Nigeria is one of the most complex nations in the world in terms of the public health issues that it is facing. With the country’s poor state of healthcare, it is estimated that eight million children are born each year while seven million women are pregnant at any moment. Also, Nigeria has the second highest number of unvaccinated children in the world. It is also a nation with a high maternal mortality. So, there is need to ensure quality and adequate healthcare for the vulnerable, especially in rural communities.
UNICEF Nigeria’s Chief of Health, Eduardo Celades, spoke to the media on the organization’s interventions to improve upon the services of primary healthcare centers across the country. In 2022, Nigeria had the biggest outbreak of measles in the world. It shows that Nigeria is a country with extremely weak health systems, so the agency is trying to tackle the issue from different perspectives. It involves the United Nations and UNICEF working together with the government, journalists and social media influencers to make the needed changes.
Children’s access to vaccine the challenge in reducing child mortality.
Chief Celades said the organization has a big range of vaccines. Presently, there are about 18 antigens in the country on the routine immunization scale. Some of them include: Rotavirus for diarrhea, Pneumococcal vaccine for pneumonia, vaccines for measles, diphtheria and tetanus, and so on. These vaccines have been proven to work and they are one of the most powerful historical tools to reduce child mortality. The challenge in this situation is ensuring that all the children who need them have access to them.
If this is achieved, Nigeria’s data could well mimic the global number of maternal deaths, which have fallen from around 446,000 in 2000 to about 287,000 in 2020, a 36 percent decrease. Despite various challenges, Nigeria is progressing towards Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) three. SDG-3 is focused on health and well-being for all, including a bold commitment to end the epidemics and other communicable diseases by 2030. However, this progress achieved so far is insufficient to reach the targets.
UNICEF progress insufficiency a matter of concern in Nigeria’s healthcare.
Despite going through the COVID-19 pandemic, Nigeria has still been able to show some progress. One area in which this occurred is in how routine immunization coverage increased. The Nigerian government was able to achieve that. But while child mortality has been reduced over the last few years, it is insufficient. Some of the reasons include the fact that neonatal mortality is not reducing and maternal mortality is also the same with the trend. The UNICEF member of staff said that these variables have reduced by 12 percent in the last 20 years, but the progress is not enough to reach the targets.
He said UNICEF’s main approach is to try to accelerate interventions to make an impact. The benchmark year 2030 is just seven years away. If the trend continues, the progress will not be sufficient to achieve SDG-3 by then. It is also important that UNICEF and the government work together and mobilize resources. Some donors will leave the country in a few years. If this is done with the window of opportunity by working together, the targets can be achieved. Chief. Celades noted that this issue is not only a concern but also a reality.
The agency is trying to strengthen primary healthcare to accelerate progress.
In addition to the estimates of childbirths and pregnant women, Chief. Celades said the organization’s main concern is how they can ensure that these women and children can survive, how they can reduce child mortality (especially in newborn children), and how they can ensure that no woman dies because of pregnancy. According to him, UNICEF reports still show that about 82,000 pregnant women die because of pregnancy-related causes every year. UNICEF as a body is trying to liaise with the government to strengthen the primary healthcare and to have enough human resources, commodities, deliveries, abundance of resources and good data to be able to bend the curve and accelerate progress.