A group of Civil Society Organisations under the aegis of Partnership for Advocacy in Child and family health (PACFaH) in Nigeria has warned that delay in vaccination will result in death of over 50,000 by 2020.

The group which comprises of Association for the Advancement of Family Planning (AAFP), Centre for Health Research Initiative in Nigeria (CHR), Civil Society for Scaling up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), development Research and Projects Centre (dRPC), Federation of  Muslim Women Organizations of Nigeria (FOMWAN), Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria (HERFON), and Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) has called on governments at all levels to identify innovative mechanisms to provide adequate funding for effective child and family health in Nigeria.

Speaking recently in an interactive session on TVC in Lagos, the group urged the government to ensure adequate funding of four important areas in child and family health such as Routine Immunization, Family Planning, Amoxicillin as first line treatment for Pneumonia and ORS-Zinc as treatment for childhood diarrheal diseases, and Nutrition.

Speaking at the event, the Executive Director of Community Health and Research Initiative (CHRI), Dr. Muhammad Inuwa Shuaib, added that Nigeria has recorded significant progress in reducing childhood mortality, and vaccines have been a significant contributor.

“New vaccines such as the Pentavalent vaccine have been introduced and Routine Immunization (RI) coverage has improved significantly from about 48% to 50 % in 2012 and 2013, to coverage of 87% nationwide in 2014. Also, Nigeria is moving towards Polio Interruption and Eradication as, throughout 2014, only 6 cases were reported. Government of Nigeria (GoN) plans to introduce 5 new life-saving vaccines between 2014 -2018, including malaria (when licensed) and the updated Routine Immunization program can save 1.2 million lives between 2015 and 2020, compared with the current program.”  He stressed.

He however, warned that delay in introduction of the new vaccines by one year will result in no fewer than 5,000 deaths over 2015-2020; delaying by two years would result in 50,000 more deaths over 2015-2020; and choosing not to introduce or sustain key vaccines will result in fewer lives saved.

Shuaibu advised Nigerian government to: increase domestic budget for RI and timely release of funds for vaccines procurement and logistics, to ensure additional vaccines introduced are adequately provided to save more lives of Nigerian children; promote access to needed health care by ensuring 90% coverage for immunizations and deliveries by skilled birth attendants; establish vaccine intervention fund (VIF) to draw contributions from public and private sources; institute transparency and accountability in routine immunization fund by appointing credible Nigerians with a proven track record to manage the fund.

Dr. Philipa Momah who represented Civil Society for Scaling up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN) while responding to questions from journalists, noted that malnutrition, which occurs when people consistently do not consume or absorb the right amounts and types of food and essential nutrients as one of the critical factor hampering child health in Nigeria,.

She said, “Globally, it contributes to nearly half of all child deaths-that is more than 3 million children each year. The main indicator for malnutrition is stunting i.e. when children are too short for their age. Stunted children have poor physical growth and brain development, preventing them from thriving and living up to their full potential. With over 11 million stunted children, Nigeria is confronted with daunting challenge of malnutrition and ranks second behind India among all countries with the highest number of stunted children, she explained.

According to Dr. Momoh, “Nationally, the 2013 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) reported of 37% stunted, 29% underweight, and 18% wasted children under five (wasting increased from 14% in 2008 to 18%)  17% Exclusive breastfeeding rate and only 10% compliance to recommended infant and young child feeding practices. At the states                 Kaduna is 56.6%, Nasarawa; 34.5% and Niger; 34.2% respectively.

“Nigerian government through the Federal Ministry of Health has identified nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions in the five-year costed Health sector National Strategic Plan of Action on Nutrition (NSPAN) 2014 -2019. The plan was adopted at the 57th National council on health (NCH) meeting HELD IN October 2014, by representatives from the 36 states. The document if implemented will by 2019 reduce stunting by 20%, low birth weight by 15%, anemia among women of reproductive age by 50%, reduce and maintain childhood wasting by 15% and increase exclusive breast feeding in the first six months by 50%.”

