Sen. Ibrahim Oloriegbe, Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, has advocated for a special fund to prevent and contain disease outbreaks in the country.
Oloriegbe stated this on Wednesday in Abuja at a stakeholders breakfast meeting on the role of the legislature in funding epidemic preparedness in Nigeria, organised by Nigeria Health Watch, a Non-governmental Advocacy Organisation.
He suggested that the special fund be sourced from both the public and private sectors.
He said the fund should be made mandatory through legislation.
“This fund should be referenced through legislation where both the public and private sectors will contribute.
“When epidemics happen, they have devastating effects on the private sector as well.
“They should not contribute through donation but through legislation that identifies certain sources of funds.
“For example, we should tax some percentage of the profit of key sectors that are usually affected by epidemics and such funds be added to the public funds,” the lawmaker said.
He said that the National Health Act currently included five per cent allocation for emergencies in the one per cent Consolidated Revenue Fund (CRF) in the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) but that it was not enough.
He said that the amount should be reviewed every five years.
Oloriegbe stated that one per cent of the CRF should also be put aside by State Governments in their budgets.
He also said that the BHCPF, which provided for funding that should go to the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had yet to be implemented.
Besides the CRF, funding for the BHCPF is also meant to come from donor partners.
“We should also receive grants and donations because when a country is hit by an epidemic the whole world is affected.
“Take for instance, what is happening in China, it is not only China that is affected but the entire world economy,” he said.
The lawmaker further said that Nigeria did not lack polices in tackling epidemics but what was lacking was implementation.
Sen. Utazi Chukwuka, Chairman, Senate Committee on Primary Healthcare and Communicable Diseases, said that even before the outbreak of the coronavirus, the National Assembly had made up its mind to review the National Health Act.
Chukwuka said the reviewed act would increase funding for NCDC to adequately take care of disease outbreaks.
He said that with increased funding, the NCDC would do more in the area of response and epidemic preparedness.
He said that the reviewed health act would ensure that primary health care was strengthened to take care of the health needs of Nigerians and help prevent disease outbreaks.
The chairman emphasised the need for a strong synergy between the federal, state and local governments to contain outbreaks.
He assured the stakeholders that the National Assembly would work assiduously with the Federal Ministry of Health and NCDC to contain the coronavirus, should it find its way into Nigeria.
According to him, at the moment entry points were being well monitored to check those coming into Nigeria for potential cases of infectious diseases.
“This is especially for people coming from China.
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“We will find out their health status, which part of China they are coming from.
“Anyone that has potential symptoms will be quarantined as a preventive measure,” he said
Dr. Ifeanyi Nsofor, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Nigeria Health Watch, who moderated the event, said the “#PreventEpidemicsNaija” meeting was very important and timely because of the coronavirus outbreak in the world and the Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria.
Nsofor stated that every country should have a vital interest in being prepared for epidemics.
Mrs. Vivianne Ihekweazu, Managing Director, Nigeria Health Watch, thanked the legislators for their suggestions on how to address epidemic preparedness in Nigeria.
Ihekweazu said that encouraging states to strengthen primary health care would significantly prevent outbreaks and when they occurred, it would be easier to contain them with functional primary health centres.