Aminat Isah, Abuja
The Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Dr. Ibrahim Oloriegbe, and the Chairman, Senate Committee on Primary Healthcare and Communicable Diseases, Utazi Chukwuka, have advocated for better funding of emergency epidemic outbreaks such as Coronavirus, Ebola and the likes.
The lawmakers stated this in Abuja on Wednesday at the Nigeria Health watch Program theme: “Legislating Epidemics” laying more emphasis on the need to make available external funding outside the normal budgetary allocation as a way of preparedness towards emergency epidemic outbreak.
Speaking on the level of preparedness of the country regarding Coronavirus, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Health, Dr Ibrahim Oloriegbe said although the government is trying her best in terms of preparing for outbreak eventualities, but was not sure as to whether or not the funding of 70million naira, which the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire said has been realeased to upscale the port health authority was enough as Nigeria is surrounded by numerous porous boarders.
According to Oloriegbe, in the eventful outbreak of any emergency epidemic, there is always a transcending effect of such outbreak on the economy of the nations where it occurs, hence the need for a multi-sectoral approach in the fight against epidemics by taxing all that is involved especially the private sector with a legislative backup.
“We need to create special funding for emergency outbreak of epidemics, and these funds should be reinforced by the national assembly. I advocate for funding for epidemic not through budget alone to be able to see both private and public sector epidemic funding.
” When epidemic occurs it has a devastating effect on economy, the economy affected more. So you have to involve the private economy not through donation, but through a legislative action that identify certain instruments of fund.
“For example can we tax certain profits of some key sectors that are usually affected by epidemics so that those funds goes into the additional fund from public funding.
“Currently, we have the one per cent of the consolidated revenue fund and and there is no legislation that the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) should receive an X amount from that one per cent. It is only through policy guideline that it received 2.5 per cent of the fund and we need to legislate to increase it.” Explained Oloriegbe
Similarly, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Primary Healthcare and Communicable Diseases, Utazi Chukwuka, noted with dismay the inadequate preparedness of the country in the eventual outbreak of epidemic diseases despite the Ebola experience of 2014 which claimed the life of Nigerian physician, Stella Adadevoh.
Advocating for more funding for emergency epidemic outbreak, Utazi disclosed that the National Assembly has planned to review the National Health Act, saying that the NCDC was not financially empowered enough to carry out its functions in the fight against emergency epidemic outbreak.
He explained that the position the legislative arm of the government has taken for the prevention of coronavirus in Nigeria is to ensure that the Ministry of Health works assiduously with the National Centre for Disease Control through profiling of everyone coming through all entry points in the country.
While those with high suspicion rate be isolated to avoid transmission of infection, especially with regards to people from China.
“The Minister of Health, Osagie Enahire, is getting the needed support from government to do the work.
“Before the outbreak, we have made up our mind on the review of the National Health Act. We want to increase funding for NCDC. Once they have that, they can increase their presence and do other things but without that, they cannot.
“The DG of NCDC stated the fact (that it could not increase its presence at the border during a meeting with the House of Representatives members on Tuesday) not to please anybody but to let them know the challenge of the centre.
“When we do the amendment, it is important that all those that will legislate on it would have known the limitations of the NCDC so that we can graduate the Basic Health Fund. We need to do this for emergency response and to procure state of the art equipment for use at their laboratory and analyse data. They cannot do this without more funding,” Utazi further explained.
Utazi further said the country should not allow it to be caught pants down in the process of emergency epidemic outbreaks, but be at alert all times by being prepared for any eventualities through effective increased funding for extra dedicated funding outside the budgetary allocation.
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