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Five million children die before fifth birthday— Report

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An estimated five million children died before their fifth birthday, and  another 2.1 million children and youth aged between five and 24 years lost their lives in 2021, according to the latest estimates by the United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation, released on Tuesday.

In a separate report also released, the group found that 1.9 million babies were stillborn during the same period.

The group, however, said many of these deaths could have been prevented with equitable access and high-quality maternal, newborn, child, and adolescent health care.

“Every day, far too many parents are facing the trauma of losing their children, sometimes even before their first breath,” said Vidhya Ganesh, UNICEF Director of the Division of Data Analytics, Planning, and Monitoring.

“Such widespread, preventable tragedies should never be accepted as inevitable. Progress is possible with stronger political will and targeted investment in equitable access to primary health care for every woman and child,” Ganesh added.

Meanwhile, the reports showed some positive outcomes, with a lower risk of death across all ages globally since 2000.

“It is grossly unjust that a child’s chances of survival can be shaped just by their place of birth and that there are such vast inequities in their access to lifesaving health services.

“Children everywhere need strong primary health care systems that meet their needs and those of their families, so that no matter where they are born, they have the best start and hope for the future,” said Dr Anshu Banerjee, WHO Director for Maternal, Newborn, Child, and Adolescent Health and Ageing.

“Though sub-Saharan Africa had just 29 per cent of global live births, the region accounted for 56 per cent of all under-five deaths in 2021, and Southern Asia for 26 per cent of the total.

“Children born in sub-Saharan Africa are subject to the highest risk of childhood death in the world — 15 times higher than the risk for children in Europe and Northern America,” the group noted.

According to the Global Director for Health, Nutrition, and Population, World Bank and the Director of the Global Financing Facility, Juan Uribe, behind these numbers are “millions of children and families who are denied their basic rights to health.”

The reports also noted gaps in data, which could critically undermine the impact of policies and programmes designed to improve childhood survival and well-being.

“The new estimates highlight the remarkable global progress since 2000 in reducing mortality among children under age five,” said John Wilmoth, Director, UN DESA Population Division.”

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WHO to begin vaccination against Human Papilloma Virus May 27 in Kogi

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The World Health Organisation (WHO), says it plans to commence vaccination against Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) on May 27 in Kogi.

The state’s Team Lead of WHO, Dr Muktar Toyosi, said this when he led his team on an advocacy visit to the State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) on Wednesday in Lokoja.

Toyosi said that the vaccination was meant for girl child of between the age nine and 14.

He said the ongoing sensitisation was to keep the people informed, and educate them on the vaccination of their children to protect them against cervical cancer in future.

”Kogi falls within the second phase of the programme. We are soliciting for the cooperation of the media in educating the people of the state on the HPV vaccination.

“There need for girls child across the state to take the vaccination to safeguard their future.

“Although the vaccine was initially scarce and difficult to get, the good news now is that it has been made available by the government,” Toyosi said.

Also speaking, the State Technical Assistant for WHO, Dr Ahmed Attah, said that the HPV mostly affect women, adding that the vaccination remained a preventive measure against the disease.

Attah, a former state Chairman of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and a former Chief Medical Director (CMD), Kogi Specialist Hospital (KSSH) Lokoja, urged parents and guardians to avail their children of the vaccination to justify government’s investment.

In his response, the Kogi NUJ Chairman, Mr Seidu Ademu, described the health sector as very critical, stressing that the vaccination was a right step in the right direction.

Ademu promised a robust partnership with WHO to enable the team to achieve its set goals.
He stressed the need to inform, educate and sensitise the general public on the need to embrace the vaccine by ensuring that girls within the age range were vaccinated.

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NCDs will be leading cause of mortality in Africa by 2030 – WHO

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The World Health Organisation (WHO) says Non-communicable Diseases (NCDs) will become the leading cause of mortality in Africa by 2030 if urgent measures are not executed by member states.

Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, joining virtually, made the assertion on Tuesday at the opening of the first International Conference on PEN-Plus in Africa (ICPPA 2024) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

The ICPPA 2024, holding from April 23 to April 25, is aimed at addressing severe NCDs in Africa.

It is being hosted by the WHO Regional Office for Africa, Helmsley Charitable Trust, and the United Republic of Tanzania. Moeti urged member states to embrace strategies that would help to address the issue.

“We are faced with non-communicable diseases and data from low and middle income countries show that 26 per cent of total health spending was due to NCDs, second only to infectious and parasitic diseases.

“Meaning it is urgent to give these often overlooked diseases priority attention as Africa is severely affected and more than in any other place in the world.

“The surge in the burden of NCDs on our continent over the past two decades, is driven by increasing incidences of risk factors, such as unhealthy diets, reduced physical activity, obesity, and air pollution.

“NCDs are set to overtake communicable, maternal, neonatal and nutritional diseases combined as a leading cause of mortality in Africa by 2030.

