Millions of Nigerian children to be immunized during UN-backed health week
Some 30 million youngsters will receive immunizations during Nigeria’s first-ever National Child Health Week, launched today by the head of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the country’s health minister in the capital, Abuja.
“Sadly, more children die in Nigeria than any other country in Africa, largely from preventable diseases,” UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said. “Child Health Weeks have proven to be a highly effective strategy to save lives and prevent illness.”
Child Health Weeks, such as the one being held in Nigeria from 1 to 8 August, enable the delivery of a package of high-impact, low-cost child survival interventions, noted the agency.
Children, especially those in rural areas, will receive immunizations, de-worming medicines, and insecticide-treated mosquito nets. In addition, mothers will receive counselling on key household practices such as breastfeeding and basic hygiene.
Over the course of next week, 30 million children will receive immunizations, including for polio, which is contracted through contaminated food, water and faeces and mainly affects children under five.
Nigeria is one of four countries – along with Afghanistan, India and Pakistan – where the disease is still endemic, and accounts for 85 per cent of all cases in Africa.
Ms. Veneman, who is on a four-day visit to Nigeria, also announced the allocation of over $5 million to help educate people in the country about the importance of polio immunizations.
She noted that Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with 149 million people, including 75 million children. While it is a resource-rich country, over half of the population lives in poverty.
The country also faces vast regional disparities in human development with more progress being made in the south than in the north, according to UNICEF, which noted that nutritional insecurity is also a serious concern.
“Malnutrition is a silent emergency in Nigeria,” said Ms. Veneman. “Among children under age five, 29 per cent are underweight. Nearly 3 million children are suffering from chronic malnutrition and more than 1 million from stunting. This is simply unacceptable.”
National Child Health Weeks will be held twice a year in Nigeria in close cooperation with the Government.