Meeting Immunisation Fund to Save 7 Million Nigerian Children

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The National Immunisation Financing Task Team (NIFT) advocacy committee has called on the Federal Government to ensure Nigeria’s commitment of $181 million immunisation funding requirement for 2017 and 2018 is met as part of efforts to reduce the tragic record of under-five deaths in the country. Rebecca Ejifoma reports

While Nigeria loses 2,300 children everyday and 839,500 yearly, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the role of vaccine preventable diseases on this high mortality rate has been put on 40 per cent by experts.

Although Nigeria termed the giant of Africa, she is the second largest contributor to under-five mortality in the world after India. Hence, several organisations are urging the government to act fast.

It was on the heels of this that the Community Health and Research Initiative (CHR) with support from the Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health (PACFaH) in collaboration with the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) and the International Vaccine Centre (IVAC) held a two-day retreat in Lagos at the weekend.

They said the availability of immunisation fund for eligible children will save the lives of the seven million children born in Nigeria annually.

The CHR/PACFaH Project Director, Dr. Aminu Magashi, said it was necessary that the government scaled up plan towards mobilising fund for immunisation, plus timely and transparent release of the 2016 budget.

“As the country begins its transition process from Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation (GAVI) – the Vaccine Alliance support in Nigeria – its funding requirement begins to increase. For 2017 and 2018, close to $264 million is required for immunisation to be paid for between Nigeria and GAVI. Nigeria is expected to commit $181 million out of the $264 million to fund immunisation programme.

According to Magashi, the fund should be factored into the 2017 budget to create sufficient time in order for vaccines needed to save newborns.

With its undying commitment towards achieving this single aim, the Project Director assured that the retreat was exploring other advocacy channels to catalyse actions towards domestic funding for sustainable immunisation programmes through the local production of vaccine and the need for Nigeria to create a Primary Health Care Trust Fund to raise finances for PHC revitalisation which also includes immunisation.

“In times of scares resources for health, it is advised that the Nigerian government begin to plan on how to commence local production of some of the vaccines needed in Nigeria to reduce the funding burden, as well as improve private-public partnership for immunisation financing needed,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pharmacist Remi Adeseun, Programme Director, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria PSN/PACFaH explained that the project was a unique one that cuts across child and family health, ranging from routine immunisation to treatment of childhood killer disease.

“The 2016 budget had a lot more that could have been done. Contrary to the provision of the law, the National Health Act provided for one per cent of the consolidated revenue fund of the FG to be compulsorily allocated for health. And that money could have gone into PHC where the basic illnesses of pneumonia and diarrhea are treated.

“So, the absence of that fund in itself on the government’s side shows inadequate funding as prescribed by law. Fortunately, the Minister of Health and other government agencies are working towards ensuring that that one per cent is included in the 2017 budget.

According to him, Nigeria has an Integrated Community State Management Approach (ICSMA) policy where issues of pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria will be managed by community health extension workers who will be trained and supervised to be able to intervene at the PHC Board.
As an advocate for child and family health, Adeseun described some of the steps the FG should take to scale up mobilisation of funding. “First, there should be a clearer strategy as to how we can achieve improved domestic resource mobilisation to the fact that the National Immunisation Finance Team has several factors to it. And this retreat is one of it.”

With Pneumonia leading as the first cause of deaths in children worldwide, killing an estimated1.1 million children of under-five, more than malaria, AIDs and tuberculosis, Adeseun insisted that there should be local provision of vaccines. “If today Nigeria has an issue with these countries supplying us and they refuse to release these vaccines. What do we fall back on?” He questioned.

On his part, the Project Officer, Direct Consult and Logistic Management Consultant for International Vaccine Assessment Project, Nigeria, Dr. Obinna Iberem said, “Vaccine is what everyone should buy into.”

“We should do enough to ensure that all children, no matter where they are, receive the vaccine they need. Example of what lack of access can do is the resurgence of white polio. As we all know, some of those areas in Northern Nigeria, vaccinators could not access them. So, we need to address this.”