Experts call for More Funding and Partnership In Health Sector

By Blessing Enebeli, Lagos

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A health expert, Dr Adejoke Oladele has called on the Nigerian government to strengthen the health sector and channel more funds for preparedness for possible future epidemics.

Oladele said the government should focus more on epidemics as one of the main killers of children in Nigeria is vaccine-preventable diseases like measles, meningitis and diphtheria.

According to a report, Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), shows only about 36% of children ages 12-23 months, take all recommended vaccines in Nigeria while 18%, take none at all. This shows that immunization coverage in Nigeria is still below the Global Vaccine Action Plan.

A typical example of this is the rising number of diphtheria cases in Nigeria. In the first quarter of 2023, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) reported cases of diphtheria outbreaks in 21 out of the 36 states in Nigeria including the Federal Capital Territory.

Over one thousand four hundred cases were reported, with over five hundred cases confirmed, which included about seventy deaths.

Dr Oladele of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), said the one health approach of inter-agencies collaboration played an important role in mitigating the spread of the disease.

According to her, “Most of the cases were from Kano and the ages affected were between two and 14 years old. Quite a number of them were unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.

“NPHCDA collaboration with the NCDC, as part of the rapid response team deployed to the states where these outbreaks occurred, aided the response activities. They were involved in three rounds of intensification across the LG’S, boosting immunization coverage.”

Stakeholders in the health sector think that more still needs to be done to avoid further occurrence.

They said greater attention should be paid to critical aspects of health security like partnership and funding.

Chief of Health, UNICEF, Nigeria, Dr Eduardo Celades, emphasized the need for a multi-sectoral approach in improving future outcomes thus, curbing the spread of vaccine-preventable diseases like diphtheria in Nigeria.

He said; “We cannot succeed alone; we need to be working from a multi-sectorial perspective. Bringing different actors to work together to respond to the health challenges that we are facing. I believe if we do that, we can succeed.

“Nigeria is on the right track, but maybe not at the right speed. So, what we need to do is mobilize resources, mobilize partners and political will, to accelerate the prowess Nigeria has, so we can achieve the sustainable development goals for health”

He said: “Greater synergy amongst stakeholders in the public-private health sector is crucial in epidemic preparedness and response. If such synergy is to produce the required results, it must not only be harnessed but leveraged on.”

The Chief Executive Officer Cloud Clinic Nigeria, Ifeayin Aneke, thinks that this can only be achieved if the government is proactive in leveraging on existing structures.

According to him, “government should put in a lot more funding in health care, prioritize accountability in monitoring how these funds are used is key in ensuring that it gets to the last man. There’s also a need to leverage technology to deliver care, track and account for how funds are being used.”

Aneke said; “Today, more than 17% of children worldwide are unvaccinated or zero dozed and have not received the first dose of diphtheria- tetanus- pertussis vaccines.

“According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Indicators show that 20% of these children are found in five countries, including Nigeria. Hence, there’s a need to do more if Nigeria intends to attain its sustainable development goals in healthcare… Attention must be paid to vaccination, funding as well as a public-private partnership in its response to epidemic prevention and control in Nigeria”

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