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Nigeria’s spending on health is low, says Health Minister

 Nigeria is yet to meet the stipulation of Abuja Declaration that each African country should devote 15 per cent of its national budget to the health sector.
Disclosing this, at the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja  the Minister of Health, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, that allocation to the health sector in the federal budget was between 8 per cent and 9 per cent.
“Disaggregation of data is what interests me because I was with at the Governors’ Forum to see how we can set a benchmark to know how some states are faring on health issues.
“It struck me to know that some states in the north are actually spending over 22 per cent on health and a good number of them are well beyond 15 per cent.
“I think implicit in all of that, states are doing better than the federal in terms of allocation to health and it was there that I also saw that states have come to understand the issue of human resources to health.
“Niger State, for instance, went to Imo State to get resources to work in Niger. Things are beginning to happen because these hospitals need to be run.
“Advertisement for jobs in hospital indicates it’s open to all regardless of the state one comes from,’’ he said.
The minister rejected suggestions that Nigeria was losing the fight against the HIV and AIDS pandemic.
“We are not losing the fight against HIV/AIDS because, first and foremost, it has stabilised in the last four to six years.
“Now those who need treatment have always been getting it because, as at the last count, about 50 per cent of people who need treatment are on treatment.
“The issue is, not everyone who is HIV positive has been tested, and there are people who are living with the virus who have not come forth.
“What we have tried to do is to reduce the stigma and discrimination, and also the population in Nigeria is better informed on the virus.
“What we need to do as a government is to ensure that we do not take our eyes off, so we do not lose the fight. We are on top of it,’’ he said.
Osotimehin urged the Nigeria Medical Association, which has threatened a strike from Sept. 30 over remuneration, to stay action since the government was working out a package for them.
“We are working on it. I am hoping and praying that it will not happen because the government is actively working on it.
“We are conscious of it because we agreed with them for the 30th of September and, by God`s grace, we will not go on strike,’’ he said. (NAN) Intended pilgrims to be educated on swine flu – Minister
The Federal Ministry of Health is to sensitise intending pilgrims for this year’s hajj on swine flu to avoid infection, the Minister of Health, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, has said.
The minister made this known when he featured at the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja.
He said the ministry was working with the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria and the Embassy of Saudi Arabia to provide information about swine flu for the benefit of intending pilgrims.
The minister stressed the need for pilgrims to be on the look-out and “take preventive measures so that they do not get infected”.
“As we go into the Hajj season, we are worried about the large numbers as swine flu is transmitted very easily when people gather together.
“But if they do get infected, we are also working with the medical team, both at the state and federal, that will go with them so that they can be prepared to look after them if any of them falls sick.
“Beyond that, we are also going to wait to receive them because you can actually catch it and on your return you then infect many more people. At the reception site, we give them adequate education and treatment.”
According to Osotimehin, there is no test that can detect swine flu.
“If you look at what is happening in Europe and North America, they have actually abandoned laboratory test in a sense and because of the magnitude of the problem.
“They are now using epidemiology data. If you have a cough and you have flu, you call at a centre and they sell drugs to you and you take it. We are not up to that yet, so we will heighten our surveillance just to make sure we do not get the swine influenza.
“Up till today, we don’t have a case and my colleagues in Africa ask me how Nigeria had escaped. I don’t have that answer. All I know is that we do not have a confirmed case.
“There have been several suspected cases, but we have not confirmed any case. Now the surveillance for that continues to go on,” the minister said.
On Lassa fever, Osotimehin told NAN: “Early warning systems is needed for detection of Lassa fever and, for as long as people are out there looking for them, we will be able to ensure that even if there is a case, we can get drugs quickly to that person so that there will be no mortality.
“Beyond that, there is a larger issue of public education and environmental health and environmental sanitation; these are the things that we need to pay attention to,” the minister said.

Source: Thisday