In a remarkable demonstration of its commitment to safeguarding children’s health, Nigeria has taken proactive steps to tackle the issue of zero-dose children through intensified immunisation advocacy and robust stakeholder engagement, earning commendation from the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET).
Speaking during a courtesy visit to the chairman of the House Committee on Healthcare Services, Hon. Dennis Idahosa, representatives from civil society organisations (CSOs) and the health sector media discussed critical health security matters and government commitments concerning the health and well-being of women, children and adolescents. They also deliberated on strategies to strengthen Nigeria’s healthcare system and explored collaborative pathways.
In his remarks, the the regional technical coordinator of AFENET, Dr. Patrick Nguku, highlighted Nigeria’s recognition of the pivotal role that vaccinations play in preventing infectious diseases’ spread. He emphasised the government’s determination to bridge the immunization gap and ensure that every child receives the essential vaccines required for a healthy start in life.
“With a comprehensive strategy that includes targeted awareness campaigns and collaboration with key stakeholders, Nigeria is embarking on a mission to protect its youngest population and bolster the overall healthcare system,” he remarked.
Nguku highlighted the significance of the Zero Dose Learning Hub project, implemented in collaboration with the Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN) in states such as Bauchi, Borno, Kano and Sokoto. This project aims to reduce the number of zero-dose children in Nigeria, a nation currently burdened with the highest number of such children globally.
He emphasized that zero-dose children and underserved communities pose significant challenges to achieving universal immunisation coverage in the country. These children have not received their first dose of Penta 1 and are, thus, at higher risk of vaccine-preventable diseases (VPDs).
Coordinator of AHBN, Dr. Aminu Magashi underscored the need for legislators to strengthen their oversight function concerning the nation’s healthcare challenges. He highlighted the allocation of substantial funds, such as the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF), which amounts to over N40bn annually. However, he lamented that only about 10 percent of the allocated funds are released. He attributed this problem not to a lack of funds but rather to a lack of transparency and accountability in the disbursement process.
Magashi advocated for more transparency, accountability, and proactive monitoring to ensure the healthcare system operates optimally. He explored various strategies to enhance the effectiveness of oversight processes, stressing the importance of timely fund releases.
The engagement and partnership lead of AHBN, Mrs. Oyeyemi Pitan called for legislators’ active monitoring of government commitments related to the health and well-being of all Nigerians, particularly women, children, and adolescents. She emphasised the significance of investing in the continuum of care, as young people represent not only the present but also the future, making it vital for national development.
In response, Idahosa commended the delegation for their robust conversation regarding the health of all Nigerians. He pledged his commitment and dedication to the cause, emphasising that collaborative efforts would inevitably lead to success. He assured the group of his readiness to maintain an open-door policy for continued engagement and technical support in fulfilling his duties, firmly believing that his position in leadership is for a reason that must be fulfilled.
It’s worth noting that the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) recently launched the Zero Dose Learning Hub (ZDLH), a project implemented by AFENET in consortium with AHBN and with support from GAVI through NPHCDA. This initiative further demonstrates Nigeria’s commitment to addressing the critical issue of zero-dose children and improving immunisation coverage across the country.