The current figure of under-five deaths in Nigeria gives us mixed feelings, Mr. Ketil Karlsen, European Union ambassador to Nigeria and West Africa, has said. Karlsen, who quoted the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), said one million children below five die yearly in the country.
The figure, he said, is alarming, which calls for a review of programmes to know what could be done. “Fundamentally, the European Union has provided a very long and consistent support for the health sector in Nigeria. Two hundred million euros since 2002; straight 17 years non-stop, we had partnered Nigerian authorities. We have come to this crossroads where we need to look at the result and note what we can do differently, what we can do better. We stand here with mixed feelings in the sense that only yesterday, we could have celebrated three years without new cases of polio in Nigeria.
“It is only possible, thanks to collaboration between partners, Federal G overnment, state government and also civil society and a number of international organisations. But there are still mixed feelings nevertheless because when you look at the numbers, we see that many children are in difficult health conditions. UNICEF said one million children below the age of five years in Nigeria die every year and that is really an alarming figure. Looking at the immunisation rate in the country, in the North in general and the Northwest in particular, we know that there is a long way to go,” Karlsen said.
On the likelihood of EU taking up another programme in the country, the ambassador noted that what the European regional body is doing right now is defining its priority for the years ahead. This, he said, is not for Nigeria alone but a global thing. “The European Union is currently in a phase where we are defining our priority for the coming years. This is not only in Nigeria, but throughout the world.”
He, however, assured that EU will continue to support the government programmes and policies in Nigeria. “For me, looking at the ambition of the federal government of Nigeria, the very viable ambition of lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years. We believe in the need for an integrated approach, approach where basic social services, health and education in particular must be at the forefront of combined investment in human capital, making sure that people live in peace and stability and also seek more opportunities in terms of job for the youth, in particular. So, when we look at defining our priorities for the future, this is something we will take into consideration. And it is always in support of Nigeria’s initiatives, Nigeria’s policies and visions,” he said.
Given reason for investing on governance of immunisation, Karlsen said “If you don’t have the immunisation of children, you will not have healthy children needed to have the necessary education skills. Fundamentally, they are the cornerstone of any society. So this is investing directly in the most valuable that we have in our society. These are this building blocks of making development work and that is why we have consistently supported health for 17 years.”
Speaking on the gains of the EU investment on immunisation, Mrs. Fiona Braka, the immunisation team lead for WHO, said the support from the EU to the government of Nigeria has greatly impacted on the success seen with the polio eradication programme. “Through WHO, the EU provided a grant between 2011 and 2016 to support the polio eradication initiative and subsequently renewed the support in 2017 that will run for four years. And with that support, WHO was able to work closely with the government to address the constraint we are facing with eradication of polio and with that support, campaigns were able to be implemented in areas where immunity needed to be boosted, in high-risk states to reach more children with the polio vaccine and interrupt the virus transmission. We have been able to reach difficult places with support that has been provided.
“Because of this, we are witnessing a milestone in Nigeria, as we have marked three years without polio virus case in Nigeria.
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