The Honourable Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire has expressed the wish to deepen the collaboration between his Ministry and the United Nations Funds for Population Activities (UNFPA) because according to him, “there is need for us to find a way to align the economic growth of the nation with the population growth in order to have prosperity which has been one of the challenges we have been grappling with.”
Dr. Osagie Ehanire said this when the United Nations Agency officials paid him and the Minister of State, Dr. Olorunnimbe Mamora a visit on Monday, 14th September, 2020 at the headquarters of Federal Ministry of Health to explore ways for further collaboration not just on population activities but also on the issues of COVID-19.
The Honourable Minister of Health further expressed the wish to have the visits from UNFPA to be more constant given the importance of the Agency to his Ministry and the need to have the collaboration between the two Offices to be much deeper. In the words of Dr. Ehanire, “The need for us to find a way to align the economic growth with population growth has been one of the challenges we have been grappling with. Without this alignment, one is not really going anywhere. If population growth is greater than the economic growth, then one is going backwards. Economic growth should ideally be faster than population growth. So, the need for population management is as important as the need for economic management and in that regards, UNFPA is an important partner.”
Dr. Ehanire also revealed that “President Muhammadu Buhari’s Administration has been working to ensure that we have a par or ideally, that we have economic growth more than population growth.” He said that it is in the light of present Administration’s agenda that “We have to work more with our partners and it is when we are doing so that we can get prosperity.” Prosperity, he said, “means that we are actually getting more balance. And we want to regard your (UNFPA’s) partnership with us (FMOH) as a very critical partnership.”
The Country Rep of UNFPA and also the head of delegation, Uller Mueller, had earlier highlighted the need to renew the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Agency and the Federal Ministry of Health for the procurement of contraceptives as it will be expiring at the end of 2020. Also, there was a demand notice for the “payment of GCCC (Outstanding 2019 and 2020) to the tune of $7.2 Million.” To this, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said: “With regards to MoU renewal, that’s not a problem, which is something we take as a priority just as we take the counterpart funding because of its importance. We know $7.2 Million is still outstanding, there’s a need for us to look deeper into how we can settle that” giving that this is a very difficult economic period for all countries. “These are very difficult times for all countries now, as economic growth is contrasting in many places, nearly all countries in the world are in big competition for resources among all the Departments in every part of the country including Nigeria, so all the Ministries are in competition for the resources.”
On the offer, by UNFPA to support with PPEs, the Honourable Minister expressed gratitude to the UN Agency whilst he also expressed gratitude to UNFPA for its role in the UN Basket Fund which he said gave Nigeria and the Federal Ministry of Health, the confidence to respond to COVID-19 challenges, the way they have been doing.”
Dr. Ehanire requested for specific suggestion by UNFPA on areas where there are bottlenecks or choke points which the Ministry of Health needs to address and fast track about Custom procedures to which the UN Agency said is responsible for making it pay more demurrage to Nigeria Customs Service.
On issues of gender based violence which the head of UNFPA delegation highlighted as an area needing urgent FMoH’s intervention, the Minister said “gender based violence is an area that the present Administration has no tolerance for.” He elucidated that the response of the present administration to the issue encompasses “forensic evidence gathering as a critical part for responding to gender based violence”; “We have also included the collation of data base on sexual offenders complete with DNA analysis so that nobody can escape justice even if it’s years after.”
Dr. Ehanire revealed that the present administration “also aims at having evidence storage capacity so that if we have forensic evidence stored, it does not deteriorate even if it’s years after, we can be able to carry out the analysis. Our target is to have technology to address the issues around gender based violence and make it clear that this is nothing to be tolerated anymore.”
On efforts which the Health Team has been making to maintain routine services in our health care institutions in the face of COVID-19 threat, the Honourable Minister said “This is something that is of concern; we have drawn attention to that, when we had the opportunity to talk and we are taking it very seriously. At a time, we begin to worry whether limitations on routine service delivery would not be taking more lives than COVID-19; so we are trying to create a balance between attending to COVID-19 patients and attending to routine services and we could see the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and Family Health have been playing very important roles in creating confidence in our health care system. They were both instrumental in creating advocacy with the Governors to ensure that there is no neglect in routine health service delivery which was caused by the fear of COVID-19 and also excessive focus on COVID-19. So we have that ability not to forget routine health services particularly immunization, family health, Routine Maternal and Child Health (RMCH).”
Dr. Osagie Ehanire further apprised the visitors about the latest agenda of the Ministry on Primary Health Care Centers (PHCs): “We are trying to expand our primary health care system; for us, it’s an extremely important programme because it’s a platform from which very many services can be delivered. We are looking at building the infrastructure; design of the primary health care that will offer services round the clock, not just from 8.00 a.m – 4.00 p.m because that solves only half of the problem, because there are a lot of problems that arise from 5.00 p.m, particularly deliveries. We are trying to improve on the physical access, financial access and then perhaps other administrative access.”
The Honourable Minister requested UNFPA to help in collating data for easing restrictions and social determinants of access to health care by not only providing the structure, the human resources but also the transport and then financing the service delivery. “We are working with the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) using the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) to give at least about 83 Million Nigerians access to health care.”
The Minister also sought the assistance of UNFPA in putting in place National Emergency Medical System and Ambulance Scheme (NEMSAS) which he envisioned will pick needy Nigerians from home to PHCs/General hospitals. “For the NEMSAS project, we are trying to pool the resources of the private and public sectors and working with the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) to put in place telephone lines for Nigerians to be able to have access to the NEMSAS services.”
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