By Kadiri Abdulrahman of the Nigerian News Agency (NAN)
The COVID-19 pandemic, without a doubt, has affected the socio-economic well-being of Nigeria and has also exposed the inadequacy and vulnerability of the country’s health system just as it has created medical and economic emergencies across the country. world.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on Nigerians has established a fund to assist households, micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). He set aside the N50 billion Targeted Credit Facility (TCF) – a stimulus package to support households and micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and also spent huge sums to help farmers to stimulate food production.
CBN’s direct intervention in the Nigerian health sector, to build capacity, improve infrastructure, support research and development, and improve preparedness against future pandemics, has been most relevant.
Sometimes in March, the CBN awarded the sum of N253.54 million to five researchers under its Health Sector Research and Development Intervention Program (HSRDIS).
HSRDIS is part of the umbrella bank’s effort to help strengthen the public health system with innovative funding for research and development of new and improved drugs, vaccines, and infectious disease diagnostics.
The program, which was launched in July 2020, was also part of CBN’s policy response to COVID-19.
It was designed to trigger intense national research and development activities to develop a Nigerian vaccine, drugs and herbal remedies against the spread of COVID-19 and other communicable and non-communicable diseases.
The aim was to provide grants to biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies.
The program aimed to boost the domestic manufacture of essential drugs and vaccines to ensure their sustainable domestic supply and reduce the wholesale manufacturing costs of drugs, herbal medicines and vaccines in Nigeria.
Federation Government Secretary Boss Mustapha praised the CBN for its support for the health sector, especially with the COVID-19 outbreak.
“COVID-19 has had unwanted and negative effects, but it has also provided us with an opportunity to transform our health care delivery system.
“This CBN HSRDIS will result in the building of great institutions so that when we face another pandemic, future generations will benefit from these institutions,” he said.
According to CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele, COVID-19 has exposed the weaknesses of Nigeria’s health care system.
Emefiele said a healthy and safe workplace is necessary for continued economic growth as well as for the stability of the financial system.
He described health care as the foundation for the development of any nation, which deserved adequate funding for its research and development.
“CBN, working with the federal government, has decided that we need to start looking inward and supporting ourselves.
“This is the main reason why CBN created the body of experts to lead HSRDIS.
“The emphasis on research and development in developed countries has helped the development of COVID-19 vaccines,” he said.
Emefiele said more than 200 proposals were received, of which 68 were rated and the top five selected.
He said the program would provide grants to enable research and development activities in vaccines, drugs and herbal remedies against COVID-19 and other infectious diseases.
He called on other corporate institutions to work with the CBN to fund research and development for the benefit of all Nigerians, while urging grantees to use grants wisely.
The Director General of the Nigerian Institute for Pharmaceutical Research and Development (NIPRD), Dr Obi Adigwe, said the institute has the capacity to develop world-class phyto-medicinal products to combat infectious diseases s ‘it was properly funded.
Adigwe stressed the need for Nigerians to appreciate the importance of pharmaceutical research and development for the country to ensure drug safety.
He cited the COVID-19 pandemic as creating opportunities for better funding for research on tropical and other diseases, adding that the NIPRD had already developed protocols to test locally made ventilators and disinfectant delivery devices. .
“Funding is integral to drug safety. NIPRD scientists are world class and we intend to make Nigeria the center of pharmaceutical research and development in Africa.
“Some funding has come from the Central Bank of Nigeria lately, to support research and development of phyto-drugs, but it should not be left to government alone,” Adigwe said.
Also in response to the pandemic, the CBN took steps to extend credit facilities of up to N100 billion to support response efforts geared towards the health sector.
The aim of the intervention, according to CBN, was to stimulate economic activities at the local level in the health sector.
He assured that this decision would make the products and services of the sector easily accessible to Nigerians, thus strengthening, diversifying and expanding the capacity of the Nigerian health sector.
The intervention aimed to reduce medical tourism; provide regular funding for infrastructure development and provide affordable credit to support local production by pharmaceutical companies.
“It would also reduce reliance on foreign health care and currency retention for health care,” the umbrella bank said.
In March, the umbrella bank announced that it had disbursed more than 85 billion naira to no less than 80 projects under the program.
The bank’s director of development finance, Mr. Yila Yusuf, said the projects included medical, pharmaceutical, herbal and other related products, and even a funeral home.
“Under the Health Care Credit Support Program, we have disbursed over 85 billion naira to more than 80 projects, mainly to reposition and improve the capacity of hospitals and pharmaceutical companies. We even funded a funeral home, ” he said.
The main mandate of the CBN is to ensure monetary and price stability; issue currency which is legal tender in Nigeria; maintain external reserves to safeguard the international value of legal tender.
Its mandate is also to promote a healthy financial system; and act as a banker, while providing economic and financial advice to the federal government.
However, over the years, the umbrella bank has performed other major development functions, focusing on all key sectors of the Nigerian economy, such as agriculture, industry and health.
Nigerians are hopeful that its recent intervention through funding healthcare research and development, as well as its healthcare credit support program, could effectively stem the tide of medical tourism. (NOPE)
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