Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), Malaria and Tuberculosis (ATM) network for the COVID-19 Response Mechanism and Resilient and Sustainable Systems for Health (C19 RM/RSSH), has called on governments, private sectors and other stakeholders to extend the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) programme to the poor and most vulnerable in the society.
Speaking in Awka, Anambra State, during a media briefing, State Coordinator, Mrs Chioma Okeke said NHIS extension would go a long way to accommodate the poor, less educated, unemployed and those challenged by “Pay Out-of-Pocket” for high costs associated with frequent illnesses.
The project led by Civil Society Organisations for Malaria Control, Immunisation and Nutrition (ACOMIN), in Anambra State, also advocated stiffer sanctions against misappropriation or mismanagement of funds to ensure robust public health programmes at all levels in the local governments.
She said, “The National Health Insurance programme enjoyed by the formal sector should be extended to other citizens of Nigeria, particularly the poor and most vulnerable.
“The poor often are less educated and unemployed and cannot consequently pay out-of-pocket for high costs associated with frequent illnesses.
“Funding and finances for primary health delivery should be carefully mapped out and sanctioned against any misappropriation or mismanagement, to enable a robust public health programme at all ward levels in the local government.
“Communication and education programmes can raise knowledge and awareness and, in turn, improve testing and care-seeking.
“There is a great need to educate, engage, and empower the communities to embrace any behavioural change relevant to achieving success in malaria, HIV, and TB control in Nigeria.”
Underscoring the importance of strengthening health systems, providing needed financial resources, renewing political leadership and fostering collaborations.
Okeke stressed that innovations in service delivery and technological adaptations remained critical as countries targeted limit disruptions to routine services.
Okeke further enumerated the group’s achievements in the State including the donation of various medical-related equipment by community members namely safety tanks, water pumping machines, drugs, commodities and consumables.
Others include the donation of beds, mattresses, benches and tables, solar panels, construction of burn and bury pit, perimeter fence, foundation laying and blocks work and tiling of several PHCs and installation of solar street lights among others.
On his part, the zonal Chairman, ACOMIN, Southeast, Professor Dennis Aribodor, expressed the need for the State Government to ensure the sustainability and expansion of the project billed to stop by the end of December 2023.
“Because of the huge success stories and impact associated with the Global Fund project in the 5 LGAs currently being implemented, government needs to ensure its sustainability and expansion to more local government areas before its expiration.”
Earlier, the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Afam Obidike pledged his Ministry’s readiness to provide the necessary support to the Community-Based Organisations (CBOs), revealing that a Mental Health Department had been instituted as part of such efforts.
He also disclosed that the process of restructuring the Ward Development Committee (WDC) structure had already commenced.
“The process will involve leadership of women, youths and religious organisations, while the OIC will serve as the secretary and a WDC chairman as members of the WDC.
“A relative structure will be instituted at the Local Government level, incorporating the Chairman and Director of Health.
“Government has also made available several kinds of delivery equipment including 3.5KVA solar power for facilities,” he said.
Expressing satisfaction with the tremendous efforts of the community members in the rehabilitation and renovation of the facilities, Obidike pledged commitment to sustainability and expansion of the project across other local government areas in the State.
Meanwhile, State Programme Officer, Wisdom Jacob presented pictorial evidence of the project’s success stories so far, both completed and ongoing, even as he informed the Commissioner of the close-out of the project in December.