98% Of Unvaccinated Children Face Diphtheria Threat, Health Minister Warns

Diphtheria patient

The Minister of Health, Prof. Muhammad Pate has warned that an alarming 98 per cent of unvaccinated children in 19 states are racing against time to combat a looming diphtheria outbreak.

In a stark warning at the Northern Traditional Leaders’ Committee on Primary Health Care Service Delivery (NTLC) quarterly review meeting on Wednesday in Abuja, Pate revealed that the dire situation should compel families to make the difficult decision of protecting their children’s health.

The event, organised by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Pate highlighted the gravity of the issue. This meeting serves as a platform for engaging traditional leaders on their responsibilities in enhancing primary healthcare in their communities.

The minister expressed concerns about fear, misinformation and the ongoing public health crisis due to diphtheria. He emphasised the need for all 19 states to come together to confront this impending threat and save the lives of their most vulnerable children.

Pate mentioned that the ministry, alongside various stakeholders, is aggressively addressing the ongoing diphtheria challenge, which has persisted for several months. Recognising the importance of a united front, they are making efforts to find a solution and not let the issue linger.

Collaborative efforts are focused on improving local governance and enhancing essential service delivery, which involves all relevant stakeholders, not only at the federal level but also at state and local governments.

Pate underscored that leaders at all levels, including traditional leaders and representatives from the private sector, are actively working together to tackle the pressing diphtheria issues that affect the population.

In a major milestone, the minister announced the upcoming launch of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in October. This vaccine aims to prevent cervical cancer in the coming years and underscores the importance of engaging traditional leaders and strengthening the health system to ensure efficient vaccine delivery.

Pate emphasised the safety and effectiveness of the HPV vaccine, reassuring the public about its use to protect girls and prevent future health complications.

He commended the collaborative approach taken by state governments and stakeholders as a significant step forward in addressing the ongoing health challenge and creating a more coordinated and effective response. The combined efforts of state governments, stakeholders and technical experts give hope that this collaborative approach will yield positive outcomes and much-needed solutions to improve public health.

The minister expressed gratitude to traditional leaders from across the country for their unwavering support of public health initiatives. Their leadership was credited with the successful fight against wild poliovirus in Nigeria.

He called for continued efforts to address remaining challenges, such as circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus in specific states and areas with zero vaccine coverage.

Sultan of Sokoto and president-general of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III, made a heartfelt appeal for Nigerians to live in peace, transcending tribal, ethnic, or regional differences, to promote national unity.

Abubakar also called for global prayers for Palestinians and advocated for global peace efforts to foster purposeful development.

In his remarks, the NTLC chairman, Alhaji Sama’ila Mera highlighted the significance of the meeting, which provides an opportunity to assess progress, identify areas for improvement and set a course for the future.

Mera recognised the complex challenges facing the healthcare sector and believed that collective efforts and strategic partnerships could overcome these obstacles, leading to a healthier and more prosperous nation. He lauded NPHCDA and partners for their support and execution of numerous vaccination-related activities, particularly consultation meetings in Sokoto, Zamfara and Kaduna states.

The discussions and deliberations at the meeting aimed to be fruitful and result in concrete actions to enhance primary healthcare services in the northern region. Mera emphasised the commitment to improving healthcare services, the recognition of challenges, and the determination to find solutions through collaboration and strategic planning.

Racheal Abujah
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