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FG doubles first tranche of Basic Healthcare Fund to N50bn

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…Resumes payment of N25,000 palliative to 12 million households

By Sodiq Adelakun

The Federal government has announced that it will release N50 billion as the first tranche of the Basic Healthcare Fund, a significant increase from the N25 billion allocated in 2022.

The Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Mohammad Ali Pate, made this disclosure on Wednesday, praising President Bola Tinubu’s administration for its success in advancing the nation’s health sector.

According to the Minister, the government has remained committed to improving healthcare accessibility, affordability, and quality. Since assuming office, they have prioritised the revitalisation of primary healthcare facilities across the country, ensuring they are adequately equipped and staffed to provide essential services to communities.

During a ministerial press briefing in Abuja on Wednesday, Prof. Pate highlighted that through sustained investment and strategic partnerships, the government has expanded access to vital healthcare services, particularly in rural and underserved areas. This has resulted in improved health outcomes and a reduction in the burden of preventable diseases.

The Minister also revealed that there has been an increase in the proportion of women attending antenatal care. Over 550,000 women now attend their first antenatal care, receiving the necessary information and care to improve their pregnancy outcomes and reduce maternal and child mortality.

…FG recruits over 2,000 healthcare workers in six months

However, the government recently recruited 2,497 doctors, midwives/nurses, and Community Health Extension Workers (CHEWs) to bridge the gaps caused by attrition.

Additionally, 1,400 health facilities now have Skilled Birth Attendants to assist in deliveries, resulting in as many as 230,000 health facility deliveries per month.

The increased allocation of funds and the government’s efforts to improve healthcare services demonstrate progress and improvements in the nation’s health sector. These initiatives aim to sustain and further enhance the gains made so far.

According to him, “Over 550,000 women now attend their first antenatal care and are armed with the right information and care to improve their pregnancy outcomes and reduce maternal and child mortality.

“The achievements we have recorded signal progress and improvements. To sustain and continue to build on these gains, in the last six months, the Government of Nigeria recruited 2,497 doctors, midwives/nurses, and Community Health Extension Workers, CHEWs to bridge the gaps due to attrition.

“An additional 1,400 health facilities now have Skilled Birth Attendants to assist in deliveries at the health facilities. This has increased the number of health facility deliveries to as high as 230,000 deliveries per month.”

Speaking further, Prof. Pate said, “I am delighted to announce that the Federal Government will be releasing N50 billion as the first tranche of the Basic Healthcare Fund, a significant increase from N25 billion allocated in 2022. This infusion of funds will breathe new life into our primary healthcare facilities, ensuring that quality care is accessible to all citizens.”

Prof. Pate insisted that the government has made substantial strides in expanding health insurance coverage.

He said, “Recognising that financial barriers often deter individuals from seeking medical care, we have worked tirelessly to increase the accessibility and affordability of health insurance schemes. By supporting enrollment initiatives and streamlining administrative processes, we have extended coverage to millions of Nigerians, safeguarding them against the financial hardships associated with healthcare expenses.

“Since the beginning of this administration, we have enrolled about 750,000 more Nigerians in health insurance. We remain committed to providing access to quality health for all Nigerians through the Vulnerable Group Fund and the Basic Health Care Provision Fund (BHCPF).

“Furthermore, our commitment to immunisation has yielded remarkable results in protecting our population from vaccine-preventable diseases. Through robust vaccination campaigns and outreach programs, we have achieved significant strides in sustaining immunisation coverage nationwide, safeguarding our communities, particularly our children, from devastating diseases. Notably, our swift response to the diphtheria outbreak underscored our commitment to proactive disease control measures, swiftly containing the spread and saving countless lives.

“Since the inception of diphtheria response, over 5 million children have been immunised with the Penta vaccine and 10 million children with Tetanus-Diphtheria,Td vaccines.”

