UNICEF, WHO step up war against measles, others

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Measles, unhealthy living and violence against children are receiving the attention of the United Nations Children Emergency Funds (UNICEF), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other partners, write MIKE ODIEGWU and OLATUNDE ODEBIYI
The United Nations Children Emergency Funds (UNICEF), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other partners are stepping up the battle against measles, unhealthy living and violence against children.
In Yenegoa, the Bayelsa State capital, UNICEF in partnership with the Centre for Disease Control and Surveillance/African Field Epidemiology Network (CDC/AFENET) said the implementation of measles second dose introduction started on November 25.
Speaking at a sensitisation meeting with the media and other stakeholders in Yenagoa, Safe Emergency Routine Immunisation Coordination Centre (SERICC) Project Manager, Dr. Egbenipade Ebirimibowei, said the second dose was targeted at  wiping out measles in the state.
Describing measles as a devastating disease, he said if not prevented it could lead to death following complications from eye damage, deafness and brain damage among others.
He said the disease contributed to 40 to 50 per cent cause of death among children under age five, adding that though vaccines are administered on children traditionally within nine months of birth, vaccinated children under two years could receive a second dose.
Explaining further, the doctor said: “From research and experience, it has been found that when you give the first measles at nine month, if for example you give children, you administered the vaccine, it’s just 80 to 85 per cent of the children that will be protected, which means that about 15 to 20 per cent of the children are  still unprotected. In medical parlance we call it zero conversion.
“So we want to protect the remaining 20 to 15 per cent, and to protect them, we have to give a second dose. This second does is not an experiment. It is already being carried out by other climes like overseas and some other Africa countries.
“So, Nigeria has joined the chain because of the devastating nature of measles. We use the second dose of measles, and this second dose of measles is usually given around 15 months of age but any child under two years can still be given the dose of measles.
“Therefore, a higher does gives you a second chance of protecting all the children from getting measles. So, we have, as a country, decided that we are going to introduce the second dose, and we have done the flag off. There are health workers, going round every nook and cranny of Bayelsa State to search out every child under five years of age and to give them the second does of  the vaccine in Bayelsa State.”
Ebirimibowei appealed to the media to help in sensitising people in communities on the need to embrace the second dose vaccination.
Raising awareness on safe practices for healthy living
The National Orientation Agency (NOA) in Ebonyi, in conjunction with the UNICEF, has embarked on programmes to raise people’s consciousness  on essential safe practices for healthy living.
The NOA state Director, Dr Emma Abah, last Friday in Ezza-South Local Government Area, said the department of Communication for Development, a unit in UNICEF, identified the lack of knowledge and ignorance as two factors responsible for health challenges in the state.
He said the forum aimed at raising consciousness of safe practices among residents.
He further said high rate of poor hygiene, handwashing, poor environmental sanitation, poor exclusive breast feeding, issue of open defecation, harmful practices done in the secret, among others, were discovered in the state.
According to him, bad practices have increased health hazards in the state, adding that the department had resolved to enlighten families and communities to be properly informed about good practices.
He said: “UNICEF supported NOA to carry out this programme and the discussions are centred on the health of women, children and most difficult health challenges in the communities.
“UNICEF had discovered that money and food were not the major problem of the people, but ignorance and lack of knowledge.
“That is why they decided to go to grassroots to identify the health challenges people suffer.
“The programme is also centred on bringing essential family practices that are very necessary for the existence of any family or society.
“They observed that without communication and enlightenment, development will not thrive.”
Abah encouraged communities to own the programme, saying any community without human development had yet to attain and sustain growth. “Only those in the community know the problems of their domain,” he said.
The NOA boss said monitoring and evaluation units of the agency and the independent monitors of UNICEF would ensure the campaign was carried out at the grassroots effectively.
He also said the governance structure, development unions and the traditional rulers council would be made to include the campaign in their monthly meetings.
Abah urged government to provide more conveniences in public places, including markets and schools, in order to bring the desired change for safe practices for good health and development.
The Town Union President of Ndiaguahara Community in Ikwo, Mr Patrick Ugbuloke, blamed most things that posed health challenge in the area on ignorance.
“As a community leader, it is our duty to ensure that essential family practices was driven to the grassroots level effectively,” Ugbuloke said.
Two traditional rulers at the forum, Eze Martin Nweke (Echara Autonomous Community) and Eze Joseph Igweonwe (Amuda Autonomous Community), thanked the organisers and promised to take the message down to their communities.