Dr. Momah called for prompt implementation of the National Strategic Plan of Action on Nutrition at every level, with emphasis on maternal and child nutrition, focused and strategic media coverage of nutrition interventions; maximum support for policy implementation by private sector through the development of low cost, nutritious complementary foods and fortification of staple foods; enhanced advocacy by civil society for the implementation of maternal and child nutrition interventions; and sustained community health education on nutrition.

Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria (HERFON) represented by Dr. Seun Adeleke, highlighted that a survey conducted by the Foundation across Nasarawa, Kaduna and Oyo to track allocation and releases for the 2014 family planning budget revealed some implementation such as lack of a detailed quantification and costing of family planning need over a period time; executive-legislative bottlenecks to adequate allocation to family planning; delay in the release of funds by the ministry of finance and Accountant General’s office;  over-reliance on international donors for family planning financing.

“HERFON intends to redress these gaps by addressing the government’s reluctance to fulfill existing commitments on Family Planning-related policies, budgets, and guidelines implementation; and advocating for social accountability on the demand side, mainly by building capacity of CSOs on family planning advocacy,” he said.

Also speaking at the session, Mrs. Chinwe Onumonu, representing Association for the Advancement of Family Planning (AAFP) reiterated that a woman’s ability to space and limit her pregnancies has a direct impact on her health and well-being as well as on the outcome of each pregnancy.

She said: “Family Planning has been universally recognized as one of the key pillars and most cost effective means of achieving safe motherhood. Due to its direct positive impacts on the health of the family and consequently the economy of a nation as a whole, meeting the unmet need for family planning can help Nigeria significantly reduce the cost of meeting the MDGs goals 4 & 5 of reduction of maternal mortality and child mortality.  Demographic dividend which is the accelerated economic growth that may result from a decline in the country’s mortality and fertility and the subsequent change in the age structure of the population can be achieved through an effective family planning program.”

Discussing the current situation of family planning in Nigeria, Mrs Onumonu explained that Nigeria currently occupies the top position of the most populous country in Africa with a population of over 175million people and ranks as the tenth most populous in the world; and women constitute a large proportion of this population.

“2006 census estimates about 68 million females in Nigeria. Out of this, 30 million are of reproductive age (15-49 years). About 6 million of this population becomes pregnant each year with about 5 million resulting to child births. 576 women out of every 100,000 live births, die as a result of these pregnancies and childbirths. This figure translates to 111 women and young girls dying daily or 5 women every hour. Up to 30% of these are deaths can be prevented by increasing access to and uptake of contraceptives,” she explained.

Onumonu called for intensified advocacy for adequate funding for the implementation of family planning programmes; increased media publicity to encourage corporate social responsibility initiatives directed at funding for family planning programmes and services at national, state and grassroot; increased attention for family planning in public discourse through sustained analyses of the strategic contents of the Nigeria Family Planning Blueprint, 2014-2018.

Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) represented by Mr. Abubakar Amidu said advocacy by the Society would focus on two different areas including childhood pneumonia and diarrhea, which are leading killers of over 200,000 children under the age of 5 years in Nigeria annually; and the need to hold government accountable for the implementation of its commitment to provide the essential medicines, especially Amoxicillin Dispersible Tablets and Zinc/ORS recommended by United Nations Committee on Life Saving Commodities (UNCoLSC).

More importantly, the Federation of Muslim Women Associations of Nigerian (FOMWAN) represented by Mallam Abdul Ibrahim Audu promised that as a leading faith based organization, FOMWAN will mobilize constituencies of traditional and religious leaders and their organizations to support the activities of PACFaH members.

“FOMWAN will also adopt a pro-active role by initiating activities to create an enabling environment to support the work of PACFaH. This will be done by FOMWAN taking up an important task of supporting faith based advocates in PACFaH’s 6 focal states plus FCT to independently conduct advocacy visits and convene radio programs on the importance of funding child and family health. In summary, FOMWAN is providing the community window to the PACFaH project.

“We want to see increase in funding for child and family health programs by governments in the focal states and nationally. We want to see fulfillment of commitments by the government of Nigeria to her signatures on child and family health related documents and global targets. We want to see more accountability on the part of the government through responsiveness to the child and family health needs of her citizen.  We want to see more community involvement and ownership of child and family health initiatives and programs in focal states and the national level”, he stressed.

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