Speaking further, the Minister said, “In our ongoing efforts to combat the threat of Lassa fever, I am pleased to announce the comprehensive measures taken by the Federal Government to enhance response capabilities and safeguard the health of Nigerians. To strengthen our response to Lassa fever outbreaks, the Federal Government has embarked on the distribution of essential response commodities to states and treatment centers across the nation especially in affected states. These include Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), Ribavirin (injection and tablets), body bags, thermometers, hypochlorite hand sanitisers, and Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) materials. By ensuring the availability of these critical resources, we aim to equip healthcare workers and facilities with the necessary tools to effectively manage and contain outbreaks.

“Recognising the importance of strategic planning and preparedness, we have developed a robust distribution plan for Lassa fever commodities. This plan ensures the timely and equitable distribution of resources to states and treatment centers based on their specific needs and vulnerability. Additionally, prepositioning of commodities has been undertaken to facilitate swift response and minimise logistical challenges during outbreaks.

“Confirmed cases of Lassa fever are promptly treated at identified treatment centers across the states. These centers are equipped with the necessary medical expertise, facilities, and medications to provide comprehensive care to patients. By centralising treatment and care, we can effectively manage cases, prevent transmission, and improve patient outcomes.

“We remain resolute in our commitment to mitigating the impact of Lassa fever and safeguarding the health and well-being of all Nigerians. Through strategic planning, resource allocation, and collaborative efforts with state governments and healthcare partners, we are confident in our ability to effectively respond to outbreaks and protect our communities.”

…Over 4.95m girls vaccinated across 15 States, FCT

The successful coverage of HPV vaccination was announced, stating that over 4.95 million eligible girls aged 9-14 years, representing 80 percent of eligible girls, have been vaccinated since the launch of the vaccine in October 2023 across 15 states plus the FCT.

The Phase 2 introduction is scheduled for May 2024 in Anambra, Borno, Cross-river, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Gombe, Imo, Kwara, Kogi, Ondo, Rivers, Oyo, Sokoto, Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Yobe, Plateau, and Zamfara.

Pre-implementation activities have already begun to ensure a successful Phase 2 introduction, which is seen as a crucial milestone in the ongoing efforts to combat cervical cancer.

The focus is on preventive measures and expanding access to life-saving vaccines to protect the health and well-being of women and girls, ensuring a healthier future for generations to come. In addition to the successful vaccination coverage, there has been a significant increase in patient attendance at federal tertiary hospitals, which is seen as a testament to the improved quality of care and confidence in the healthcare system.

Twelve tertiary hospitals/centres have been identified for infrastructure development, including the establishment of oncology centres, radiology centers, and diagnostics facilities.

While announcing a successful coverage of HPV vaccination, he said, “Since the launch of the HPV vaccine in October 2023 across 15 states plus the FCT, we have successfully vaccinated more than 4,95million eligible girls aged 9-14 years representing 80 percent of eligible girls. The Phase 2 introduction is scheduled for May 2024 in Anambra, Borno, Cross-river, Delta, Ebonyi, Edo, Ekiti, Gombe, Imo, Kwara, Kogi, Ondo, Rivers, Oyo, Sokoto, Kaduna, Katsina, Niger, Yobe, Plateau and Zamfara.

“Pre-implementation activities have commenced to ensure a successful phase 2 introduction a crucial milestone in our ongoing efforts to combat cervical cancer. By prioritising preventive measures and expanding access to life-saving vaccines, we are taking proactive steps to protect the health and well-being of our women and girls, ensuring a healthier future for generations to come.”

Pate, who also announced a significant increase in patient attendance at federal tertiary hospitals, said the development was “a testament to the improved quality of care and confidence in our healthcare system.”

“Through targeted investments in infrastructure, technology, and human capital, we will enhance the capacity of these institutions to deliver specialised medical services and handle complex health conditions, ensuring that every Nigerian has access to world-class healthcare when needed.

“Our commitment to improving tertiary healthcare services is unwavering. Twelve tertiary hospitals/centers have been earmarked for infrastructure development, including the establishment of oncology centers, radiology centers, and diagnostics facilities.

“These investments will enhance our capacity to provide specialised care and meet the evolving healthcare needs of our people.

