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Huwe is very timely

President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

It was a giant boost for Nigeria’s health sector when President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday, January 8, 2019, launched the second National Strategic Health Development Plan (NSHDP) and the first phase of the rollout of the N55billion Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) in six states and the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.

The second NSHDP is the country’s five-year policy road map from 2018-2022 that will ensure overall improvement of the health of Nigerians through 5 strategic pillars and 15 priority areas. The pillars include enabling environment for attainment of health sector goals, increased utilization of essential package of health services, strengthening health systems and protection from health emergencies as well as health financing. BHCPF, on the other hand, is a fund allocation to cater for the basic healthcare needs of all Nigerians.

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At the plan’s launching in Abuja, President Buhari said the second NSHDP which was approved by the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in September 2018 was part of plans to achieve Universal Health Coverage [UHC] in Nigeria. He said government provided N55billion being one percent of Consolidated Revenue Fund for the BHCPF in line with the National Health Act 2014. Implementation will focus more on people in the rural areas especially children under five years, women and the elderly.

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Buhari lamented that out-of-pocket payment for health constitutes over 70 percent of total health expenditure in Nigeria, adding that functional primary health care system and a mandatory health care insurance scheme are critical to attaining UHC in Nigeria. President Buhari added that the brand name for the project is ‘Huwe’, meaning ‘life’. He said government will provide quality and affordable healthcare to citizens with no financial burdens attached. He said “the disbursement of funds was made to high performing states while other states would access the fund as they fulfill the laydown criteria for accessing it”. The six beneficiary states that fulfilled the criteria are Niger, Osun, Abia, Katsina, Edo, Yobe, and the FCT.

On Huwe’s basket of funds, Minister of Health Prof Isaac Adewole said, “Huwe account as at today include the N537m ($1.5m) from BMGF, already paid into BHCPF account; N55.1b ($180m) from the federal government to be disbursed into the BHCPF account and N6.1bm ($20m) from Global Finance Facility (GFF) to be disbursed into the BHCPF account.” He also said “the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) has released $1.5 million into the basic health care provision fund account and also pledged to commit additional $75 million into the account in the next five years.”

The two programmes, NSHDP and BHCPF, would reposition Nigeria towards attaining UHC through the provision of basic and quality healthcare. Much ground has already been lost in the past due to lack of commitment in addressing issues around citizens’ health. Nigeria therefore needs NSHDP to quickly catch up with other nations that are far ahead on the UHC path.

It is cheering to hear that the fund, according to the Minister of Health, Isaac Adewole, is designed to cover free antenatal care, free delivery, and free cesarean section. Nigerians will also, through this fund, be entitled to free treatment of diabetes, hypertension screening as well as free treatment for malaria and tuberculosis. Indeed, Huwe is timely.

The Buhari administration’s commitment to UHC through increased access of majority of Nigerians to healthcare is laudable. BHCPF will not only reduce the burden on tertiary health facilities but will also avert sicknesses in poor Nigerians from getting worse as the Fund provides easy and free access to quality medical attention. The lives of more Nigerians would be saved from curable diseases just as others will be better managed. Proper implementation of NSHDP and BHCPF will equally increase Nigeria’s basket of healthy citizens, a basic requirement for economic development. Strict mechanisms of accountability must be maintained in the disbursement of funds such that states that fail to account for previous collections should be denied further access to the fund.

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