By Iyemah David
The African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET) says Nigeria is adopting a proactive approach in addressing zero-dose children through enhanced immunisation advocacy and stakeholder engagement.
The Regional Technical Coordinator, AFENET, Dr Patrick Nguku, said this on Thursday in Abuja during a courtesy visit to Mr Dennis Idahosa, Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Healthcare Services, by Civil Society Organisations and health reporters.
The visit was to discuss health security matters, various government commitments to health and well-being of women, children and adolescents.
It was also to strategise on strengthening the nation’s healthcare system and explore collaborative ways.
Zero-dose children refer to children who failed to receive any routine vaccination.
Dr Nguku said that the Federal Government recognised the critical importance of vaccinations in preventing spread of infectious diseases and was determined to bridge any immunisation gap and ensure that every child would receive necessary vaccines for a healthy start in life.
“With a comprehensive strategy encompassing targetted awareness campaigns and collaboration with key stakeholders, Nigeria is embarking on a mission to protect its youngest population and strengthen the overall healthcare system,” he said.
He said that the Zero Dose Learning Hub (ZDLH), a project implemented with the Africa Health Budget Network in Bauchi, Borno, Kano and Sokoto states would reduce the number of zero-dose children in the country.
He said that the zero-dose children and missed communities were significant challenges in achieving universal immunisation coverage.
“These children have not received their first dose of Penta 1, and are at higher risk of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases (VPDs),” he said.
Coordinator of Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN), Dr Aminu Magashi Garba urged legislators to strengthen their oversight function.
“Every year, Nigerian Government allocates big money called the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF) of N40 billion, but unfortunately, only about 10 per cent of the allocated fund is released.
“The oversight function by the National Assembly should ensure that a good percentage of money allocated should be released and in real-time,” he said.
He urged exploration of various approaches to bolster effectiveness of the oversight.
The coordinator said that transparency, accountability and proactive monitoring would ensure efficient operation of the healthcare system.
The Engagement and Partnership Lead of AHBN, Mrs Oyeyemi Pitan, said that legislators should effectively monitor implementation of all government commitments to the health and well-being of Nigerians particularly women, children and adolescents.
“Young people are not just the now, they are the future; investment in the continuum of care is vital to national development,” she said.
In his response, Mr Idahosa thanked the visitors for robust conversation on healthcare.
“I am a man of few words but I have something called commitment and dedication.
“Success is inevitable with a collaborative effort,” he said.
He promised to consistently open door for engagements and technical support in carrying out his duties.
“God placed me here for a reason, and that reason must be fulfilled,” he said.
The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) recently launched ZDLH being implemented by AFENET, which is working as a consortium with AHBN, with support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, through NPHCDA.