To promote healthy living and wellbeing among the citizens, it is important to work towards the actualisation of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
Part of the vision of the UN towards the SDGs is to have a world free from poverty, hunger, and disease, which harps on the importance of pursuing sustainable health, as it indirectly contributes to achieving almost all other SDGs.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the SDGs aim to be relevant to all, to promote prosperity while protecting the environment and tackling climate change.
In the health sector, the SDG strongly focuses on improving equity to meet the needs of women, children, and disadvantaged populations in particular so that no one is left behind when it comes to good healthy living.
In Nigeria, concerted efforts have been made to ensure that the SDG targets in the sector are met before 2030. Such efforts include the recent annual Legislative Summit on Health, held this year, 2021.
The summit was birthed by a coalition of lawmakers, health advocates, and health ministries with support from developmental partners.
Themed, “Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and Health Security (HS): Two Sides of a Coin for an Efficient Health System,” the summit was geared toward innovative measures to develop policies and alternative funds to achieve universal coverage.
The first summit, which was held in 2017, saw the convergence of legislators from the 36 states, speakers of state houses of assembly, clerks, chairs of health, and appropriation committees in the National Assembly to negotiate better funding, policies, and laws to drive UHC.
The event took place in Abuja and featured big industry players to chart a path towards the delivery of quality, affordable and accessible healthcare.
Speaking, Vice President, Yemi Osibanjo, charged the summit to develop approaches to ensure health security and achievable UHC
Osibanjo, represented by the Minister of State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora, stressed the need to set aside special funds for public health emergencies.
He opined that the COVID-19 pandemic had exposed the vulnerability of Nigeria’s health system, and harped on the need to scale up preparedness, diagnosis, and response mechanism.
He noted that public health security requires proactive and reactive measures to minimise the danger and impact of acute public health events.
Meanwhile, tasked the national assembly on legislation to ensure adequate budgetary allocation and make funds available for preparedness activities.
He noted that reactive and response activities must include ensuring the continuity of routine services such as immunisation, family planning, and keeping sight of other diseases like malaria.
In his remarks, the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, said the summit was an avenue to review the condition of the health system, as the facilities are inadequate to cope with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Lawan, represented by the Deputy Chief Whip of the Senate, Aliyu Abdullahi, said the summit would open new frontiers for improvement and resources, put universal coverage back on track by tackling the impact of COVID-19 on health service delivery.
Also, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health (Secondary & Tertiary), Ibrahim Oloriegbe, noted that the main objective of the summit was to effectively leverage statutory functions of the legislature for improved health financing, toward effective and efficient utilisation of the resources for UHC.
Speaking on, “The Objectives of the Legislative Network for UHC – How Have We Fared?,” Oloriegbe listed some achievements from the previous summit. They include the Implementation of the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) guideline in line with the National Health Act; Earmarking the BHCPF from Service-wide vote to first line charge, and increased budgetary allocation through the intervention of legislators.
He added that about 34 of the 36 states have enacted legal frameworks providing financial risk protection on healthcare as a result of LNU engagements, as the summit has contributed to building the capacity of legislators nationally, to harness and align their statutory functions to achieve UHC goals and nutrition objectives.
Reminiscing on the drawbacks, Oloriegbe cited insecurity, scarce resources, COVID-19 restrictions, and global economic downturn among others.
Also, the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Chike Ihekweazu, urged the nation to leverage lessons from COVID-19 to improve health security.