The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), says about 61,000 children spread across the five South East States have not received any vaccination.
Mrs Cristian Munduate, UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, gave the statistics at the ongoing First Quarterly Review Meeting of the South-East Zone Traditional Rulers’ Committee on PHC Delivery (SETRC) in Awka.
The review meeting was organized by the Federal Ministry of Health in collaboration with the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA).
Munduate, who was represented by Juliet Chiluwe, UNICEF Chief Field Office Enugu, said that the situation was worse in Anambra and Imo which were responsible for more than 30 percent and 25 percent respectively. According to her, the percentage is quite low.
“There are almost 61,000 children spread across the five states who have not received any vaccination in this time and age when the vaccines are freely available. This calls for emergency action on our part to ensure these children are located and vaccinated to ensure they thrive and live to achieve their maximum potential. Vaccines are available all year round in the health facilities, we need to mobilize families, including fathers, to ensure their children are vaccinated in line with the directive of health workers in our health facilities. This number must be reduced by at least 30 percent before the end of the year through our concerted efforts,” she said.
Munduate said Nigeria still has a long way to go toward achieving the well-being of women and children. She said that the rate of anemia in pregnant women in the Southeast states stood at an alarming range of 48 percent to 61 percent, and needed to be urgently arrested and reversed. She also said that the practice of initiating breastfeeding within one hour of birth and maintaining exclusive breastfeeding for six months was observed to be very low in the southeast – ranging from 13 percent to 41 percent. “It is even declining in Imo, Abia, and Anambra. Statistics showed a higher downward trend of 13 percent, 19 percent, and 24 percent respectively.
“The role of exclusive breastfeeding in the reduction of infant deaths and accelerating growth of the baby, and benefits to the family, the community, and the nation cannot be over-emphasized. If there is only one Sustainable Development Goals target that Nigeria can easily achieve, it is that of birth registration (SDG16. Indicator 9) but unfortunately, this is also declining in almost all the states. About 1.25 million children in the South East are expected to be registered this year but less than 10 percent of this has been achieved so far,” she said.
Munduate said that all hands must be on deck to return to the old-time good practice and it could be achieved through engagement with community leaders. She said that UNICEF would continue to work with traditional leaders to improve the uptake of antenatal and postnatal care, skilled birth attendance, and child immunization at subnational levels.
“UNICEF values her collaboration with the Government of Nigeria to promote the well-being of the citizens of the country. Working with traditional leaders to address these issues discussed, will help the zone and the country move towards the SDGs,” she said.
She urged traditional leaders to mobilize their people to demand service from the health facilities and also to hold the health authorities in their communities accountable for quality service delivery.