“In addition, we have provided steadfast support to states in combating the scourge of Lassa fever. Through collaborative initiatives, capacity-building programs, and the provision of critical resources, we have strengthened surveillance, diagnosis, and treatment protocols, strengthening our collective response to this persistent threat,” he said.

According to him, “In collaboration with the medical and dental council of Nigeria, we have taken proactive steps to address the shortage of healthcare professionals.

“By increasing the number of medical students admitted to medical schools, we are boosting the healthcare workforce and laying the groundwork for a healthier future,” he noted.

While informing that, “Digitalisation is poised to revolutionize healthcare delivery in Nigeria,” the minister said government was committed to embracing this transformation.

“Within the next two weeks, we will unveil a comprehensive program to digitize our healthcare system, streamlining processes, enhancing efficiency, and improving patient outcomes.

“The rising cost of pharmaceuticals is a pressing concern, and we are taking decisive action to address this issue. An executive order will soon be issued to curb escalating drug prices in the short term, while our mid to long-term goal involves the domestication of imported drugs within the next three years, in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade.

“In a strategic move to fortify the pharmaceutical infrastructure across the nation, the Federal Government initiated the construction of pharmaceutical-grade warehouses in 21 states in collaboration with Drug Management Agencies.

“Two additional warehouses at the federal level are also underway, complemented by the installation of the Warehousing Management Information System (WMIS) – M Supply, in these 21 pharma-grade warehouses. This visionary project, commenced in October 2023, is slated for completion in March 2024, with a scheduled commissioning in April 2024.

“The implementation of WMIS is expected to significantly enhance accountability and transparency, ensuring the potency of public health medicines and other health commodities. This infrastructure development aligns with our commitment to improving health outcomes for citizens nationwide,” he further said.

He explained that government has taken strides in advancing healthcare data management.

“Essential medicines and narcotics utilisation across the three levels of healthcare have been successfully onboarded onto the National Health Logistics Management Information System (NHLMIS) platform. This decisive step not only strengthens our international image by enhancing medicines reporting but also establishes a robust framework for monitoring and optimising the supply chain.”

…Resumes payment of N25,000 palliative to 12m households

The Honourable Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, at the Ministerial Press Briefing Series with the Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Dr.Muhammad Ali Pate revealed that the government will resume immediately the payment of N25,000 palliative to 12m households.

The Minister said: “As the government rejigs the National Social Investment Programme, the direct payments to N25,000 to 12 million households will resume immediately.

“The government is equally tackling insecurity headlong and more success stories are coming in on a daily basis. Without any doubt, we are winning the war against insecurity.

“These are indeed testament to the bold initiatives taken by Mr. President to reflate the Nigerian economy and return it to the path of growth and sustainable development,” He said.

Health

NAFDAC recalls Benylin children syrups

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By Matthew Denis

The National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has recalled one of Benylin Paediatric Syrups, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson.

NAFDAC disclosed this on its website on Wednesday, stating that the laboratory analysis conducted on the product showed that it contains an unacceptable high level of Diethylene glycol and was found to cause acute oral toxicity in laboratory animals.

“Diethylene glycol is toxic to humans when consumed and can prove fatal. Toxic effects can include abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, inability to pass urine, headache, altered mental state, and acute kidney injury, which may lead to death,” NAFDAC explained.

Benylin Paediatric syrup is indicated for the relief of cough and its congestive symptoms and for the treatment of hay fever and other allergic conditions in children aged 2 to 12 years.

The details of the product showed that the product was manufactured by Johnson & Johnson in Cape Town, South Africa.

With batch number 329304, the product was manufactured in May 2021, and it is to expire this April 2024.

NAFDAC has, therefore, implored importers, distributors, retailers and consumers to exercise caution and vigilance within the supply chain to avoid the importation, distribution, sale and use of the substandard (contaminated) regulated products.

“All medical products must be obtained from authorised/licensed suppliers. The products’ authenticity and physical condition should be carefully checked.

“Anyone in possession of the above-mentioned product is advised to immediately discontinue sale or use and submit stock to the nearest NAFDAC office. If you witness any adverse reaction/event after the use of this product in any children, you are advised to direct such patients for immediate medical attention from a qualified healthcare professional,” the agency cautioned.

