Access Bank, Friends Africa Galvanise Global Support To Boost Healthcare

Access Bank

By successfully staging the Africa Health Innovation Meeting on the sidelines of the just concluded World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa, Access Bank Plc, Friends Africa and the Global Fund have no doubt enlisted African health, particularly the Nigerian health sector, financing on the international scene, James Emejo writes

In its new study titled: “Health in Africa Initiative: Private Health Market Studies, Nigeria”, International Finance Corporation (IFC) estimated that Nigeria required a total of $4.5 billion to make quality health services accessible to its people. The report also stated that at the national level, it would require about $3 billion to fix the health system while the bankable financing need for Primary Health Institutions (PHIs) alone was estimated at $1.5 billion. Meanwhile, most of Africa’s basic health system, particularly Nigeria, remained a challenge having suffered decades of neglect and lack of proper financing – a situation that had resulted in avoidable deaths and massive capital flight to several destinations of the world as people sought better medical advice. The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) recently estimated that the country could be losing close to $800 million annually to medical tourism as statistics suggested about 5,000 Nigerians find their way to India annually for medical tourism. This ugly trend is said to put the lives of about 4.5 million children to death annually as a result of communicable diseases which could have been prevented anyway. But sourcing the huge funding requirement to help fix the health system has remained a daunting challenge for governments amid other pressing needs, including basic infrastructure in most African regions. Interestingly, government has admitted it could not fix the problems in the
health system alone and had solicited the participation of the private
However, concerned with the deteriorating condition of the health
sector and the need to take proactive steps in addressing the challenge, Access
Bank, Friends Africa- a brainchild of the former Chief Executive, Access Bank,
Mr. Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, as well as the Global Fund launched an initiative to
mobilise awareness and innovative financing by all stakeholders to fix the rot
in Africa’s health system.
At the health summit themed: “Leapfrogging
Development Challenges to Transform Africa’s Health” on the occasion of the WEF
Africa 2014, Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Dr.
Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who declared the meeting opened, said the federal
government would sustain and improve funding for health interventions despite
security challenges in the country.
The minister who cautioned that Overseas
Development Funds were experiencing a decline charged African countries to seek
innovative means of financing health care services.
Back home, she said
proceeds from the partial oil subsidy scheme was already being ploughed back
into health care services noting that there had been positive
Okonjo-Iweala said: “The results that are coming in show that
things are working; we have trained over 7,000 health workers that are going
into the rural areas, part of this money is being used in a creative way partly
for conditional cash transfers to entice families and women to have prenatal
care, have skilled birth attendants, and immunise their children among others.
We are committed to it, and we are going to continue to push that hundred
billion dollars a year for the next five years equivalent for our programmes,
and we have also promised incremental resources for our Polio, HIV/AIDS, TB and
Malaria over and above what we were doing before.” Aig-Imoukhuede, who is the chairman of board of the Friends Africa, said there had been increasing concerns globally over the dearth in innovative technologies and the weakening of the African health system from the impact of an expanding continent with less sophisticated technology at its disposal.

He said an effective internal cooperation was needed to generate innovative health financing which would minimize threats to the future of Africa. He added that while innovative financing was not necessarily sufficient given that other African countries are grappling with the other threats from HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis among others, there’s also need to device innovative approaches and technology that would fight diseases to manageable levels.

He said the gathering was mandated to “join hands to seek outlines and solutions that will help uplift and improve health delivery in Africa.” Group Managing Director/Chief Executive, Access Bank Plc, Mr. Herbert Wigwe, said the campaign was already achieving meaningful results as there had been improved awareness toward the health challenge. He said: “First of all, I think the problem has been that of understanding a
common cause but what you now see is that it is becoming much more topical –
people realize how serious the issue is – you would have 4.5 million children
die every year just from communicable diseases which can be prevented and I
think that growing awareness and the fact that population is also a very strong
thing for Africa…so that whole thing is leading to increased awareness and the
mode of intervention too.”
Wigwe said resolving the health issues required
support from the private sector, government and all individuals.
He said:
“Health financing in itself is critical to solving it from the private sector
but also government’s support is also critical but there are other things that
are just as critical to ensure we fight this issue of disease and health and all
of that which is around partnerships and the mode of implementation in terms of
this crusade to make Africa a much better place.”
According to him, Access
Bank has led efforts in galvanising the private sector – having led an initial
campaign “gift from Africa” in 2010 “where we led several private sector
institutions including Dangote to raise money to support the fight against HIV,
tuberculosis among others.”
He added that that singular effort brought in
about $5 million.

The managing director also disclosed the efforts of the bank to sanitize the diagnostic section of the health delivery system which had often being a major problem. “What we are doing is that for some of the diagnostic equipment we are basically providing long term funding for health centers and hospitals to buy the equipment and sometimes, we create structures through which an intermediary takes these equipment and uses it across several hospitals so that it is not just one person carrying the burden of a particular diagnostic equipment.” Continuing, he said: “So it’s being used and rotated: if it is a scanning machine which may not be affordable by just one institution, it is thereby rotated across several institutions in the course of weeks, months or depending on the regularity. So those are the things we are doing because once the diagnostics are wrong, then you also have much more fundamental problems. So at the basic level, those are some of the things we are doing.”

Essentially, Friends Africa and Global Funds are partnering to spread their workplace and building up capacity for people to understand and attract significant donor funds to the country. “The most important thing for me is that every African child, every Nigerian child should have the same life chances as any child in any of the western world: for most of us who are parents, we would understand it even better because that is the least that these children deserve,” he said.



( Courtesy This Day and AGENCIES …….. Source ……… New Africa Business News)

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