By Senator IroegbuÂ in Abuja
The European Union has provided an additional N3.8 billion to support the Nigerian governmentâ€™s immunisation programme and strengthen primary health care under its Support to Immunisation Governance in Nigeria (EU-SIGN) initiative.
The amount was used to fund the procurement of 29 Four-Wheel Drive vehicles and solar refrigerators as well as construction and renovation of 49 health facilitiesÂ and cold stores in 23 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The supplies and building projects was commissioned on Friday at the Gui Primary Health Care Centre, along the Abuja Airport road in the FCT by the European Union Ambassador to Nigeria and ECOWAS, Mr. Ketil Karlsen, the Minister of State for Health, Dr. Osagie Enahire, representatives of the Minister of Budget and National Planning and the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, the Executive Director of the NPHCDA, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, the WHO Country Representative, Dr. Wondi Alemu and the Executive Chairman of the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Hon. Abdullahi Adamu Candido, among other dignitaries.
The EU Ambassador said the intervention was one of the most expansive of EUâ€™s infrastructural interventions in the health sector that could save millions of lives every year by complementing the collective efforts of government and partner working towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the various states.
The overall objectives of the project, he said, was to contribute to reducing sickness and death in children due to vaccine preventable diseases by ensuring quality routine immunisation and interrupting the spread of poliomyelitis in Nigeria.
In realising the set objectives, he said â€œthis EU Support has used both â€˜hard and soft wareâ€™ solutions to tackle identified challenges. Vaccine security for example, is one of the key strategies of controlling communicable diseases and for saving childrenâ€™s livesâ€, he said, adding that efforts to increase capacities in the health centres would amount to little, if there were no sustained supply of potent vaccines to give children and mothers and avoiding problems of stock outs at all levels.
Mr. Karlsen said beyond the financial assistance for hard ware solutions, the EU was also concerned about the governance and management of health service delivery and the utilisation of available budgets in a transparent and accountable manner but warned that â€œ the main responsibility lies with the federal, state and local government authoritiesâ€, stressing that EU investment in health sector had also substantially decreased the incidence of polio in Nigeria such that we can now feel polio eradication is within grasp.
He said EU and Nigeria shared a long standing relationship in the health sector dating back to 2001 when they first committed 20 million Euros (about 7.2 billion) towards polio eradication using immunisation as a window of opportunity to strengthen the primary health care system to provide high quality preventable health services to all Nigerians.
In addition, he said, Nigeria and EU had built an enduring partnership with support in other sectors of good governance, justice and human rights Civil Society Organisations, micro-projects programme in the Niger Delta, trade and most recently, restoration of basic services and livelihoods in the North East.
The Executive Director of NPHCDA, Dr. Shuaib said, :the EU had been an important partner in strengthening our efforts to improve the Primary Health Care system to provide better health for Nigerians. The items commissioned will rapidly be deployed to boost the efficiency of delivery and ensuring that every child is reached with immunisation servicesâ€.
He drew the attention of the EU to the fact that routine immunisation programme in Nigeria in not yet out of the woods due to the present economic downturn. He, therefore solicited for more support from EU to enable Nigeria achieve complete success in this regard.
While appreciating other collaborating partners in the project, the Executive Director promised that the Agency would continue to be transparent and accountable in dealing with collaborators in bringing health care delivery services to the door steps of every Nigerian.
He also said the leadership of the Agency would not relent in its efforts to strengthen governance of immunisation, closing out on polio and strengthening routine immunisation and supply chain.
The Minister of State for Health, Dr. Enahire said the project would take Nigeria several steps forward in her quest to provide comprehensive health care delivery services.
He commended the EU for the assistance in this regard, stressing that in as much as comprehensive health care services was one of the cardinal programmes of the Buhari administration, economic challenges and competing priorities had not allowed the government to carry out the programmes as it would have love to do.
â€œThe Ministry of Health and in particular the National Primary Health Care Development Agency will continue to collaborate with the European Union on similar programmesâ€, he said, while appreciating other partners such as the WHO, civil society organisations for working with the government on the project.
The project was implemented by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) through the Federal Ministry of Budget and National Planning to support the efforts of the government to reduce the burden of vaccine preventable diseases, eradicate polio and strengthen the Primary Health Care system.
The 23 focal statesÂ receiving support from the EU-SIGN are; Abia, Akwa-Ibom, Anambra, Cross River, Ebonyi, Edo, FCT, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Kaduna, Kebbi, Kogo, Kwara, Lagos, Ogun, Osun, Plateau, River Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara.