“Nobody can afford not to have an encounter with a healthcare facility. You can put your money under a rug and never visit a bank, but at some point in life you must visit a health facility. Without a budget line for Infection Prevention and Control, we are at the mercy of whatever funds are thrown at us. If we are not in charge of our funding, we cannot be in charge of our destination.” — Dr. Tochi Okwor, Head of IPC, NCDC and Chair, Nigeria AMR Coordination Committee
Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) is a scientific and evidence-based approach to preventing infections in health facilities and ensuring every patient is given safe, quality health care. It is everyone’s responsibility and requires not just continuous efforts and action across all levels of the health system and communities, but the will of policymakers to ensure the health and well being of all Nigerians is protected.
A 2019 country-led mid-term joint external evaluation (JEE) of Nigeria’s International Health Regulations (IHR) Core Capacities highlighted IPC as a critical indicator of the country’s readiness to prevent and respond to public health emergencies. Having moved from a JEE score of 2 (reflecting limited capacity) in 2017 to to JEE score of 1 (reflecting no pertinent capacity) in 2019, there is a need to address some of the gaps in IPC practices in our health facilities and communities, through increased and sustained funding.
From 20th to 22nd of March, we participated in a workshop on IPC Budget Advocacy. The 3-day event, which held in Abuja, involved 30 participants and engaged government, health sector partners, civil society organizations (CSOs), and media professionals.
Jointly led by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), with support from African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET) and Resolve to Save Lives, the goal of the workshop was to increase and improve domestic financing for IPC interventions and activities across the country. This is a crucial part of ensuring that Nigeria can sustainably continue to fund IPC at all levels.
“Increase domestic financing for infection prevention and control. If you take out funding, nothing really happens. That is a sustainable way to support IPC programs at all levels.” –Dr. Tochi Okwor
The first day of the workshop involved engagement with government and health sector partners which included representatives from the Federal Ministry of Health, NCDC, NPHCDA, AFENET, World Health Organization, Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, Global Health Advocacy Incubator, and the United States Centre for Disease Control (US CDC). Participants were briefed on the National IPC program and budget advocacy requirements.
There was also an experience sharing session as well as a technical session on the development of creative briefs and messaging for IPC budget advocacy. This session was followed by group work, where we mapped stakeholders and developed key messages for the advocacy campaign. Thereafter, we reviewed the draft IPC budget advocacy strategy to ensure that key activities were aligned to the three core strategies: building a coalition with key stakeholders, building public demand for IPC funding through media advocacy, and advocating for transparency and accountability in budget utilization activities.
Having engaged with government and health sector partners on the first day, the second day involved a meeting with Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) who can go beyond where the government can. The focus was to guide CSOs to leverage their experience and translate the advocacy message to the public in a simple and effective way to generate demand for IPC funding. Stakeholders included representatives of Africa Health Budget Network, and Vaccine Network for Disease Control, alongside members of our team.
Since IPC is every Nigerian’s business, the need to get citizens informed and involved in advocating for a domestic budget line for IPC led to the third day of the workshop engaging media professionals and consultants. We were joined by journalists from media organizations like Premium Times, Newsbar, WaZoBia FM, and Kiss FM, among others. We held a brainstorming session to determine how journalists can better work with the government to educate the public. At the end of the workshop, journalists and IPC experts were also able to articulate how the media could reach those who make decisions to fund IPC within key arms of government.
There is an organized way to create tangible impact in the lives of Nigerians and the average Nigerian patient through IPC, however there is a need for a strong domestic budget to fund these plans. It is obvious that without funding, Nigeria cannot ensure the health system consistently delivers quality care through IPC, and thus, may have to depend on a fire brigade approach towards preventing infections. Nigerians are entitled to good, quality care at all times and as such, domestic funding is non-negotiable not just for delivering on the mandate of protecting the health and well being of Nigerians, but also to achieve our national IPC strategy, as well as the IPC requirements for our national health security.