Health budget increased marginally, but experts say it’s insufficient

- Arjun Poudel, Kathmandu

May 30, 2019-

The government has allocated Rs 68.78 billion to the health sector for the upcoming fiscal year, a slight increase from the Rs 64 billion that was allocated to the sector for the current fiscal year.

Health experts, however, said that the increase is nominal, and not enough to achieve several health goals, which the country has committed to with the international community.

Grants of Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital, Nepal Police Hospital, Nepal Army Hospital, Civil Hospital and others are also included in the health budget.

The minimal increase in the health budget stands to affect several government programmes that are running in the current fiscal year, such as those related to providing relief to patients suffering from eight non-communicable diseases and the safe motherhood programme. Lack of funds in the safe motherhood program has put the lives of many women and their newborns at risk.

“If we separate the grant allocated to hospitals and institutions and the budget needed to continue existing health programmes, the budget allocated to the health sector for the upcoming fiscal is not encouraging,” an official at the Health Ministry said on conditions of anonymity. “Increased salaries of the staff also has to be adjusted from the health budget itself.”

However, on an encouraging note, the government has allowed incentives to certain sections, such as Female Community Health Volunteers, who have played an important role in running several health programmes including maternal and newborn health programmes. The volunteers were also instrumental in limiting the

outbreak of waterborne diseases, assisting in family planning, reducing malnutrition, et cetera.

The government has also allocated travel allowance—Rs 3,000—to female community health volunteers. There are over 52,000 female community health volunteers serving across the country. Giving precedence to menstrual hygiene, the government has announced it will make sanitary pads available in all community schools throughout the country. This move is expected to improve the attendance of girls in schools.

Similarly, the government has also allocated budget to administer vaccine against human papilloma virus to prevent cervical cancer in women. Studies show that cervical cancer is the most common cancer in Nepal.

Studies also show that two out of every three deaths in Nepal are caused by non-communicable diseases, such as heart diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lower respiratory infection and stroke. To raise awareness against non-communicable diseases, the government has also made provisions in the budget to launch a health awareness campaign.

The government has also allocated budget to provide relief to patients suffering from kidney diseases, cardiovascular diseases, cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, spinal injury, head injury and sickle cell anaemia.

Additionally, the budget has made provisions to upgrade the National Public Health Laboratory and set up high tech laboratories in all provincial levels.

Published: 30-05-2019 10:57

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