A non-governmental organization, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) has challenged Nigerian media practitioners to be deeply involved in budget tracking especially in the area of maternal and child health.
Addressing the opening session of one-day budget tracking capacity building training for journalists in Kaduna on Thursday, Programme Officer for CISLAC, Chioma Blessing Kanu told participants that, the training became necessary in order to ensure full implementation of specific budgetary allocation by ministries, department and agencies, aiming at ensuring public accountability.
According to her, if the little percentage presently earmarked for health by Nigerian government is well dispensed and spent, it will go a long way in addressing moribund health facilities particularly at primary healthcare level.
She said, “basically, we have been working in Kaduna for some years now especially in maternal and child health and since that time, we have been engaging other CSOs, executives and legislators. But the new thing we are bringing in is that, we have learnt through need assessment that, media practitioners needed to understand the nitty-gritty of investigative journalism and budget tracking.
“So, today’s meeting is to extend what we have been doing as regarding maternal and child health. We are not only interested in maternal health though but it is among the burning issue now in Kaduna state and we want to see how journalists can help beaming their searchlight to areas where interventions are needed while the implementors can do the needful for the benefit of our women and children.
“We know that the state has high maternal mortality rate is high and we have equally understand that one of the challenges responsible is issue of appropriate funding of health sector. In fact, that has been resonating for sometime now with all stakeholders now talking about what we can do to make this work better.
“We also know that, even as a country, we are yet to meet up with United Nation budget standard that recommended 15 percent for health sector. Now, we have been budgeting between 3-5 percent and even this sometimes, don’t even scale through because people responsible for the follow up are not doing their work which where the media need to really come in to make people more responsible for their action”, she added.
Taking the participants through what he titled ‘understanding the role of media on maternal health’, Media Specialist, Iliya Kure expressed worry that many journalists are not even aware of budget tracking hence finding it difficult to hold policy makers accountable.
He however urged the participants to always strive to look at specific area of interests in state’s budget and try ti follow it ti meaningful conclusion in the interest if the larger society.