By Jonathan Ugbal; Government House Correspondent
Cross River Governor, Senator Ben Ayade has announced that the state will budget 5 million dollars annually to combat Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) and ensure that they are completely eliminated by 2020.
Ayade who said the state is also going to allocate 15% of its budget to the health sector with both decisions informed by the London Declaration stated this, moments ago at the Global Partners Session at the ongoing NTDs summit at Geneva, Switzerland organized by the World Health Organization.
Ayade when asked by the moderator Daniel Normandeau how the state intends to eliminate NTDs by the year 2020 as earlier stated by his administration and reported by CrossRiverWatch at the third discussion of the afternoon session which focused on NTD financing in the era of Universal Health Coverage and Sustainable Development Goals, said plans were already in place with the state’s social health insurance scheme tagged ‘Ayadecare’ to play a vital role in the fight against NTDs.
“In Nigeria, when drugs come, they land in the hands of the governors of the various states. In Nigeria we have 36 states and most of the states in the southern flank of the country are riverine areas that are highly endemic to these diseases and so as a Governor of one of the states, these drugs fall squarely under my control and the need therefore to ensure that these drugs get to the final ultimate end user becomes imperative.
“As a government which wants to ensure that drugs get to the end user, we pay salaries of Primary Health Workers. We introduced drug delivery systems to ensure that all of those people who can get to very difficult and Hard to Reach Areas get these drugs distributed.
“As you are well aware, most of these areas in Africa are not just areas you can just drive to and just drop the drugs. The challenge is huge, therefore domestic public funding is critical if these drugs must ultimately find value and that is why as a Governor recognizing the challenges that besets this program and with the aggressive policies that we have made based on the London declaration, and as Government we made it very clear that we will make a budgetary provision from our state national budget.
“From our state budget, we are setting aside 15 percent of our budget dedicated to health. Aside this, we are making a provision of USD5 million annually set aside for NTDs elimination, that is the great announcement I want to make here.
“And I need to make it very clear also that this funding will be set aside collaborating with International agencies requesting further support to ensure that these drugs are actually delivered to the grassroots.
“We must also recognize that I have set up ‘Ayadecare’. The ‘Ayadecare’ is a comprehensive health insurance cover where working class citizens pay just a token of 2 dollars a month which gives comprehensive health insurance coverage for the entire state.
“That ultimately means 4 million people will come under insurance cover while only the healthy and the active working force people pay for the weak and the sick.
Ayade who was accompanied by Health Commissioner, Inyang Asibong said the “aggressive structure that we have developed in ensuring that public plus private equity” is deployed to handle the issue of tackling NTDs, then the state will achieve its goal.