Meanwhile, NAFDAC has urged healthcare professionals and consumers to report any suspicion of substandard and falsified medicines to the nearest NAFDAC office.

Similarly, healthcare professionals and patients are also encouraged to report adverse events or side effects related to the use of the medicinal product to the nearest NAFDAC office, or through the use of the E-reporting platforms available on its website.

Also, the agency has directed the Marketing Authorisation Holder (Johnson and Johnson company West Africa) to initiate the recall of the batch and the notice will also be uploaded to the WHO Global Surveillance and Monitoring System (GSMS).

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World Health Day: 250 people receive free diabetes screening in Asaba

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No fewer than 250 people have received free diabetes screening in Asaba, Delta, to celebrate the 2024 World Health Day.

The Chief Medical Director (CMD) of Asaba Specialist Hospital, Dr Peace Ighosewe, who led other management staff in organising the event,  said the screening was part of efforts by the hospital to promote healthy living.

The World Health Day which was established on April 7, the founding date of the World Health Organisation (WHO) serves to raise awareness of global health issues and garner support for their resolution.

Ighosewe said that healthy living was key to good health for Nigerians.

She said there was a need to create awareness on the importance of healthy living and that everyone had the right to access good health at an affordable cost.

“We are also engaging in a health walk and talk, to celebrate the 2024 World Health Day,” she said.

Ighosewe added that the event was also organised in line with the theme for this year’s World Health Day, which is: “Your Health, Your Right.”

A cross-section of Asaba residents including the Senior Special Assistant on Media to the Delta State Governor, Mrs Veronica Abang-Gwam, participated in the diabetes screening at the hospital.

Ighosewe further added that the general public was sensitised on the need to exercise regularly, to help maintain physical fitness and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

“Eat a balanced diet which will provide essential nutrients for optimal health; go for routine medical checkups to allow for easy detection, timely intervention and management of any health issues.

“In line with the ‘MORE Agenda’  of Gov. SherrifOborevwori’s administration, the Asaba Specialist Hospital will continue to do its part,  to empower members of the surrounding communities with the right information on the importance of prioritising healthy habits.

“These healthy habits can significantly improve their physical health, mental wellbeing and quality of life,” Ighosewe said.

Consultant Family Physician and Head of Department, Family Medicine, Asaba Specialist Hospital, Dr Dominic Uwadia, who also spoke at the event, said the hospital would continue to promote healthy living and disease prevention in the state.

Uwadia urged the people not to wait till they get ill before getting necessary medical attention.

The Medical Laboratory Scientist of the hospital, Ms Faith Emetonjor, also advised people to live a healthy life, noting: “Your Health is Your Right.”

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NAFDAC meets manufacturers, frowns at marketing of breast-milk substitutes

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…Says substitute undermining health of babies

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has met with the Association of Infant Food Manufacturers and Marketers in Nigeria (AIFMN) on the implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes noting that the marketing of breast-milk substitutes is undermining the health of babies.

Speaking at an interaction with the stakeholders, Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye who was represented by the Director of Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (FSAN), Mrs. Eva Edwards disclosed that the World Health Organisation (WHO) global target for exclusive breastfeeding is 50 percent by 2025, while the demographic and health survey indicates that only 28.7 percent of nursing mothers embrace exclusive breastfeeding in Nigeria.

She reiterated the need for Nigerian nursing mothers to embrace exclusive breastfeeding of their infants for the first six months of life to improve the health status of their newborns.

She emphasised that NAFDAC remains resolutely committed to implementing and monitoring adherence to the provisions of the Code as the Agency designated by law for this responsibility in the amendment Decree No. 22 – Marketing (Breast-milk Substitutes) of 1999.

Exclusive breastfeeding – defined as the practice of only giving an infant breast milk for the first 6 months of life (no other food or water) – has the single largest potential impact on child mortality of any preventive intervention. It is part of optimal breastfeeding practices, which also include initiation within one hour of life and continued breastfeeding for up to two years of age or beyond.

