COVID-19: Nigeria must set aside special fund for public health emergencies

As Nigeria continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, has emphasised the importance of setting aside special funds for public health emergencies.

Mr Osinbajo, while speaking at the 4th annual legislative summit on health in Abuja on Monday, said such funds should only be utilised when a public health emergency is declared.

The summit is Themed “Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and Health Security; Two Sides of a Coin for an Efficient Health System.”

Represented by the Minister of State for Health, Olorunnimbe Mamora, Mr Osinbajo said the COVID-19 pandemic had exposed the vulnerability of the country’s health system and the importance of 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.

“One of such proactive steps was to ensure that there are funds set aside always and which can be made available whenever there was a public health emergency,” he said.

Mr Osinbajo said the legislature must ensure that adequate budgetary allocation is made for preparedness activities.

He noted that reactive and response activities must include ensuring the continuity of routine services such as immunization, family planning and keeping sight on other diseases like malaria.

About legislative network

The organizer of the summit said the objective of setting up the Legislative Network wasto effectively leverage statutory functions of the legislature in Nigeria for improved health financing, toward effective and efficient utilisation of the resources for UHC.

The Network, according to the legislators, consists primarily of legislators (National and States) with members of the Executive Arm of Government (State and National) and non-state actors, collaborating to provide institutional contexts focused on the health sector.

It is convened annually to provide a platform for legislators to confer towards addressing matters pertaining to the resilience of the health sector to provide equitable, quality care for citizens.

Adequate funding

A Senior Health Specialist at the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Group,


Olumide Okunola, said the UHC cannot be achieved without adequate funding.

Mr Okunola stated that issues around public health financing and institutional structures should be prioritised in the country.

This, he said, will ensure the country is prepared for future epidemics.

“We must set up institutional structures to combat pandemics because COVID-19 will not be the last,” he said.

In his remarks, Mr Mamora said participants need to constantly remind themselves on the principles of UHC in terms of availability, accessibility and affordability of health care

He explained that UHC and Health Security were like six and half a dozen, as both complement each other to achieve the same goal.

“The 3As of UHC are Availability of care, Accessibility of care and Affordability to all particularly the vulnerable groups- the elderly, those with disabilities, women and children, without hardship,” he said.

“In order to make UHC a reality, there is need for partnership, collaboration and synergy at both horizontal and vertical levels between the executive and the legislature.”

He said the legislature must put in place better funding for public health issues through appropriations.

Meanwhile, Ibrahim Oloriegbe, the chairman, Senate Committee on Health, said the purpose of the summit was to review the state of Nigeria’s health system in the light of emerging pandemic to strengthen health security.

“We have to ensure that all health needs of people are met with sufficient quality without leading to financial hardship,” he said.

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