By Abubakar Jimoh
In line with its primary objective to identify and encourage decision makers on innovative strategies and mechanisms to forecast funding needs for effective child and family health in Nigeria, Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health in Nigeria (PACFaH) paid an advocacy visit to the Chief Executive Officers of Media Trust in Abuja on Monday.
The visit which was organised by the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) aimed at enhancing working relationship with the media and buy in support to showcase relevant challenges and recommendations for improvement on child and family health in Nigeria through presentation of appropriate fact findings from PACFaH’s key issues—Nutrition, Routine Immunisation, Family Planning and Childhood killer diseases.
Addressing the coalition during the visit, the Managing Editor, Media Trust, Managing Editor, Mr Ismaila Lere revealed that the media outfit finds it worthy to intensify working relationship with the coalition and give desired visibility to its key issues, primarily to improve child and family health in the country.
He explained that the media has so far increased readers’ awareness through its extensive reports of sensitive health issues such as measles, polio, Guinea worm and others using its weekly health pages.
“Although we are concerned with general issues, but we would continue to prioritise child and family health and ensure some of the issues raised by the coalition receive enabling policy and legislative attention. Nutrition is an interest area to us, as we have presently dedicated a page in Daily Trust to increase awareness and address issues affecting nutrition in the country,” Lere said.
He commended the group on its on-going advocacy in child and family health, reiterating that the Media outfit finds it worthy to intensify working relationship with the coalition to amplify its issues. Lere encouraged the partners on sustainable advocacy, as the Media is interest in more dialogue sessions and feedback.
The Managing Editor advised the coalition to incorporate in its advocacy and engage more in writing and submission of reports, articles, opinion for publication by the Media, promising continuous partnership and support for the project.
Speaking during the visit, the Programme Manager, development Research and Projects Centre (dRPC), Dr. Muhammed Muhammed Saleh explained that PACFaH is a partnership of eight (8) Nigerian NGOs working together to encourage government, at national and state levels, to identify innovative mechanisms to provide adequate funding for four (4) important areas in child and family health such as Routine Immunization, Family Planning, Amoxicillin as first line treatment for Pneumonia and ORS-Zinc as treatment for childhood diarrheal diseases, and Nutrition.
He said: “It would interest you to know that the partnership of the 8 Nigerian NGOs comprising Association for the Advancement of Family Planning (AAFP), Centre for Health Research Initiative in Nigeria (CHR), Civil Society for Scaling up Nutrition in Nigeria (CS-SUNN), Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), development Research and Projects Centre (dRPC), Federation of Muslim Women Organizations of Nigeria (FOMWAN), Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria (HERFON) and Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) has in the last one year been working with decision makers towards achieving its objectives across 8 focal states—Lagos, Oyo, Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna, Niger, Nassarawa and FCT.
“PACFaH engages advocacy effort towards deepening understanding of Nigerian Government on the importance of enabling policies and adequate fund mobilisation to improve child and family health in Nigeria. This visit is timely as the coalition understands that strategic collaboration with the media remains paramount to advance its advocacy to inform policy decisions at all levels,” Saleh added.
Commending the media outfit for its support hitherto on health coverage and reporting, the Program Manager (Gender, Anti-corruption and Health), CISLAC, Chioma Kanu stated that the coalition has enjoyed from the media outfit, infallible coverage and reporting of its advocacy activities since inception of the project. She urged increased priority for child and family health reportage.
“We look forward to our issues gaining media visibility. It is hoped that our strategic alliance will go a long way towards positioning issues on child and family health at the front and back pages of your newspaper in order to give health more prominence since it is an issue that concerns all. We pray that your editorials strategically target leaders on finances, enabling policies, and other administrative requirements to child and family health.
“We request for our leaders to be taken on the spot through interviews enquiring their actions in terms of funds mobilization to cater for nutrition, family planning routine immunization and addressing childhood killer diseases in the country. We seek strategic partnership that will be sustained even after the lifespan of the project in order to ensure continuous report and coverage on child and family health issues,” Kanu requested.
