Borno Headline News Nigeria Special Report

Protection of health, aid workers for improved vaccine

Immunization is a process of vaccination to prevent diseases, disabilities, and mortality, from preventable illnesses, such as Diphtheria, Tuberculosis, Hepatitis B, Measles, and Pneumonia among others.

To ensure that parents, and caregivers, the world over embrace routine immunization, the World Health Organization WHO, set aside every last week of April each year to create awareness of immunization vaccine.

The week is celebrated annually to highlight the collective action needed to promote the use of vaccines, to protect people of all ages.

The theme for this year’s celebration; A Long Life for All, is apt as it promotes freedom for everyone to pursue happiness and stakeholders’ collaboration to achieve the sustainable development goals 3.

The United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF 2019 report shows that 858,000 under-five deaths occurred in Nigeria, ranking the country highest in the number of under-five deaths, due to unstable vaccine-preventable diseases.

Also, the United Nations between January to March 2018 had 94 of its partners involved in carrying out humanitarian services such as relief and immunization to victims of conflict in Northeast Nigeria.

In spite of these measures, immunization coverage in Nigeria remained abysmally low, as a result of several factors including conflicts. This is because, access to citizens in crisis areas had become an enormous task, as many Aid and Health workers have come under attack.

Some mothers lost their children due to unstable immunization. Aisha Mohammed a 26-year-old mother of four children, who lived in a remote village near Gajigana in Magumeri Local Government of Borno state, while narrating her experience said the community, was cut off from access to medical healthcare due to insurgency attacks.

“I have never had any regular vaccination for two of my children; all we give the children are local herbs whenever they are sick. Many children died. My first contact with orthodox medication like routine vaccines was last year when we fled our villages and arrived in Maiduguri,” she said in Hausa.

Also, Hadiza Umar a 29 years old housewife, who currently nurses a seven-month-old child from Yobe state, said her two children became sick and she had to take them to the clinic in Gujba where she was told they were ill because they did not get the routine immunisation.

“When we were displaced by Boko Haram about five years ago, we all fled to Damaturu where we camped, I was pregnant then, and my husband is a poor farmer, we had nothing, I gave birth to my first and second child in three years, they were unable to get the routine immunisation in full. After returning to Gujba the children became sick.”

The Health and Aid Workers while narrating their experiences in the crisis areas, called for adequate security measures to enable them to render quality services to victims caught up in conflict.

To address the anomalies, the Country Representative of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees Ms Chandsa Kapaya, urged the federal government to step up security for humanitarian workers and citizens. “It is worrisome, the way the Aid and health workers are being kidnapped, it’s against the International community framework, if they must effectively carry out their work, their safety must be guaranteed,” she said

In a statement from the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health PMNCH Global Alliance for women, Children and Adolescent Health,   an Organization under the WHO, the Board Chair and Former Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark said urgent action is needed to protect people of all ages including the health and aid workers who provide victims of conflict areas with care and support, as they are facing growing challenges and life-threatening risks.

She explained that In the Sahel region, countries like Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, are subject to violent attacks by extremist insurgents and unidentified armed groups, causing alarming humanitarian consequences and called on global leaders to commit to greater investment to safety and ensure protection for health and aid workers.

The Minister for Humanitarian Affairs Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq said the federal government had been supplying relief materials and skill acquisition programme for the IDPs to make them self-reliant. “There has been an increased investment of about N3.8 billion by Federal and State governments, especially for the procurement of Ready-to-Use therapeutic Foods, and government is planning to ensure that the crisis in the northeast is reduced, to relocate the IDPs to their communities.”

Stakeholders believe that the protection of health workers and humanitarian workers will enhance the provision and distribution of vaccines, especially to rural communities.

Reporting by Julian Osamoto, editing by Daniel Adejo.