For many years, the welcomed priority, purpose and daily-sensitised goal for Women and Girls, Families and Communities – nationally and across our continent as a whole – has been to solidly create, inform, empower and manifest a true demonstration of equality, access and social responsibility regarding their health, their education and the equitable opportunities afforded to assure and improve basic wellbeing, from birth to age.
Through the continued collaborative efforts of our nation’s healthcare professionals, researchers, thought-leaders, community volunteers and the service users themselves, Nigeria had long subscribed to the notion of investing in Universal Basic Education. However, the first time that citizens experienced the concrete benefit of an intentional basic or primary public health assistance was in 2018, when Nigeria’s 8th National Assembly appropriated the Basic Health Care Provision Fund – a pinnacle moment in the redemption of the 2001 Abuja Declaration towards achieving Universal Health Coverage. Today, that resounding national applause remains of strong resonance to the Joint Civil Society Organisations Primary Healthcare Revitalisation Support Group to the Eighth National Assembly, which I had chaired.
With that being said, a real sense of recurring readiness and receptiveness to campaigns, cultural change and the communication surrounding health and wellbeing as a whole remains palpably evident, statistically proven and collectively celebrated by many – both nationally, and worldwide, and is categorised amongst what still remains a series of promising results acquired through WBFA’s advocacy and partnership efforts with policy-makers and parliamentarians worldwide.
In addition, and perhaps more pertinently given the progression of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, my morale embodies the significance and importance of global partnership interventions such as that of the Global Financing Facility and the Global Citizen Fund. Their commitment to amplifying the importance of collective efforts in acquiring globally accessible health tools and resources during the pandemic, brings us all one step closer to the concept of continuity of services becoming a very possible reality.
As, the Global Financing Facility announced its predictions last week, it conveyed a new set of commitments aimed at mitigating the disruption of services to a number of the countries and global communities most in need. GFF forecasts a possible 18% increase in child mortality, and a 9% increase in maternal mortality across Nigeria over the next year as a direct result of essential health services becoming fragmented during this COVID-19 pandemic. We had only recently learnt the surprising news that Nigeria’s 9th National Assembly had predicted a reduction in the value of the primary healthcare and basic education budgets, which as unaddressed to date – reflect as cuts.
However, as 30th June marked the International Day of Parliamentarianism, I was also caused to reflect upon the OECD’s interpretations of the role of parliaments during the COVID-19 crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic is posing threats not only to human health and life, but also to people’s socio-economic well-being and countries’ economic growth. According to the OECD, the global economy is currently suffering its deepest recession since the Great Depression in the 1930s.
One of the many visible issues of the current pandemic is the rampant unemployment and loss of income. As well as the increase in poverty, it could impede people from accessing basic services due to unaffordability and inaccessibility. It is estimated that 2.9-5.2 million people could lose their jobs in Indonesia as a result of this global health crisis. Clearly the pandemic is heightening inequality and inequity among citizens as well as within the countries themselves.
Yet, presently, the role of parliament is more relevant today than it has been ever before. Parliaments can propose and adopt necessary laws to assist their respective governments in intercepting and tackling COVID-19 and its adverse impacts. Further, parliaments can oversee the expenditure of the public funds related to COVID-19. It is crucial to ensure that the funds are allocated appropriately, and that all individuals receive fair distribution of strategically proposed COVID-19 containment measures.
In responding to the COVID-19 crisis, parliaments in Nigeria, and around the world have also established designated Task Forces for COVID-19, aiming to provide assistance and support in the form of medical equipment and personal protective equipment to hospitals and community health centres, in a globally observed and commended response. Every state has different capacities and resources to counter the challenges, whether it is providing and maintaining optimal and accessible healthcare, upholding a functioning and thriving society or managing the state of the global economic. Therefore, international co-operation is imperative, in order to ensure that states – especially within low- to middle-income countries, are able to thrive in this moment of crisis, and eliminate their obstacles in tackling COVID-19.
Not surprisingly, three weeks ago, I had joined a high-level discussion on how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic perpetuates the pressing need to implement Universal Health Care. In welcoming the Africa Leads UHC One By One 2030 Report, and in the new Unite For Action global commitments, I fully agreed that primary health care must cover the breadth of the journey from hospital to hut in communities, and improve the social determinants of all those living and working therein.
We should not wait to improve the situation until, God forbid, the next crisis occurs. We have to ensure that our nations’ socio-economic development would not leave anyone behind, as envisaged by the 2030 Agenda. In that regard, every decision, law and regulation made must also be based on principles of equality, participation, non-discrimination, accountability and transparency.
I have urged all African Leaders to reinforce and reconfigure their commitments to the 2001 Abuja Declarations in order to exceed the minimum pledged 15% of respective Consolidated Revenue Funds, if we are indeed to fulfil our mantra’s of Africa Rising – to match these global commitments with clear manifestation of a sense and purpose, of evidenced intention, to put our people first, justifying continued global partnerships and multi-lateral assistance.