The theme of the forum was “Working with Community Governance Forum to increase the number of mothers, caregivers and other community members with knowledge of at least five per cent of UNICEF Essential Family Practices to 85 per cent.
Protect your children from violence, UNICEF tells parents
The UNICEF on Tuesday advised parents to communicate freely with their children in order to ascertain their lifestyles and protect them from harm.
UNICEF’s Child Protection Specialist Dennis Onoise gave the advice in Zaria at the ongoing workshop on Violence Against Children (VAC) organised by UNICEF and NOA for community facilitators in Kaduna State.
According to him, parents need to pay more attention to their children and provide them with their basic needs in order to insulate them from sexual, emotional and physical violence.
“Many of the children, who are abused, are children whose parents are not paying attention to them. We need to talk to parents about appropriate parenting.
“Parents have the responsibility to make sure their children are well protected, because abused children tend to engage in negative activities like terrorism and prostitution,” he said.
Onoise said the workshop was organised to discuss and develop dialogue guidelines with community facilitators where violence against children was common.
He said UNICEF and the National Orientation Agency (NOA) had conducted similar workshop for religious and traditional leaders to sensitise them on the menace of violence against children.
The UNICEF official said religious and traditional leaders were prepared to collaborate with UNICEF and NOA in putting an end to violence against children in their communities.
He said social health workers, sexual assault centre managers, youth leaders and women leaders in the communities would be engaged as community facilitators.
Onoise also disclosed that parents and caregivers would be engaged through theatre for development, video screening of real life stories of violence against children and other channels of sensitisation.
He said the grassroots community dialogue would commence in December.
The campaign against violence against children is also going on in Zaria. A four-day sensitisation workshop in Zaria began on Monday for community facilitators on ending violence against children.
Social mobilisation officers, health educators, civil society groups and other relevant stakeholders were participants at the workshop.
Zubair Galadima-Soba, the state Director of NOA said the agency was concerned with violence meted out against children and was committed towards ensuring such act came to an end.
He said there was need for proper reorientation of people in order to practice good values of protecting children from harm.
Galadima-Soba noted that some of the violence meted against children was as a result of parents and caregivers’ negligence or unmindful behaviour towards the care of their children.
He urged the participants to engage meaningfully in the workshop by properly discussing issues of VAC and draft guidelines on how to prevent and respond to such issues.
He also urged the public to desist from all kinds of violence so as to have a healthy and peaceful society.
UNICEF focal person Yusuf Balarabe,  said participants would undergo orientation on community dialogue and discuss how to facilitate effective monitoring of VAC in their communities.
According to him, participants were expected to generate key solutions to address sexual, physical and emotional violence against children in their communities.
Balarabe added that video and theatre would be incorporated as complementary communication tools in engaging the people in resolving issues of VAC.
“Participants will agree on modalities for conducting community dialogues on the impact of VAC for the development of community level prevention and response actions.
“Discussion guide through the conduct of 12 community dialogue in three local government area will be presented,” he said.
Pneumonia
UNICEF is also battling pneumonia, which it says is the world’s leading infectious killer of children. It claims the lives of more than 2,000 under the age of five every day.
Dr Sanjana Bhardwaj, the Chief of Health, UNICEF Nigeria, made this known at the commemoration of the 2019 World Pneumonia Day and World Prematurity Day.
The event was organised by “Save the Children”, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in collaboration with UNICEF and other supporters in Abuja on Monday.
Bhardwaj said pneumonia kills 8000 children annually, a number which makes Nigeria a highest contributor.
“Eight thousand of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable children die from the disease and 2,000 die daily, the overwhelming majority of these deaths are preventable.
“Yet fatalities are declining slowly, far too slowly for the world to deliver on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) pledge to end preventable child deaths by 2030.
“Changing this picture will require more than a reaffirmation of the SDGs promise, the children whose lives are at stake need a bold agenda backed by urgent action.
“Tackling pneumonia is a call to global action and every step count in fighting this disease.”
Bhardwaj said there was the need to develop pneumonia control strategies as part of universal health coverage and commit to reducing child pneumonia at fewer than three per 1000 live births.
She said there was also the need to strengthen quality primary health care and action on pneumonia as part of national multi-sectoral plans through integrated strategies including nutrition, water, sanitation, and air pollution.