Also, speaking during the Project Coordinator, AAFP, Mrs. Chinwe Onumonu revealed that out of 175million people in Nigeria, 30 million are of reproductive age (15-49 years); and about 6 million of the population becomes pregnant each year with nearly 5 million resulting in child births.
She lamented that 576 women out of every 100,000 live births, die as a result of these pregnancies and childbirths totalling 111 women and young girls dying daily or 5 women every hour.
The Project Coordinator explained that while nearly 30% of the deaths can be prevented by increasing accessibility to contraceptives, evidence indicates that Nigeria has not recorded significant improvement in its family planning uptake in the last 10years.
She added: “Contraceptive prevalence rate (mCPR) has remained the same at 10%, for the past 10 years with a marked difference between the urban and rural areas (17% versus 6%). Whereas 25% of married women age 15-49 years in the South west currently use modern contraceptive, less than 3% of women in Northeast are current users of modern contraceptive methods.
“The low level of contraceptive use contributes to Nigeria’s poor maternal and child health status and accounts for the high total fertility rate of almost six children per woman. Budgetary provision for Family Planning in Nigeria is grossly inadequate to allow individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children through spacing and timing of their births.”
Onumonu requested increased media sensitisation to ensure adequate budgetary allocation and accessibility to family planning contraceptives.
The Project Manager, CS-SUNN, Mrs. Ngozidan Onuora said the main indicator for malnutrition was stunting, stating that stunted children have poor physical growth which is irreversible and associated with poor brain development and reduced school and work performance.
She said: “The immediate causes of malnutrition in children in the first two years of life are inappropriate breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices coupled with high rates of infections. The NDHS Report 2013 also shows that Malaria and diarrhoea incidence amongst children under five years stands at 12.2% and 13.5% respectively. Equally underlying Nigeria’s very poor nutrition and health indices is lack of access to basic healthcare, water and sanitation. 44.3% of women in reproductive age have problems accessing health care while household access to improved sanitation stands at 22.1% only.”
The Project Manager stated that Nigerian Government with support from donor agencies has implemented new policies and initiatives, culminating in the development of National Strategic Plan of Action for Nutrition (NSPAN) 2014 -2019 which sets out nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions, with measurable targets to be achieved by 2019.
She explained that NSPAN identifies a set of priority areas that are essential to improving nutritional status in Nigeria including Maternal Nutrition, Infant and Young Child Feeding, Management of Severe Acute Malnutrition in Children under Five, Micronutrient Deficiency Control, Diet Related Non-communicable Diseases, and Nutrition Information Systems.
Onuora further stated that CS-SUNN has taking the initiative to advocate for effective implementation of the NSPAN across the coalition focal states, calling for persistent tracking and monitoring of budgetary line on nutrition.
Similarly, the Programe Officer, PSN, Edwin Okpotor stated that childhood pneumonia and diarrhoea are leading killers of children under the age of 5 years with over 1.5 million children dying globally and more than 400,000 in Nigeria.
He urged the media to demand greater accountability from government in ensuring the implementation of its commitment to provide the essential medicines, especially Amoxicillin Dispersible Tablets and Zinc/ORS as recommended by United Nations Committee on Life Saving Commodities (UNCoLSC).
Also, briefing the Chief Executives on coalition’s key advocacy for fund mobilisation for sustainable intervention on routine immunization, Dr. Saleh mentioned that Nigeria has recorded significant progress in reducing childhood mortality, and vaccines have been a significant contributor. According to him, “new vaccines such as the Pentavalent vaccine have been introduced and Routine Immunization (RI) coverage has improved significantly from about 48% to 50 % in 2012 and 2013, to coverage of 87% nationwide in 2014. Also, Nigeria is moving towards Polio Interruption and Eradication as, throughout 2014, only 6 cases were reported.”
“Going by 2014 funding level, there is an anticipated funding gap of $72 million. Nigeria is at a crossroads and if funds are not mobilized this may lead to scale back of Routine Immunization plans for adding more vaccines,” he added.
The dRPC Program Manager advised the media on massive advocacy to the policy makers on increased domestic budget for RI and ensure timely release of funds for vaccines procurement and logistics to save more lives of Nigerian children.