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CSO unveils draft bill on proposed health development bank

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The Centre for Social Justice, a Civil Society Organisation, has unveiled a draft bill on the proposed Health Development Bank of Nigeria to its members and some health stakeholders.

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the proposal for the bank was put forward by the Lead Director of CSJ, Mr. Eze Onyekpere, at the closing session of a two-day workshop.

NAN reports that the workshop, which was tagged, ‘Innovative and Alternative Funding of the Health Sector’, was with the support of the United States Agency for International Development.

It was carried out under the USAID palladium project ‘Strengthening Civil Advocacy and Local Engagement (SCALE)’.

NAN reports further that some stakeholders in the health sector had advocated for the establishment of a Health Development Bank of Nigeria (a specialised bank) to assist in solving the sector’s financial challenge.

The call for the Bank’s establishment has been spearheaded by CSJ, on the basis that the specialised bank was needed to help finance most of the capital projects usually associated with the health sector.

He said most of the equipment and other technological devices used in the health sector were capital intensive, hence the need for a specialised bank.

Onyekpere said that establishing a health development bank would strengthen the country’s healthcare system.

He said “The current state of healthcare financing in Nigeria has been a cause for concern, with allocations to the health sector averaging a mere 4.982 per cent of the federal budget over the last five years (2018-2022).

“These allocations encompass capital, recurrent, statutory transfers, and other vital aspects of the health sector, but still fall far short of meeting the sector’s demands.

“The CSJ’s proposal for a health development bank seeks to address the financial constraints faced by the health sector.

“If implemented, the bank will provide a predictable and sustainable source of funding for critical health projects.”

According to Onyekpere, the health development bank will ensure that funds are tied to specific results and milestones, in line with national health policies and goals.

He stressed that currently, a significant portion of Nigeria’s health budget was dedicated to recurrent expenditure, “leaving minimal room for capital investments in health infrastructure and upgrades.”

He said, “The proposed health development bank will enable targeted investments in areas such as health facilities, medical equipment, and digital technology for telemedicine.

“It will help in the improvements of pharmaceutical production, including the manufacture of critical vaccines and pharmaceutical ingredients.

“One of the pressing challenges in the health sector is the lack of access to basic medical equipment in primary healthcare facilities.”

The CSJ director quoted the World Health Organisation as saying that only 41 per cent of the country’s health facilities had access to basic medical equipment in 2018.

He said that many health facilities do not have adequate access to electricity, water, and sanitation, adding that this has affected the quality of healthcare services provided.

Onyekpere noted that the health development bank is meant to address these issues by supporting infrastructure provision and upgrading of the health facilities and fostering an enabling environment for quality healthcare delivery.

He said this, in turn, would also reduce the need for medical tourism, saving the country over $1bn annually.

According to the CSJ boss, the bank will be instrumental to improving Nigeria’s pharmaceutical industry, which currently relied heavily on imports.

He said that by providing funds for infrastructure, technology, and human resource development, the bank would stimulate local production of critical pharmaceuticals and vaccines, enhancing the nation’s health security.

Also, the CSJ’s Programme Manager, Public Finance, Dr. Chidi Sundayson, noted that a tax on Sugar-Sweetened Beverages would help to generate more money for the sector.

He stated this in his paper presentation titled, ‘Sugar-Sweetened Beverage (SSB) Tax as an Alternative Source of Healthcare Funding’.

He estimated that an SSB tax in Nigeria had the potential to generate approximately one per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, which is equivalent to USD 4.77 billion.

Sundayson said that such revenue could significantly contribute to funding the health sector and strengthening healthcare and health systems in the nation.

“In light of Nigeria’s current revenue challenges and mounting debt burden, adopting the SSB tax as an alternative funding source is a critical consideration.

“By ploughing back the resources generated from the tax into the health sector, transparency and accountability can be ensured through well-designed systems for tax collection and administration.”

Sundayson added that the SSB tax offered a promising opportunity to bridge the funding gap and improve healthcare for all Nigerians.

According to him, decisive action is required to make significant strides towards better health outcomes, as the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 is no more than seven years away.

The workshop had in attendance health stakeholders from the Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Group, the Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, and faith-based organisations.

Other participants include representatives from the media, traditional institutions, civil society organisations, Health Maintenance Organisations, the ministry of health, and health officials from Sokoto, Adamawa, Bauchi, Nasarawa, Imo, Rivers and Ekiti.

(NAN)

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