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Lassa fever outbreak a national embarrassment – Health Minister

Dr Isaac Adewole, the Minister of Health, has described the yearly outbreak of Lassa fever in the country as a national embarrassment.

Adewole disclosed this at the Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria (HERFON) health policy dialogue series ‘1’ on Tuesday in Abuja.

Adewole explained that rather than discussing on control measures, efforts should be geared toward ending the scourge. “At Emergency National Council meeting held last week we inaugurated a committee on Lassa fever eradication because I do not believe we should be talking about control, but rather this country should sign off the obituary of Lassa fever.

“I call it an embarrassment because as a nation we cannot witness Lassa fever every year, it is rather abnormal for a nation that has resources like we should have to be witnessing such epidemic,” he said.

Adewole, however, said other efforts of the government at ending scourge include existence of eight functional diagnostic centres across the country and National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

According to him, there is also intensified effort by the government in establishing additional laboratories in Bauchi, Niger, Taraba, Plateau, Nasarawa and Ogun states.

He assured that with the strengthening of the nation’s epidemiology surveillance and response `Lassa fever would be put under locked and key’.

Adewole further said the nation needed to be proactive and institute evidence base measures to confront varying health challenges.

He assured of the President’s commitment toward quick implementation of National Health Act which encompasses adequate and quality healthcare services to all the populace.

According to him, President Muhammadu Buhari will launch basic health provision funds, adding that with such measure government will be able to offer free healthcare services considerable number of Nigerians.

“The Ministry of Health will work with the Primary Healthcare Development Agency and NHIS for assured basic healthcare package for the populace,” he said.

Dr Ben Anyene, Chairman, Board of Trustees, HERFON, however decried non-inclusion of the National Health Act in the 2016 budget proposal.

Speaking on the theme “The 2014 National Health Act; Funding and achieving universal health coverage in Nigeria,” Anyene described its implementation as a way toward attaining universal health coverage.

He highlighted some of the areas covered by the Act to include rights and obligations of users and healthcare personnel, human resources for health and regulations, among others.

According to him, the “implementation is an emergency” considering the components of the Act. However, he urged the federal and state governments to find means of capturing it in the budgets rather than focusing on international agencies funding.

The chairman blamed the challenges of implementation on political will and economic factors, among others. “The basic constraint is the commitment to agree that we need to get this Act implemented the way it is.

“We do not need to have 100 per cent of people agreeing, but if majority of critical stakeholders believe in what we are discussing, we can drive the process.

“The government has no choice of implementing the Act, because it has been signed into law and gazzetted, so it has to implement it otherwise people will have to sue them,” he said.

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