By Ndidi Chukwu
Two – year – old Somtochi Igwe got her measles vaccination in February 2016 in Enugu State during the second phase of Nigeria’s South East measles campaign.
The vaccine has guaranteed her protection from Measles infection and possible death from vaccines preventable deaths. She is however the only one out of five children across Africa who got vaccinated and protected from childhood death.
How African leaders can ensure that all children like Somtochi get all required vaccines to be alive and attain their full potential is what the first ever Ministerial Conference on Immunization in Africa which just concluded in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia tried to address.
The conference according to a Press statement published on Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative (GAVI) website, African ministers of finance and health has signed a declaration to promote the use of vaccines across the African continent.
The statement said with one in five African children lacking access to all needed and basic life-saving vaccines, ministers of health and other line ministers countries committed themselves to keep
immunization at the forefront of efforts to reduce child mortality, morbidity and disability.
“As a landmark, the African ministers signed to promote the use of vaccines to protect people of all ages against vaccine-preventable diseases and to close the immunization gap by 2020,” the statement read.
The conference, which was hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Offices for Africa (AFRO) and the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO) in conjunction with the African Union Commission (AUC), was the first-ever ministerial-level gathering with a singular focus on ensuring that children across the continent can get access to life-saving vaccines.
The statement quoted Ethiopia’s Minister of Health, Dr. Kesetebirhan Admasu, saying children are the most precious resource, but one in five fail to receive all the immunizations they need to survive and thrive, leaving millions vulnerable to preventable disease.
He added further that “This is not acceptable. African children’s lives matter. We must work together to ensure the commitments we make in Addis Ababa translate into results.”
In the past, African leaders have made commitments in similar events but could not redeem their promises back home, these unfulfilled promises continue to topple the Immunization gains for the continent and thus, only 1 in 5 African children get the required vaccines.
The political will of African leaders to commit funds for Immunization is the total essence of the conference, the statement added.