The NAFDAC boss pointed out that exclusive breastfeeding is the best start in life and the cornerstone of child survival and health because it provides essential, irreplaceable nutrition as nature intended for a child’s optimal growth and development.

Prof Adeyeye, noted that inappropriate marketing of breast-milk substitutes contributes to undermining efforts to improve breastfeeding rates and duration.

According to her, the stakeholders’ engagement with the Association of Infant Food Manufacturers and Marketers in Nigeria (AIFMN) is aimed at fostering fruitful dialogue on the implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (the Code) and the National Regulations on the Marketing of Infant and Young Children Food and other Designated Products (Registration, Sales etc).

She explained that the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, including the subsequent relevant World Health Assembly (WHA) resolutions aim to contribute to the provision of safe and adequate nutrition for infants, by the protection and promotion of breastfeeding, and by ensuring the proper use of breast-milk substitutes, when they are necessary, based on adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution.

‘’We cannot overemphasise the significance of breastfeeding in the context of maternal and child health,” she said, adding that recognising the irreplaceable impact of breastfeeding on the health and development of infants and young children all over the world, and for the purpose of the engagement, infants and young children in Nigeria, NAFDAC remains resolutely committed to implementing and monitoring adherence to the provisions of the Code as the Agency designated by law for this responsibility in the amendment Decree No. 22 – Marketing (Breast-milk Substitutes) of 1999.

She further explained that the responsibility for monitoring and enforcing compliance with the provisions of the Code and national regulations covers the spectrum of actors in the infant and young child feeding space (and their actions): these include manufacturers, distributors, marketers, and other stakeholders.

‘’You will recall that the sixty-ninth World Health Assembly, which held in 2016 adopted Resolution WHA69.9 which urged Member States and health professionals to implement the recommendations in the accompanying WHO Guidance on Ending Inappropriate Promotion of Foods for Infants and Young Children,” she said, adding that the Guidance seeks to ensure that financial support for infant and young child health programmes and workers do not create conflicts of interest (COI).

It states that “companies that market foods for infants and young children should not sponsor meetings of health professionals and scientific meetings and that health workers, health systems, and health professional associations should not allow such sponsorship.”

Prof. Adeyeye further stated that the Guidance also notes that health professionals and facilities are often targeted and influenced by the infant and young child food industry through promotion, relationships, and incentives, and that these incentives create conflicts of interest and can result in the loss of independence, integrity, and public credibility.

She said a conflict of interest arises every time anyone (including a non-professional health worker or health educator) whose duty it is to promote breastfeeding accepts some kind of gift or benefit from a company.

‘’Last year, the WHO, together with a Technical Advisory Group (TAG), in recognition of the current trend of digital promotion of BMS, developed the guidance on digital marketing technologies to address these new marketing tools that are powerfully persuasive and often easily recognizable as breast-milk substitute promotions,” she said, adding that digital marketing can indeed deliver breast-milk substitutes promotions covertly.

As regulators, she said “we welcome the development of the guidance document, having dealt with issues of digital promotions of breast-milk substitutes.”

As manufacturers, representatives of manufacturers and marketers, she said, “you are aware of your responsibility to align your practices with the provisions of the BMS Code and national regulations, recognising that inappropriate promotions have a significant impact on infant health, nutrition, and development.”

She said the Agency is fully committed to protecting and promoting breastfeeding to address threats that marketing of breastmilk substitutes (BMS) pose to optimal breastfeeding practices.

She noted that the engagement of stakeholders presented a platform for open dialogue, to increase knowledge on the Code, share insights, experiences, and challenges on implementing the Code in Nigeria, adding that “your collaboration and adherence to the BMS Code are instrumental in creating a conducive environment for optimal infant breastfeeding feeding practices and ensuring the wellbeing of future generations of healthy and productive Nigerians.”

She reminded them that breast-milk substitutes are legitimate products which should be available for use when they are necessary, based on adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution.

“Our concern is strictly on inappropriate marketing practices. In the spirit of creating a conducive environment where the health and well-being of mothers and infants are prioritized, I wish us a fruitful and interactive session,” she said.

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