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Groups canvass religious leaders’ support in fight against child killer diseases

Project Director, Farida Sada Yusuf handing over PACFaH kit to Dr. Akinnadewo, sec. OAIC in Lagos during the visit.
Project Director, Farida Sada Yusuf handing over PACFaH kit to Dr. Akinnadewo, sec. OAIC in Lagos during the visit.

The Federation of Muslim Women Association in Nigeria (FOMWAN) in collaboration with the Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health in Nigeria (PACFaH) have canvassed the cooperation of religious leaders in Lagos to help in  to advocating for positive change to reduce unnecessary deaths in poor mothers and children.

This was the focus when FOMWAN/PACFaH group paid advocacy visit to the leadership of Muslims at the Lagos State Central Mosque and Christian Association of Nigeria secretariat, CAN, Lagos respectively last week.

According to FOMWAN/PACFAH project director, Farida Sada Yusuf, “Religious leaders are highly respected and chosen by their communities because of their track records, as such, PACFaH project team and in particular FOMWAN feels you are the right target group to lend your voices to the issues of child and family health and educate your congregation to make them aware of the health challenges facing our innocent and ignorant children and mothers especially at community/grass root levels.”

Mrs. Yusuf was however worried over some of the challenges women and children go through. According to her, the most recent Nigerian Demographic Health Survey (NDHS 2013) reveals that 9% of children under-five dies as a result of diarrhoea and 10% as a result of pneumonia in Lagos.

She further explained that the Nigeria Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) follows the international guidelines recommended by the World Health Organization WHO. She said: According to WHO, a child is considered fully vaccinated if he or she has received a BCG vaccination against tuberculosis; three doses of vaccine to prevent diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus (DPT) at least three doses of polio vaccine and one dose of measles vaccine.

“These vaccinations should be received during the first year of life. The 2013 NDHS collected information on the coverage for these vaccinations as well as for hepatitis B vaccination among all children born in five years preceding the survey with Lagos State recording 53. 9 which makes pace of progress still far from satisfactory, falling below the increase needed to achieve the MDG target of more than 90 percent by 2015,”she said.

Among other issues she identified was under-nutrition, saying that it’s still a major health problem among school children in Lagos.

“There is an emergence of overweight and obesity in the urban areas. A comprehensive programme to improve nutritional status is recommended as part of a well funded school health programme. According to the NDHS conducted in 2013, the prevalence rates of underweight are 29%, stunting 37%, while wasting 18% in Lagos State respectively,” she said.

She further pointed out that child spacing is still a factor to be worried about in Lagos State. According to her:“The Nigerian child spacing blueprint represents the avowed determination of the federal government to put in place a board but well articulated strategy that holistically addresses existing gaps in the provision of high quality child spacing services to Nigerians of reproductive age. The blueprint no doubt was designed in such a way that would reach Nigerians nationwide to increase child spacing methods used by Nigerian from 15-36% these requires state level leadership intervention.

“In Lagos state for instance, the state government recently revisited the issue of child spacing as a means to ending maternal mortality in the state. This can be seen in the creation of additional child spacing clinic located in Shomolu, Alimosho local government areas and the state secretariat staff clinic. Despite all these achievements by the state government, the national population located commission and ICF international report on child spacing in Lagos as at 2014 shows that the percentage of married women do not want a child but are not using family planning.

However, the group wants the leadership of Muslims and Christians in Lagos to help advocate positive change by influencing government decisions/administrative guidelines to commit and fulfil its existing commitments.

To address the issue of diarrhoea and pneumonia, they want government to adopt the use of Amoxicillin dispersible tablet and Zinc – Low Osmolality Oral Rehydration Salt (Zinc-LO-ORS) co-pack as first-line treatment for childhood pneumonia and diarrhoea respectively among other requests.

For child spacing, they want allocation and timely release of funds for family planning as well as encourage the state government to release the state health funds as budgeted in the 2016 appropriation for immunization activities to commence. They also want the adoption and implementation of National Strategic Plan of Action on Nutrition to be able to address malnutrition cases in the state.

However, the advocacy visit was warmly welcomed by the leadership of the two religious bodies as they pledged the total support to the vital call by FOMWAN/PACFaH.

Dr Ajoke Ashiru, FOMWAN AMIRAH, Lagos State chapter reiterated the importance of support by Muslim community and Christians: “Your support will help us to organize in making sure that when government is putting a budget of distributing our money we can put pressure on them and make sure that enough allocation is made towards health programme that we have enumerated here,” she said.

President, Muslim Community in Lagos, Prof. Tajuddeen Gbadamosi, who cheerfully received the visitors said that the Muslim Community in Lagos would work with the group to any length: “By the grace of God we are ready to cooperate with you. As far as education is concerned we will educate our members and also map out strategies to reach them from the grass roots,” Prof. Gbadamosi,” said. He also promised to make use of the handouts, PACFaH kit handed over to them and their religious law to enlighten the masses.

Also, Baba Aladura, elder Dr. Isreal Akinadewo, Secretary OAIC who spoke on behalf of Apostle Alexandra Bamgbola, Chairman, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, said FOMWAN/PACFaH’s visit is a welcomed one. Like the leaders in the Muslim community, he pledged CAN support.

“CAN is actually interested in this and we are going to give you the necessary support,” he said, but not without giving his opinion and suggestion in the whole matter tabled before them.

“The area which I think should also be mentioned is that the men have been the initiators of pregnancies. Even when a man does not have money to feed himself he wants to marry as many wives as possible and the children will be born, they will just say women go and take care of your children. That is one of the problems that we have here.

“One of the areas you must embark upon is proper awareness for the men.  So if every man takes it as a kind of responsibility that ‘I will not have children that I will not be able to take care of,’ the issue of malnutrition will be reduced. This is why the issue of family planning very key.

“CAN will definitely give its support, I will talk to the chairman. Even in our meetings at different local government area, we can initiate workshops and training and you come and address them.  ‘

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