As we face the prospect of reinstating routine primary health and education services that were so destructively interrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, it is clear that Africa needs to factor in the replenishment and reinforcement of investments in both primary health care, and primary education. In doing so, they will build resilience to emerge from the pandemic in a stronger position than before. We must ensure that our weakest frontline services can deliver a healthier, better and stronger educated future for all.
As we herald the new commitments targeted at mitigating the disruptions of the Sars-Cov2 pandemic, in expectation of focused investments we are reminded then, that the initiation, solution and budgetary injection must primarily derive from the pots that sit within local parliaments, while recalling that in fact, in 2019, the Inter-Parliamentary Union did actively play its part in passing its historic first resolution towards universal health coverage, substantiating global approaches to recordkeeping.
Parliaments themselves should also intensify this co-operation and share their best practices, experiences and challenges in dealing with the COVID-19. International organisations such as the OECD and its Global Parliamentary Network have a pivotal role to play during these unprecedented times. They help to facilitate pertinent policy dialogues on important socio-economic matters and provide us with advice and recommendations, so that parliaments can use them as guidelines to improve the situation and/or propose to its governments.
To use the example of the Indonesian Parliament view that the implementation and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) cannot be postponed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, I restate the fact that the SDGs should be the measure for parliaments to prevent trade-offs in this moment of crisis, for example, between the economy and health, in any laws or programmes. It is also important to emphasise that the entire Indonesian House of Representatives, including those in the commissions, are working to support the implementation and achievement of the SDGs, supporting resolutions relevant to SDGs and that are in the public interest.
This is also the time for us as Nigerians, and as Africans, to open our eyes and realise the importance of improving individuals’ social and economic rights – especially the poor and vulnerable – such as clean water and sanitation (SDG 6) and economic growth tied to decent work (SDG 8). It is clear that fighting COVID-19 requires people to have clean water and sanitation – and not everyone has access to it.
Much of our nation’s willingness to learn, embrace and engage with the plethora of ongoing initiatives that have so positively contributed to the building and delivery of timely, appropriate and affordable care concepts and pathways in Nigeria today, is arguably attributable to the overarching and consistent primary theme of ‘accessibility’ these tremendous efforts were primarily built upon. A fearlessly competent, responsible and promising generation have successfully ensured that accessibility remains a true ethos and the pertinent undercurrent when shaping and delivering an intentional and undeniably imperative standard of care. Sadly, their efforts have now rather tragically arrived at a potential point of trepidation.
These findings should fill every stakeholder with encouraging zeal, renewed passion and an inexplicable sense of determination to work towards establishing tangible, long-term solutions for this pandemic and beyond. We must continue forward – and ensure that a path towards the sustainable replenishment of much needed resources is assured.
To date, the responses and levels of engagement from members of society coupled with repeated statistical confirmations of increased success following the introduction of a number of health and wellbeing initiatives, further echoes my sentiments and of many others. Now more than ever before, the nation requires a firm continuation of a well-functioning, culturally and economically appropriate primary health and basic education system – one which must remain accessible to all and for all, in all its entirety. With this being said then, the most poignant way of ensuring that this can and should be made possible, is to maintain the level of financial input that 9th NASS initially committed to and maintained in the lead up to this unfortunate outcome.
In light of the recent COVID-19 outbreak, and while duly and empathetically acknowledging the economical setbacks that such a global pandemic has birthed, it is with the greatest of respect, care, honour, but also pride for all that we as a nation have achieved, that I make mention of this decision being a very important one.
From our global counterparts and stakeholders, right through to a growing community of invested and daily-committed healthcare and education facilitators here in our nation of Nigeria, the transitions and great strides made and being reflected by way of national and international policy, practice and (societal) position are going from strength to strength. Many of you have responsibly embarked on a lifelong journey which has continuously proven to be of great societal, medical and generational benefit. This is particularly evident statistically.
With health, as with education, the access to upholding and maintaining it, and human engagement really do go hand in hand: the intentional attitude and efforts our nation employs daily in a bid to truly care, educate and continue advocating for a significantly positive quality of life for all, is in actual fact, entirely dependent on the resources being made available to professionals and those within their care.
Access to affordable healthcare and education then, should be a precise and continuous embodiment of the primary intention behind the service and its delivery. I believe that the truest way in which we can continue to facilitate, impact and inform attitudes and approaches to healthcare and education in our nation, in a way that evidently works well, is to truly uphold our level of (physical and financial) input. Only then, can we truly make it holistically accessible.
Last week, I signed my name to join the #GlobalGoalUnite call for urgent investments and actions.
Join me, by signing the campaign here, too: www.globalcitizen.org