Published On: January 28, 2023 09:00 AM NPT By: Republica | @RepublicaNepal
State Minister for Health and Population, Dr Toshima Karki on Friday announced that preparations are being made to increase the budget allocated for the health sector. Addressing a press conference organized at the ministry, Minister Dr Karki revealed that they are working to formulate a new health finance strategy in order to increase the budget meant for the health sector. “If a government cannot invest enough in education and health, then it is understood that the government is not responsible,” said Dr Karki, who was one of the supporters of Dr Govinda KC, who staged protests to bring reforms in Nepal’s ailing health sector. As a newspaper, we appreciate the announcement made by Minister Dr Karki and wish all the success in her endeavor. In fact, the health budget in Nepal is a critical issue that needs to be addressed. With a population of over 30 million people, Nepal has a high burden of disease, with significant health challenges including high maternal and child mortality rates, a high incidence of infectious diseases, and a rapidly increasing burden of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. The country is also facing the challenges of an aging population and a high burden of mental health issues. The COVID-19 pandemic that wrecked havoc recently has exposed the dire situation of Nepal’s health sector.
Despite these challenges, the health budget in Nepal has remained woefully inadequate. The government's allocation for health in the current fiscal year is less than 4 percent of the total budget. This lack of adequate funding has led to a shortage of essential medicines and medical equipment, inadequate staffing at health facilities, and a lack of resources for public health campaigns and disease control programs. The inadequate health budget has resulted in poor health outcomes for the population. According to the World Health Organization, Nepal has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the region, with 174 deaths per 100,000 live births. The country also has high infant and under-five mortality rates, with 32 and 41 deaths per 1,000 live births respectively. Additionally, the burden of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS is high, with limited resources to effectively control and treat these diseases. This also affects the accessibility of health services for the larger population. Many people in remote and underserved areas lack access to basic health services, and even in urban areas, the quality of health services is often poor due to a lack of resources. The failure of the government to allocate a budget to the health sector has made people who cannot afford to get medical treatment from private hospitals unable to access health care services. The mushrooming number of private hospitals is not a sign of success but a distressing sign of failure of the government to provide basic health services to its citizens.
Needless to say, increasing the budget for the health sector is critical as this would allow for the expansion of health services, including the provision of essential medicines and medical equipment, the construction of new health facilities, and the hiring of additional staff. This would increase access to health services for the population, particularly in remote areas. Furthermore, increasing the health budget would also enable the government to invest in public health campaigns and disease control programs, which would help to prevent the spread of infectious diseases and reduce the burden of non-communicable diseases. This would ultimately save lives and reduce healthcare costs in the long run. Increasing the health budget also means enabling the government to invest more in strengthening the health system such as improving the availability, accessibility, and quality of health services and strengthening the health workforce and health information systems. This will enable the country to more effectively respond to health emergencies and disasters, and better manage the ongoing public health challenges. Thus, the health ministry’s plan to increase the budget for the health sector is an urgent and necessary step towards improving the health of the population. The government must prioritize the health sector in its budget and allocate the necessary resources to ensure that all citizens have access to quality health services. Investing in the health sector is an investment in the future of the country, and it is essential to ensure that Nepal's population can live healthy, productive lives.
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