Traditional, Religious Leaders champion Advocacy in Child and Family Health

By Abubakar Jimoh

The Bauchi State Traditional Ruler, Emir of Dass, Alhaji Usman Bilyaminu Othman has said the traditional and religious institutions in the State would continue to be in the forefront advocating for the fulfilment of related commitments in child and family health by the government.

The traditional ruler made this known during a dialogue session on child and family health with the media organised by Federation of Muslim Women Association in Nigeria (FOMWAN) under the aegis of Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health (PACFaH) in Bauchi state, during the weekend.

He said: “The traditional, religious and community leaders will intensify advocacy to ensure sustainable routine immunization, management of childhood killer diseases, apart from encouraging the communities to embrace appropriate nutrition status. Also, Islam is not against family planning and immunization. I therefore encourage parents to immunize their children to build a healthy society.”

In a paper titled “PACFaH: A Roadmap to Achieving Effective Child and Family Health in Nigeria”, Abdullahi Ibrahim representing FOMWAN discussed extensively on PACFaH four issue areas— Family planning, Nutrition, Routine Immunization, and Childhood Killer Diseases.

According to him, Nigeria currently occupies the top position of the most populous country in Africa with a population of over 175million people and ranks as the tenth most populous in the world. “Women constitute a large proportion of this population.

The presenter noted that 576 women out of every 100,000 live births, die as a result of these pregnancies and childbirths (This figure translates to 111 women and young girls dying daily or 5 women every hour), revealing that up to 30% of these are deaths can be prevented by increasing access to and uptake of contraceptives.

He lamented that despite the progress made in Family Planning (FP) through a supportive policy environment and provision of free contraceptives in public sector facilities available evidence shows that budgetary provisions for FP in Nigeria is grossly inadequate to allow individuals and couples to anticipate and attain their desired number of children and the spacing and timing of their births.

Ibrahim urged the traditional and religious leaders on enhanced advocacy to policy makers for adequate funding for Family Planning programmes implementation.

On nutrition, he explained that nutrition is a multi-disciplinary issue best addressed through well-coordinated and multi-sectoral approaches, stating that the adoption and implementation of the National Strategic Plan of Action on Nutrition (NSPAN) 2014-2019 will improve maternal and child nutrition in Nigeria.

Ibrahim emphasized that malnutrition is a condition that occurs when people consistently do not consume or absorb the right amounts and types of food and essential nutrients. “Globally, it contributes to nearly half of all child deaths-that is more than 3 million children each year. The main indicator for malnutrition is stunting- when children are too short for their age. Stunted children have poor physical growth and brain development, preventing them from thriving and living up to their full potential.”

The presenter urged the traditional and religious leaders on intensive advocacy for the implementation of the National Strategic Plan of Action on Nutrition at every level, with emphasis on maternal and child nutrition by government in the state.

He called for strategic advocacy to the government to: increase domestic budget for RI and ensure timely release of funds for vaccines procurement and logistics; promote access to needed health care; establishment of vaccine intervention fund (VIF) to draw contributions from public and private sources; strengthen the accountability mechanism for RI in line with National Routine Immunization Strategic Plan, to make working groups (Finance, indicators, advocacy and mobilization) more functional.

Ibrahim further highlighted that childhood pneumonia and diarrhoea are leading killers of children under the age of 5 years with over 1.5 million children die globally and more than 400,000 in Nigeria. He called on the traditional and religious institutions to advocate to government to take concrete steps for the reduction in the death of children under age 5 through: adoption of Amoxicillin Dispersible tablet (DT) as the first line therapy (FLT) in the standard treatment guideline for childhood pneumonia and its inclusion on the Essential Medicines List (EML); adoption of Zn/ORS as First Line Therapy for the treatment of childhood diarrhea; creation of a specific budget line for Amoxicillin DT/Zn/ORS in the Ministry of Finance; and increase (funding, procurement and distribution) of the child health commodities-Amoxicillin DT & Zn/ORS co-packed.

The Chief Imam of Bauchi Central Mosque, Ustaz Bala Ahmad Babban Inna explained that while Islam is not against family planning, new born is recommended to be exclusively breastfed for two years. “The essence of family planning is to secure the health of the mother and child before going for another pregnancy. Religious Leaders will continue to support all efforts to secure lives of mother and child through enlightenment and education during sermons and other fora.

Also, the Chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) Bauchi State Chapter, Reverend Ray Maina represented by the Association’s Youth Chairman, Reverend Mako Gwamis promised that CAN will organize similar exercise to Christian faithful on the need to embrace all policies and programmes aimed at improving child and family health.

Similarly, a representative of Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), Abdulrahaman A. Ghani reiterated that the Muslim Community’s commitment in carrying out aggressive public awareness on the importance of family planning and other child and family health related issues, calling for concerted efforts toward proper upbringing of children to enable them attain their full potentials to become better citizens.

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