Children born in Nigeria have a 152 percent chance of dying before age five than children born within the Gaza Strip of the State of Palestine who are actively confronted with armed conflict, the Paediatric Association of Nigeria (PAN) has lamented in outcry over the devastating state of survival in the country.
Nigeria’s under-five mortality rate of 110.8 per 1,000 live births according to data from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), is also worse than destabilised countries such as Syria (22.3), Sudan (54.9), Iraq (24.5), Ukraine (8.2) Afghanistan (55.7) and Yemen (61.9).
Olufemi Ogunrinde, PAN president and a professor of Paediatrics, is worried that despite a GDP per capita higher in some of these countries, Nigeria has failed to significantly lower children’s deaths.
As a result, Africa’s most populous country is on track to missing the United Nations sustainable development goal to lower under-five mortality to a maximum of 25 child deaths per 1,000 live births by 2030.
“It is obvious we have an uphill, albeit, not insurmountable task ahead. We have an unacceptable 6.2 million children in Nigeria who have never received any vaccine or missed almost all their vaccines. These zero-dose children are one of the reasons we are having outbreaks such as diphtheria in some parts of the country. We need to reach every child, irrespective of their location with vaccination and healthcare to guarantee the optimal wellbeing of each Nigerian citizen,” Ogunrinde said, speaking at a briefing on the 55th annual conference of the association which starts January 17 in Lagos.
The conference aims to examine current challenges that affect children, including vaccination schemes, brain drain, low capacity development, and research and development among others.
Despite significant global progress in reducing childhood mortality since 1990, children in sub-Saharan Africa have 14 times higher mortality rates than those in Europe and North America, according to the World Health Organisation statistics.
Nigeria leads in this category. The global under-five mortality rate has dropped by 60 percent since 1990, from 93 deaths per 1,000 live births to 37 in 2020.
However, half of all under-five deaths in the world occur in just five countries: Nigeria, India, Pakistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Ethiopia.
These findings highlight the need for continued efforts to address the root causes of childhood mortality, Chris Esezobor, a professor of Paediatric Nephrology and chairman of the scientific committee for the PAN conference, said.
He noted that the government needed to intervene in investing in healthcare systems, particularly in the rural areas, noting that there have to be incentives structured to encourage skilled healthcare workers to stay in those areas.
Ekanem Ekure, PAN’s president-elect also called for measures to improve access to healthcare, citing poor funding and low penetration of health insurance as major challenges.
“Doing a lot of work on health insurance is key if access to health must improve for mothers and children. It’s on the state to drive that responsibility because they are nearer to the people,” Ekure said.