Explains why Emir Sanusi is under fire over position on planned families
Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health, PACFaH, on Monday appealed to government at all levels in Nigeria to increase commitment to critical areas of health in the country.
PACFaH, a coalition of seven indigenous civil society organizations that works on nutrition, child killer diseases, routine immunization and family planning, said in Abuja that for the nation to boast of healthy and happy families, government must ensure nutrition, childhood killer diseases, routine immunization and family are prioritized.
The group said at a briefing to commemorate this year International Day of Families that tiers of government in the country must find sustainable ways of dealing with threats currently posed by the above health concerns.
PACFaH emphasized that the theme of this year’s commemoration of Day of Families: “Families, Education and Wellbeing,” should be a reminder to both government and other stakeholders that they must offer their best to promote the nation’s wellbeing.
Addressing journalist on imperative of family planning, National Coordinator, Association for the Advancement of Family Planning, AAFP, Dr Chinwe Onumonu, said family-oriented policies and programmes are vital for the achievement of many goals and targets of the Sustainable Development Goals. “Specifically, SDG three targets to reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030; end preventable deaths of newborns and children under-five years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least 12 per 1000 live births and under-five mortality to at least 25 per 1000 live births, achieve universal health coverage, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health-care and access to safe, effective quality and affordable essential medicines, and vaccines for all among others. Family planning is key to achieving SDG three.
“Today, we celebrate International Day of Families with theme: ‘Families, Education and Wellbeing.’ The theme resonates the benefits of family planning which cannot be overemphasized; limiting births and child spacing enhance bonding between parents and children especially during the first years of life. Well-planned families provide opportunities for parents to spend adequate time with their children, and also adequately utilize the available resources to promote their wellbeing. Among several other benefits including improving the wellbeing of parents, reducing maternal and child mortality, family planning also enables families to invest in early childhood care, education and development, as it serves as a stepping stone out of poverty and exclusion,” she added.
Fielding questions from newsmen, Onumonu said recent criticisms of Emir Lamido Sanusi over his stance on use of strategy like family planning to address poverty in northern part of the country was unexpected. She said until recently, there was nobody in the region to speak boldly on the issue, and that the Emir’s comments and position would attract people of like minds to him, no matter how some of the people view his comments.
Speaking on childhood killer diseases, Senior Programme Officer, PSN-PACFaH, David Akpoto, said there could not be healthy, happy and productive families without healthy children.
According to him, whatever affects the mothers, women, girls and children affects the family and the society at large.
Akpoto listed some of killer diseases of under-five children in the country as malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea. He said government had steadfastly fought malaria, and had consequently drastically reduced its burden in the nation, but that there were still much gap to be filled in pneumonia and diarrhea.
“Penumonia and diarrhea remain major killers of young children. Together, these diseases account for the loss of over two million young lives, that is, 29 percent of under-five years mortality, each year globally. In Nigeria, approximately 177,212 and 201,368 children under-five years (accounting for 16 percent and 19 percent of deaths) die from pneumonia and diarrhea respectively in a single year. Mathematically speaking, for every 10 children that die in Nigeria, pneumonia and diarrhea are responsible for four of these deaths.
“One of the key ways to halt this unacceptable and preventable trend is to adopt better treatment options. Currently, the World Health Organization, WHO, United Nations Children Fund, UNICEF, have approved new treatment guidelines, which the Pediatric Association of Nigeria, PAN, has adopted nationally, for the management of these two preventable killer diseases,” she said.
Among other proposed solutions to contain the prevalence of pneumonia and diarrhea in the country, Akpoto called for mainstreaming of childhood pneumonia and diarrhea in national and state health planning.
In her contribution, Director of Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria, FOMWAN,/PACFaH Project, Hajia Farida Yusuf highlight the importance of immunization and the need for government to prepare well for taking responsibility for funding immunization programmes in the country.
She said every child has a right to access life-saving vaccines that would protect them against vaccine-preventable diseases “such as diarrhea, tuberculosis, tetanus, diphtheria, meningitis, pneumonia, measles, polio, etc. childhood killer diseases constitute a huge burden to our society and is a major cause of deaths in children below the age of five years.”
She furthered that immunization remained a sure and safe way to ensure better health for children, families and society at large. Immunization, she stated, increases the chances of a child attaining educational heights, the child becomes more psychologically, emotionally, and physically healthy to pursue his/her career dream.
“Following this funding supports from global partners in the last five years, Nigeria’s immunization programme has improved, there has not been cases of vaccine stock outs, however it is pertinent for the government at all levels to ensure ownership, improve funding and put a sustainable plan in place for vaccine financing to meet the increasing needs as Nigeria passes through the graduation process of GAVI the vaccine alliance, and hopes to introduce more vaccine by 2018.
“To bridge the funding gap for routine immunization in 2017, the National Assembly has approved for the government of Nigeria to get a loan of $125 million from the World Bank, to finance the polio eradication programme, which the 2017 budget allocated only 20 percent of the requirement, and will also pay for other routine immunization vaccines.
“Adequate funding, with a strong sustainable financing plan will improve immunization coverage, more children will become healthier to achieve academic excellence, the wellbeing of families will improve as well as economic development.
“We hereby advocate for the government to do the following: ensure timely release of the routine immunization appropriated funds in 2017; improved political will of Nigerian government to take leadership in immunization financing; scale-up sensitization campaigns that will encourage families to accept and access routine immunization services; and plan for sustainable sources of funding for routine immunization beyond 2021, as Nigeria begins transition from Global Alliance Vaccine Initiative, GAVI, support,” she stated.
Project Director, Civil Society Scaling Up Nutrition in Nigeria, CS-SUNN, Beatrice Eluaka, said at the event that malnutrition remained a silent killer of children in the country.
She said poor feeding reduces the cognitive function and that it is responsible for one in every two under-five years death in the nation.
Represented by Communication Officer of the organization, Ajah-mong Lilian, Eluaka explained that malnutrition “is a condition that occurs when people consistently do not consume or absorb the right amounts and types of food and essential nutrients. Malnourished children have an increased risk of disability and premature death and are highly predisposed to infectious diseases.
“Over the years, Malnutrition has remained a key contributor to infant and maternal mortality and morbidity, poor cognitive development, increased severity of diseases which adversely affects productivity and growth rate of countries.
“It is evident that inadequate funding and monitoring of appropriated funds, poor infant and young child feeding practices, high disease burden, limited access to nutritious food and vitamin and mineral deficiencies are some factors that contribute to the prevalence of child malnutrition in Nigeria. Though adequate funding remains key to addressing the negative health and nutrition challenges bedevilling Nigeria, federal and even state government, over the years, have not prioritized funding for health and nutrition. If we have malnourished children, then we cannot be celebrating the International Day of Families.”
She called on the media to help increase awareness campaign to discuss male apathy/socio-cultural beliefs, which she said affects and contributes to malnutrition; sustain sensitization and enlightenment campaigns to address ignorance in malnutrition..
She also appealed to all tiers of government to adopt the National Strategic Plan of Action on Nutrition (NSPAN); implement the NSPAN with specific focus on maternal and child nutrition component of the plan; create of specific budget line on nutrition across relevant institutions, encourage exclusive breast feeding; increase funding for maternal and child nutrition at the ministries of health and agriculture; and that government should fulfil its commitment made at the Abuja declaration of 2011 to commit 15% of the total budget to the health sector.