December 03 (THEWILL) – The World Bank Group has called on the federal government to impose special taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and sugary drinks to improve primary health care.

“If we are to improve health care in Nigeria, we have to tax the things that kill us. The economic rationale for taxing these products is strong if we are to save lives and create a better and healthier Nigeria, ”said Shubham Chaudhuri, Country Director for Nigeria, World Bank Group, on Friday.

Chaudhuri spoke on Friday in Abuja at a special meeting of the National Health Council hosted by the Federal Ministry of Health.

He noted that taxes on tobacco, alcohol and sugary drinks would reduce the health risks associated with their consumption and expand fiscal space for universal health coverage after COVID 19.

The country director said investing in stronger health systems for all would help tackle rising poverty and inequalities.

He added that health tax increases would have the added benefit of lowering future health care costs by curbing the growth of noncommunicable diseases caused by tobacco, alcohol and sugary drinks.

In his message of goodwill to the meeting, WHO Representative in Nigeria Dr Walter Mulombo said he can attest to the enormous health needs of Nigerians and the efforts so far to meet the needs. .

He said his attestation was based on the fact that he had visited half of Nigeria’s 36 states in less than two years in the country.

Mulombo noted that while COVID-19 revealed weaknesses in the global economy, including health, he saw it as a unique opportunity for a thorough assessment of existing resources and mechanisms to better address prepare for a more resilient future.

He pledged that WHO would continue to lead technical support to Nigeria in the development and implementation of its national policies and plans.

This, he explained, would fit into the context of the global health agenda as reflected in the country’s cooperation strategy.

“We have taken that into account, although we are currently reviewing our operational plan and our budget for the next two years,” he said.

Mulombo said the duty to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by building resilient health systems is a collective responsibility requiring gradual steps in the right direction and continuous improvement.

“The monitoring of the implementation of the resolutions of this Council in accordance with the health program of Nigeria and the world will strengthen the current journey towards the promotion of health, the security of the world and the service to vulnerable people”, he said. -he declares.

In his contribution, UNICEF Chief Health Officer Dr Eduardo Celades noted that he was optimistic that the meeting would lead to recommendations to achieve tangible, equitable and sustainable results for Nigeria.

This, he stressed, was especially aimed at women and children, in line with the SDG vision of “leaving no one behind”.

Celades said that in order to achieve desired results, deliberations would need to match necessary actions.

“Accordingly, I urge Board members and delegates to reflect on how best to overcome the chronic barriers between Nigeria’s great potential and its aspirations in the health sector.

“Among these challenges, it is worth noting a persistent decline in health expenditure as a proportion of GDP from 1.2% in 2004 to only 0.58% in 2018.

“Inadequate funding of primary health care services at service delivery points and the current sub-optimal allocation of N1.5 million per service under the Basic Health Care Delivery Fund.

“Inadequate human resources for health – there are fewer health workers for the Nigerian population, an asymmetric distribution to urban centers, skills gaps, low motivation, weak regulation and low visibility.

“Sub-optimal primary health care infrastructure and equipment, inconsistent availability of essential commodities and supplies, and poor maintenance culture.

“Weak coordination and accountability mechanisms leading to overlap, inefficiencies and lack of value for money are the others.

“By working together, we can solve problems using proven strategies and the best available practices,” he said.

Celades assured that UNICEF is committed to continuing its partnership with Nigeria to protect and promote the right of everyone to survive, prosper and transform, adding that the organization is determined to apply its comparative advantage as as an agency to support Nigeria’s development efforts in the health sector and beyond.

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