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USAID Allocates N450 million for Health Insurance Scheme in Ebonyi

By Ogodo Mbam , Abakaliki

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has allocated the sum of N450 million, through the Health Policy Plus, towards the commencement of Health Insurance Scheme in Ebonyi State.

The disclosure was made by the Country Director, of HP+, Onoriode Ezire at the Government House, Abakaliki, during a visit by a team from the National Health Insurance Scheme and it's development partners on Governor David Umahi.

Ezire who explained that the gesture was the outcome of Governor Umahi's visit to the Agency last year commended the Governor's political will and drive towards establishing the health insurance scheme in the State.

He described the National Health Insurance as a catalyst for development, adding that HP+ had a track record of transforming the financial narrative of health care as well as develope manpower capacity and policies for the health sector.

According to him, for the health insurance scheme to fully take off in the State, the USAID would first assess selected medical facilities with a view to partnering in their upgrade, as well as train the committees, the officers in charge as well as other personnel right from the ward levels.

Ezire who further expressed satisfaction with the arrangements put on ground so far by the State Government for the program, optimized that the State was capable of attracting up to N1 billion to add to its existing fund for the driving of the scheme.

Ezire explained further: "Your Excellency, remember that early last year, I arranged a visit for you to visit USAID and then you visited.

"And because of that visit, they have allocated a token of about N450 million for us to work with you in Ebonyi State...

"They are going to train all your ward development Committee, if they have been constituted

"They are also going to train the officer in charge.

"The first thing they will do is to assess facilities in the primary health care providers: the number of Primary Health Care providers in the ward; do they have Light, basic medical equipments and other facilities?

"And 45 percent of the fund, through the Primary Health Care Development Agency would be used to address those gaps."

The leader of the team and Overseeing Director of the National Health Insurance Scheme, Ben Omogho, while stating their mission said they were in the State to interface with the State Government on the technical and procedural requirements for the kick-off of the scheme.

He explained that the scheme which covers nine major health aspects: Malaria, Child mortality, Pregnancy etc. has been operative at the federal level since 2005.

He however noted that the review in 2012 gave approval for the States to join the scheme while the 2014 National Health Act stipulates that both the federal and state governments should provide at least, 1 percent of their statutory allocations to the scheme.

Omogho regretted that almost all the States have not joined the scheme but commended the giant strides of Governor Umahi which has made Ebonyi among the first to begin actions in that regard.

He noted that the scheme would further guarantee to the citizens the full enjoyment of the huge investments of the Governor in the health sectior and lunch the state into the nationall target of universal health coverage in the near future.

Responding, Governor Umahi expressed the readiness of the State to key into the scheme, adding that the State has already set up a board to oversee the scheme with an appointed chairman.

He added that the State had earlier set out the sum of N800 million towards the commencement of the scheme and directed the State Ministry of Health and it's agencies to immediately carry out Staff audit, facility enumeration and other logistics necessary for the scheme to take off.

He however urged the NHIS, USAID, HP+ and other partners to first focus on health facility upgrade before expending the funds in training so as to guarantee the availability of quality equipments for the take off of the scheme.

He assured that all the knots would would be tightened within a week for the immediate commencement of the scheme in the State.

Umahi concluded: "I can assure you that within next week, we will put everything in order.

"We will do everything to support you set up the scheme.

"I think we can walk the rope and be the first."