Mixed Reactions as Buhari Slashes Immunisation, Polio Funds

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 Martins Ifijeh
Following the decline in the health budgetary allocation for 2016, especially on the funding for immunisation and polio for the year, the coalition of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Community Health and Research Initiative (CHR) and the Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health (PACFAH) has frowned at the slashed funding of routine immunisation and polio eradication from N8 billion to N4 billion.

The head of the coalition, Dr. Aminu Magashi Garba, who spoke at a press conference in Lagos to commemorate the 2016 Africa Vaccination Week, expressed worries over the slashed funds, adding that the reduction of the funds could pose great danger to the health of the citizens.

Dr. Garba said, “we are concerned that the National Assembly during its review and passage of the 2016 budget submitted to them by President Muhammadu Buhari slashed the funding for routine immunisation and polio eradication from about 8 billion naira to half. This is worrisome as the funding was tied to international commitments and this also poses a serious challenge in the country to ensuring that all eligible children are fully immunised in 2016.”

He also lamented the delay over government’s plan to introduce five new life-saving vaccines between 2014 and 2018, adding that, the updated routine immunisation programme could save 1.2 million lives between 2015 and 2020, compared with the current programme under Buhari’s administration.

” We are cautioning that, the delay in the introduction of new vaccines by one year will result in 5,000 more deaths over 2015 and 2020; delaying by two years would result in 50,000 more deaths within the same period; and choosing not to introduce or sustain it will result in fewer lives saved,’’ he said.

Also lending her voice, the Director, Civil Society Scaling-up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN), Mrs. Ngozi Onuora, said the slashed funds may cause more children to die due to vaccine preventable diseases.

Report has it that immunisation has saved over 30 million children from avertable deaths in the last 15 years, hence, the coalition’s appeal that government review the budgetary allocation.

The group also noted that immunisation was the best way to save lives of the children, reduce healthcare burden and give the children who are the leaders of tomorrow the opportunity to live their potential.

They also called on the legislators to understand the intricacies of immunisation funding and Nigeria’s commitment to sustainable immunisation financing mechanisms both at the national and state levels, and ensure adequate budgetary provision in the ongoing 2016 budget process and beyond to effectively sustain intervention on immunisation.