Health Budget and COVID-19 in Africa with Dr. Aminu Magashi

AREWA AGENDA – The COVID-19 Pandemic has unfolded many unknown and neglected issues in the health sector globally. Health Connect Magazine interviewed Dr. AMinu Magashi Garba the Coordinator & Founder of Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN) AND Global Co-convener, Community of Practitioners on Accountability and Social Action in Health (COPASAH) on health budget in Africa and many more.

What specific things do you think this pandemic exposes in the health sector globally?

  • The weakness of the health system in many countries has been exposed the more, also readiness of many countries to adequately respond to epidemics and pandemics have been put to test.
  • The need for global collaboration in collective response to pandemics
  • Essential health services for women and children in many lower-income countries have been disrupted by COVID-19, such as outpatient visits and vaccinations for young children in most countries.
  • Disruptionsin care for pregnant women and new mothers, and safe deliveries by skilled health workers are also affected in several countries.
  • Frontlinehealth workers, both at health facilities and in communities, and both public and private providers, with the exposure to COVID-19 have proven to be inadequate, COVID-19 have further exacerbated shortages in the health workforce.
  • Manyhealth systems are overstressed and underfunded and the pandemic’s economic fallout further constrains national fiscal capacity in many countries.

Is the healthcare delivery system in safe hands, looking at what COVID-19 caused globally?

  • The World Health Organization is coordinating the global response and supporting many countries with guidelines and capacity building and with surveillance techniques and quite capable.
  • Many countries have set up presidential and/or national COVID-19 task forces comprising various respective government agencies and development partners to coordinate the pandemic and similar structure that exist at sub-national levels.
  • Civil society organizations, media and professional bodies are engaged and supporting risk communication, advocacy, and awareness creation at country level.

How, in your own assessment, will the budget for health be affected in Africa due to this pandemic?

  • The entire national budgets of countries are affected as lockdown and safety measures had their economic consequences leading to crash of oil prices in international markets, collapse of airline businesses and collapse of hospitality and tourism industry, these formed the major source of revenue for majority of the African countries. In line with that, the health budget as a subset of the overall budget also suffered cuts. However, International and regional finance institutions, private individuals, and other development partners and donors have contributed substantial funds to Africa to provide personal protective equipment (PPE), test kits, surveillance, drugs, and relief materials for people in vulnerable countries in the continent.

What African states should do to remedy the situation?

  • Major investments in disease surveillance, including large-scale testing and contact tracing must be deployed in all African countries. This will require innovative and sustainable health financing mechanisms that could be catalyzed by the support of the international and regional health financing institutions.
  • African countries should and must invest in continental and local manufacturing of personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure adequacy and availability.
  • Protecting all health workers from infection is critical by providing them with personal protective equipment, training, payment of hazard allowance and ensuring health facilities have adequate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Services.

What has been your assessment of budget for health in Nigeria before the pandemic, during and/or after the health challenge?

  • Health budget before the pandemic was already inadequate and not being released on time. Due to the crash of oil prices in international markets, Nigeria’s overall budget and health budget have suffered cuts in terms of releases and expenditure.
  • Post COVID-19, Nigeria needs to ensure effective accountability mechanisms for all COVID-19 finances as well as for other health budgets both mobilized within and from the international community.

What role can other development partners play under this circumstance?

  • Development partners can support in providing more funding and capacity building
  • Can work with the government to train more health workers and help to set up more treatment centers as well as testing centers
  • Can support to strengthen accountability mechanisms both at national and state levels.

Is your organization planning something to help the government, at all levels, regain consciousness and appropriate more for the health sector?

  • The Africa Health Budget Network engages to strengthen government and civil society organizations dialogue aimed at improving accountability and transparency in the way COVID-19 finances are being spent and expended.
  • It also strengthen the voice of civil society organizations and build their capacity on budget analysis, tracking of finances, monitoring the utilization of resources, and providing feedback to presidential or national COVID-19 taskforce across African countries and citizens via media and advocacy.
  • It also advocates to African countries to ensure effective accountability mechanisms for COVID-19 finances are put in place with adequate participation of civil society organizations and media as well as expand membership of presidential or national COVID-19 taskforce across African countries to include civil society organizations and media and other health professional bodies as members for effective coordination, accountability, and transparency of the entire process.

Dr Aminu Magashi Garba (MBBS, DLSHTM, MSc.PH)

Coordinator & Founder, Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN) AND Global Co-convener, Community of Practitioners on Accountability and Social Action in Health (COPASAH)

Arewa Agenda is a Publication of Young writers/journalist from Northern Nigeria towards Peaceful Coexistence and National Development through positive narratives

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