“And here, the NCDs are called silent epidemics. Unfortunately, this rapid devolution, with a higher mortality rate has not been recognised in the region, because we’re not investing adequately in detecting and lowering the burden of these diseases,” Moeti said.

Moeti noted that severe NCDs like type one diabetes, rheumatic heart disease, and sickle cell disease more frequently affect children and young adults in the majority of Africans population.

She advised that Africa must show increased commitment in addressing NCDs with adequate and sustained resources.

She also said there was the need to strengthen accountability and assess the impact of interventions by enhancing surveillance and monitoring.

According to Moeti, this can be achieved using reliable and timely data at national and sub national levels to drive policy and action as we move forward.

Ms Elke Wisch, UNICEF Representative to Republic of Tanzania, said that collaboration was at the heart of collective response to tackling NCDs.

“Today’s gathering underscores the urgency and importance of addressing NCDs comprehensively and collaboratively.

“The WHO package of essential non communicable  interventions for PEN, for primary healthcare and low resources settings, and the recently launched regional strategy on PEN-Plus provides a strategic framework  for tackling NCDs at their roots,” she said.

Also speaking, Ummy Mwalimu, Minister of Health, Tanzania, said that non communicable diseases NCDs, have become a formidable threat to the health and wellbeing of “our people.”

She urged for collective efforts to address these threats.

“They are silently affecting the lives of our citizens, our communities, undermining the progress we strive to achieve as a nation.

“The impact of these diseases extends beyond individual suffering.

“It affects our communities, our economy, and ultimately the future of our nations in our continent.

“Yet, in the face of these challenges, we are not discouraged together. We have chosen to confront these non-communicable diseases.’’

She urged for lifestyle change as positive way to combatting the negative outcomes of NCDs.

James Reid, Programme Officer for the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) Programme, said he was happy at the level of interest and momentum in engagements to address NCDs, especially Type 2 diabetes.

He, however, identified finance as one of the biggest challenge and hindrance. He said that while political leaders and stakeholders identify the challenges that NCDs pose, the strategies to prevent them, especially NCD care, were limited.

“Leadership for driving of PEN-Plus is very important to make sure that ministry of health leaders and all others involved, really understand how to change the dynamics as well as adopt solutions to suit specific localities,” she said.

WHO’s PEN-Plus (Package of Essential NCD-Plus), is a regional integrated care delivery strategy to address severe non-communicable diseases at first-level referral health facilities.

At the 2022 WHO Regional Committee Meeting for the African Region, the 47 Member States of the AFRO region voted to adopt the PEN-Plus strategy.

It is focused on alleviating the burden among the poorest children and young adults. This is by increasing the accessibility and quality of chronic care services for severe NCDs including Type 1 diabetes, rheumatic heart disease, and sickle cell disease.

 ICPPA 2024 provides opportunity to shore up international support for scaling up PEN-Plus in the African Region. Also, the conference serves as a platform to raise awareness of severe NCDs, share lessons from countries implementing PEN-Plus and identify opportunities to strengthen NCD management.

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UNICEF emphasises importance of polio vaccination to caregivers

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The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has encouraged caregivers in Katsina, Kano and Jigawa States to present their eligible children for the next round of polio vaccination exercise.

Mr Michael Banda, the Officer-in-charge of UNICEF Kano Field Office, made the call in Kano at a media dialogue on the polio campaign on Friday.

The media dialogue was organised by UNICEF in collaboration with the Kano State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, with participants from the above-mentioned states.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the four-day polio vaccination exercise is scheduled to commence on April 20, across the three states.

According to the UNICEF Officer-in-charge of the Kano field office, the importance of the exercise cannot be overemphasised.

“As the data show, in Kano, Jigawa and Katsina, we have over 556,750 children who have not received one single dose of vaccination they should have received.

“These are referred to as zero-dose children. Such children inexorably are vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases, including poliomyelitis.

“This is unacceptable and must be tackled frontally. Not only is polio vaccination crucial, but all routine vaccinations are also critical to children’s survival.

“We must all work together to strengthen routine immunisation services and ensure that all children under five receive all vaccines, including the polio vaccine,” Banda said.

He added that, if all children got vaccinated and receive the vaccines they needed to receive, they would no longer be at risk of contracting polio, with attendant debilitating consequences.

He said that, rather they would have received the immunity which would protect them against vaccine-preventable diseases.

Banda emphasised that immunisation had been proven to be the most cost-effective protection against vaccine-preventable diseases.

“Let’s all work together, government, development partners, religious and traditional leaders, communities, NGOs, CSOs and the media, to ensure that every Nigerian child under five is vaccinated.

“This will protect them from not just polio, but all other vaccine-preventable diseases,” he appealed.

According to the UNICEF official, managing misinformation and vaccine hesitancy for Polio and overall vaccination is very crucial in Nigeria to stop the outbreak.

He stressed that the role of the media, including social media, was important in this aspect.

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