Southeast: Anambra, Imo lowest in recommended vaccines intake – UNICEF

UNICEF has expressed concerns over the low rate of vaccination in the South East geopolitical zone, saying almost 61,000 children spread across the five states in the region have not received any vaccination in this time and age when the vaccines are freely available to all.

The representative of the organisation in Nigeria, Mrs. Cristian Munduate, expressed these concerns at the quarterly review meeting of the South East Zone Traditional Rulers’ Committee on Primary Health Centre (PHC) Delivery (SETRC) held in Awka, Anambra State capital.

The review meeting was organised 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 particularly worse in Anambra and Imo States which are responsible for more than 30 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.

“The percentage of children between one and two years who have received all the vaccines recommended for their age range from 34 to 58 per cent which is quite low.

“The situation in Anambra is particularly precarious because there is even a decline from 55 to 34 per cent within five years. 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.

“There are almost 61,000 children spread across the 5 states who have not received any vaccination in this time and age when the vaccines are freely available to ensure they thrive and live to achieve their maximum potential.

“The situation is particularly worse in Anambra and Imo States which are responsible for more than 30 per cent and 25 per cent respectively.

“This calls for emergency action on our parts to ensure these children are located and vaccinated. This number must be reduced by at least 30 per cent before the end of the year through our concerted efforts,” she said.

In his speech, the Anambra State Governor, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo, said that his administration was making efforts to reposition the state’s health sector.

Soludo, represented by his deputy, Dr Onyekachukwu Ibezim, urged community leaders to take ownership of the primary healthcare centres (PHCs) in their domains and assist in the efforts being made to reduce maternal and infant mortality in the state.

He lamented that Nigeria’s health indices were still unacceptably high, and required deliberate efforts to improve them.

“Primary healthcare is a gateway to achieving optimal healthcare for all. If given adequate attention, it will cater to more than 80 per cent of an individual’s health care needs throughout his or her life.

“But it is sad that our primary healthcare system is facing lots of challenges which are contributing to Nigeria’s poor health indices, including high maternal and child mortality, as well as poor life expectancy.

“Our communities and individuals need to take ownership of primary health because the foreign donors and the federal government will not always be here to help us all the time.

“We need to critically look at infrastructure development and human capacity to get it right with our health system,” the governor said.

The Executive Director of NPHCDA, Dr Faisal Shuaib, described the community leaders as key stakeholders who have shown commitment and supported the agency in its efforts to reposition the PHCs across the country.

Shuaib, represented by Director, Disease Control and Immunisation, Dr Bassey Okposen, said that the meeting showed the agency’s unwavering commitment to strengthening primary healthcare and improving health outcomes in the South East region.

“Your Majesties, your role as advocates for the health sector is paramount. We respectfully request that you encourage your communities to embrace primary healthcare as the first point of contact,” he appealed.

Also speaking, World Health Organisation (WHO) Country Representative to Nigeria, Dr Walter Mulombo, said they would continue to work with the government to increase accessibility to newer vaccines for wider protection from vaccine preventable diseases.

Mulombo, who was represented by Dr Chukwumuanya Igboekwu, South East Zonal Coordinator, WHO, urged the traditional rulers to continue to support the delivery of primary health care in their kingdoms.

The traditional ruler of Ezema Olo in Enugu State, Igwe Lawrence Agubuzu, who is the Chairman of the South East Committee, in his remarks, promised that the monarchs would continue to support the government to achieve universal health coverage.

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