Kenny Oleru, Nigeria Program Officer
Access to safe and effective health care is a basic human right, but for too many people in my home country of Nigeria this can be almost impossible. Many communities rely on local health care centers - known widely as primary health centers or PHCCs - but these facilities are poorly funded by state governments. As a result, they have crumbling infrastructure, inadequate medical supplies and unsanitary conditions. The sad truth is many Nigerians view these centers as hot spots for disease and infection, instead of places for healing.
IBP has partnered with the Community Empowerment Network (COMEN), a community-based organization working across Anambra state, to equip them with the budget skills to advocate for better health services and address the challenges that were resulting in underfunded and neglected facilities. IBP worked with COMEN to rally media, civil society and frontline health workers together to launch the #FixMyPHCC campaign in early 2020 to raise public awareness of the poor state of these health care centers and pressure the government to properly invest in them.
And then COVID-19 hit. Many were concerned that health care centers would exacerbate the spread of the virus, so we had to accelerate our work and demand an immediate response from the government. As a result of our joint budget advocacy with COMEN, the Anambra state government increased budget allocations to the health sector by 6.4 percent in the revised 2020 budget. As a result, 54 percent of health care centers across the state have accessed government funds to address the documented issues.
One lesson we learned in 2020 is timing can be everything. The COVID pandemic presented us with an opportunity to exert pressure on a government already focused on health care and primed to respond quickly. Seizing the moment, we were able to support COMEN in strengthening their budget skills to improve local health care and hold the government accountable moving forward. During the upcoming state elections at the end of 2021, we will work closely with COMEN to leverage this political moment to demand that state officials are held accountable for what they did or did not do to improve community health facilities during the pandemic and beyond.