dr. Faisal Shuaib who made the disclosure at the inaugural quarterly media interactive forum in Abuja,stressed that statistics available shows that the state of immunization across the country is still below 50 per cent.
He further noted that due to lack of optimum immunization in some areas, the agency made the decision to set up a national emergency centre to focus on routine immunization.
The NPHCDA boss explained the possible reasons for the non-inclusion of the one percent consolidated revenue fund for health in the 2017 budget, saying that the National Assembly wanted a guarantee of judicious and transparent disbursement.
Recall that the National Health Act, which was signed into law in 2014 stipulated that one per cent of the consolidated revenue be set aside as health fund while implementation of the Act was expected to commence in 2017.
Dr. Shuaib however noted that the ministry of health has done a lot to provide transparency in the running of its affairs, adding thag the fund will be made available in the 2018 budget going by the actions of the present administration.
He said, “There has been a lot of advocacy to the National Assembly, our understanding is that if we are able to provide a transparent means of disbursing this funds to the states which is what we are piloting, then it is very likely that these funds will be made available in the 2018 budget”.
On concerns over the misappropriation of funds, Shuaib said, “We don’t want the situation where funds are made available and they disappear into thin air.Primary health care centers are not working very well, so what we are doing in collaboration with NHIS and the federal ministry of health and the NPHCDA is to prioritize and see how this funds can be transferred from the national level to the health facilities and we are working with the Bill and Melinda Gates and the World Bank to see how this can be done in a very efficient manner.”
He also revealed that the agency is engaging KPMG to look into the financial management due to the challenges in the recent past around accountability, to ensure all lope holes are closed, as the firm is expected to turn in its report in the next few months.
While acknowledging funding gaps, Dr Aminu Magashi Garba, Chairman Board of Trustees, Community Health and Research Initiative, (CHRI) lauded the federal government for providing over N12 billion for immunization in the 2017 budget unlike last year when there was a 50 percent cut.
According to him; “This year we did not experience a budget cut, we have 12.5 billion naira for immunization in the 2017 budget and we are hoping that this money should be released before the end of the year. There are still funding gaps but partners are trying to improve funding so as to close the gap. But we are hoping that in 2018 substantial money will be from the government, partners can then top it up”.
He expressed optimism that with the enormous time still available, the government can begin to plan, organise and ensure that everything is in place to enable manufacturers produce vaccines locally in the shortest possible time to meet the needs of the population of under five who make up 25 percent of the nation’s total population.