• Monday, June 24, 2024
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Improve healthcare, immunization for Nigerian children – UNICEF Rep

Improve healthcare, immunization for Nigerian children – UNICEF Rep

To improve the health and survival of children in Nigeria, Christian Munduate, UNICEF representative in Nigeria, has called attention to the critical need to enhance primary health care services and increase immunization coverage across the country.

This urgent call aims to address the significant health challenges facing Nigeria’s children and ensure their right to a healthy start in life.

“First, we really need to amplify the primary health care attention,” Munduate emphasised. “This focus is necessary not just from the government, but from communities, religious leaders, and traditional leaders. It’s imperative they step in and demonstrate that they can take action so that children can receive preventive health care. Immunization is the most important element, alongside proper nutrition for mothers.”

Accessible health facilities play a pivotal role in ensuring that children receive timely and effective medical attention. The absence of nearby clinics often results in many Nigerian children missing out on vital health services.

“Parents should not be forced to undertake long journeys to access primary health clinics. We must ensure that children can readily receive screenings and treatments for any health issues they face,” Munduate said.

Nigeria grapples with substantial health challenges, particularly at the primary health care level. With a population exceeding 200 million and an annual birth rate of approximately 8 million babies, the existing health infrastructure is under immense strain. The dearth of health centers at the ward level exacerbates the difficulty in accessing essential medical care, amplifying the urgency of the situation.

“For a country with a population of 200 million, witnessing 8 million births annually, the current health services are grossly inadequate. Accessible primary health care and comprehensive immunization coverage are indispensable for the survival of our children,” Munduate emphasised.

Nigeria’s immunization coverage ranks among the lowest globally, primarily due to misinformation and vaccine hesitancy.

According to UNICEF data, Nigeria bears one of the highest rates of under-five mortality worldwide, with 117 deaths per 1,000 live births recorded in 2023.

Immunization coverage for diseases such as measles remains alarmingly low at approximately 54%, significantly below the World Health Organization’s recommended threshold of 95% required to prevent outbreaks.

Only about 40% of Nigerian children receive all the recommended vaccines by their first birthday, as reported by the Federal Ministry of Health.

The ramifications of underutilizing immunization services are dire, leading to outbreaks of preventable diseases such as diphtheria, measles, and cholera, which significantly contribute to child mortality rates.

Munduate emphasised, “Without access to these essential services, children are left vulnerable. It is imperative that communities understand the critical role of primary health care facilities in ensuring children receive timely immunizations.”

The media emerges as a pivotal player in disseminating accurate information and mobilizing stakeholders. Munduate stated, “The media plays a crucial role in informing and mobilizing all segments of society. The recent diphtheria outbreak among unvaccinated children underscores the importance of disseminating accurate information to parents.”

UNICEF’s call to action stems from the multifaceted challenges confronting Nigeria’s health care system, including a scarcity of health centers and widespread misinformation surrounding vaccinations and traditional medicine.

Munduate reiterated, “Traditional medicine cannot cure diseases like cholera, diphtheria, measles, or chickenpox. It’s imperative that the media helps in disseminating accurate information to underscore the importance of modern medical interventions.”

UNICEF urges all sectors of Nigerian society to take immediate action to address the pressing health challenges facing the country’s children. Munduate emphasized, “We cannot afford to wait while children’s lives hang in the balance. Urgent implementation of plans is paramount.”

UNICEF remains steadfast in its commitment to supporting Nigeria in improving child health outcomes and calls on all stakeholders to join in this critical mission.

Through collaborative efforts, encompassing government commitment, community engagement, and accurate information dissemination, we can forge a path towards significantly reducing child mortality rates and securing a healthier future for Nigeria’s children.