The World Health Organization Country Representative (WR), Walter Kazadi Mulombo, has underscored the organization’s commitment to supporting Nigeria in fast-tracking the operationalization of the recently enacted Health Insurance Act.
Dr Mulombo made the pledge during a high-level meeting with the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, the Director General, National Health Insurance Authority (NHIA), Professor Mohammed Sambo and a team of WHO Health Financing Mission delegates from the WHO Geneva, Africa Regional Office and Nigeria.
The first ever High-level WHO Health Financing Mission to Nigeria, led by Dr Joseph Kutzin was scheduled to provide a sustainable health financing support to the country towards Universal Health Coverage (UHC) and health security while undertaking targeted advocacy to accelerate operationalization of the NHIA Act including the Vulnerable Group Fund (VGF). This is in line with WHO’s goal of ensuring that all individuals and communities receive the quality health services they need without suffering financial hardship.
Dr Mulombo said President Buhari’s signing the NHIA Bill into law will make health insurance mandatory for all legal residents in Nigeria and expands coverage to over 83 million poor and vulnerable people. He expressed the optimism that government will prioritize immediate appropriation of the Special Intervention Fund in the Act to establish the Vulnerable Group Fund.
“Indeed, the task of ensuring that all citizens have access to the quality healthcare they need without falling into poverty is a deliberate political decision to achieve the cardinal objectives of population coverage, service coverage, and financial protection. I have no doubts that in a large federal nation like Nigeria, this milestone of appropriating the Special Intervention Fund will be achieved in the 2023 fiscal year”, he said.
In his remarks, Mr Mustapha appreciated WHO as the foremost development partner to Nigeria on health, and louded WHO’s invaluable guidance particularly on the COVID-19 pandemic.
“WHO has demonstrated that it is an organization that cares for and caters for the health needs of the people. On the NHIA, let me commend the DG for his tenacity and determination to have this Act come to fruition. I want to thank WHO and other partners who supported in drafting the Bill. This modest attempt has provided basic health insurance coverage to the vulnerable, and making it mandatory will go a long way in assisting our people to manage their income and remain at work in terms of the depressed economy we are witnessing”.
The SGF further expressed government’s committment to appropriate the Special Intervention Fund (SIF) in the 2023 national budget for the establishment of the Vulnerable Group Fund (VGF). “No family in Nigeria has economically survived catering for any of their own suffering from cancer. The health of our people is therefore topmost on our priorities despite competing demands”, he stated.
During their advocacy visit to the Minister of Health, Dr. Osagie Ehanire, the Minister commended the unique role WHO is playing in the health sector in Nigeria while appreciating her strong commitment and steadfastness to improving the healthcare of all Nigerians at all times.
Earlier, the mission had visited the NHIA headquarters, where Professor Sambo said that although Nigeria has operated health insurance for the past twenty-three years with low citizen coverage because it was not mandatory, the new law has the potential to accelerate achievement of universal health coverage for all Nigerians. The Director General of the NHIA added that WHO’s support so far has been crucial and the Mission is the first of its kind in the history of the organization.
“I have been reliably informed that this is the first high-level mission to the National Health Insurance Scheme now Authority since inception and I have no doubts that this engagement of WHO’s most senior and finest experts in health financing will produce credible results. There is no gainsaying that health is one of the critical elements of development. With the new law and implementation modalities, the NHIA is poised to achieving universal health coverage for all Nigerians soon,” he stated.
The Mission also met with the Senate Committee Chairman on Health Senator Ibrahim Yahaya Oloriegbe, the House Committee Chairman on Health Services, Honourable Tanko Sununu, the Director General of Budget, Dr. Ben Akabueze, and key Development Partners on Health in Nigeria.