*Calls for transparency, proper utilisation of COVID-19 funds
By Doosuur Iwambe, Abuja
The Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN), has said that vaccination is the best weapon and strategy in the fight against the novel coronavirus disease also referred to as ‘COVID-19’.
Dr. Aminu Magashi, AHBN Coordinator therefore encouraged Nigerians to take COVID-19 vaccines and shun all forms of conspiracy theories adding that all vaccines are very safe.
Speaking during a 2-day annual conference of the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ) in Nasarawa State, the AHBN boss noted that for Nigeria to expect full recovery from the pandemic, government and policy makers must prioritise health.
In his presentation titled: ‘Nigeria’s COVID-19 Funding and Recovery Plan: The place of the media’, Dr Magashi who was represented by Dr. Obinna Onuoha, AHBN Senior Programme and Partnership Officer also called on the Federal government to ensure efficient and transparent utilisation of all COVID-19 funds.
According to him, every COVID-19 funding and recovery plan touches the lives of all Nigerians, and as such, the public should be adequately informed on how each penny is utilised.
Dr Magashi while calling on ANHEJ members to ensure they ask hard questions on the type, nature and duration of funding support for every recovery plan said, the media stands front-line and centre in ensuring that all Nigerians are well-informed with facts.
He said, “With all the efforts underway towards recovery from COVID-19, the media stands front, line and centre in ensuring that all Nigerians are well-informed with the facts: what funding has been received and from whom, what plans from the Government are in place to utilize these funds to provide quality health, what are the checks and balances to ensure these dedicated funds offer value for money, what are the steps taken to ensure all concerned parties are held accountable in the disbursement and utilization of these funds, what are the feedback mechanisms from the beneficiaries of these health interventions, and how are the challenges and lessons carried forth for future reference, that we may learn from the past.
“In our ever-connected world, information is power, information is key. Therefore, as health journalists entrusted with the revered responsibility of providing answers to these questions, Nigerians look up to you as custodians of factual, verified and timely information.
“Every COVID-19 funding and recovery plan touches the lives of all Nigerians, and as such, we must ensure that the public is adequately carried along. If you have not heard it before, I say it to you now, you are saving millions of lives by the work that you do.
“As health journalists, you have the mandate to ask the hard questions that no one wants to ask, on the type, nature and duration of funding support for every recovery plan. Transparency, mutual accountability, consensus and collaboration are the fruits we can expect to see when all Nigerians are well informed and presented with the facts.
“This is how we can build back better. In so doing, we will steer this great nation closer to seeking the quality health Nigerians are entitled to, not only by their innate rights as human beings, but also as enshrined in the National Health Act 2014, by which we are compelled to uphold.
“Health should be our number one priority if we are to expect full recovery from COVID-19, and I believe this has been reiterated by the Federal Government’s declaration to end COVID-19 by 31 December, 2022.
“We thus turn to you our esteemed colleagues in the media, to keep Nigerians abreast of all activities that will bring the much-needed succour, especially to the most vulnerable among us, and terminate this scourge of COVID-19. For without good health, we all would not be in this room”, Dr Magashi said.
The AHBN boss further commended various donors, development partners and philanthropic organisations that have contributed to ensure that Nigeria builds back from this pandemic.
“I would also like to acknowledge and thank the leadership and coordination of the Federal Ministry of Health, the Federal Ministry of Finance, the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, NCDC, NPHCDA, the Budget Office of the Federation, including the Office of the Accountant-General of the Federation, and all relevant MDAs in ensuring that health programmes and their required funding are in place to tackle COVID-19.
“Special thanks and recognition also goes to WHO, Unicef, the World Bank, the IMF and other development partners who have deployed funds and resources towards this cause.
“Indeed, the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is not a singular health issue, because we have seen that its effects are multi-faceted and far reaching into our socio-economic fabric.
“Thus, when we talk of recovery, we must also include social protection programmes, job creation and the building of social infrastructure like roads, access to water/sanitation, and electrification schemes”.