The Chairman of Avon Healthcare Limited, Dr. Awele Elumelu has said that an estimated 4.3 million children were unimmunized in Nigeria in 2018.
This represents the highest number of unimmunized children globally in 2018.
Gavi Private Sector Champion in Africa made the disclosure at the special press conference to mark the 2019 African Vaccination Week in Abuja.
Dr. Elumelu urged the federal government to address the current state of insecurity in the country to enable health workers carry out their job without fear of losing their lives.
As the Chairperson of Avon Healthcare Limited, Dr. Elumele further urged the government to continue to provide the enabling environment in order to enhance public, private sector collaboration.
A trustee of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, the CEO of Avon medical practoce said: “We cannot continue to lose 2,600 children under age 5 every day in Nigeria, especially when their deaths are easily preventable by vaccination. 1 in every 8 Nigerian children will die before their fifth birthday. Nearly 10% of all new born deaths in the world occur in Nigeria.
Why? Our infant mortality rate is 75 out of 1000 (75/1000); a staggering 8% of the global total. Every day, Nigeria loses 127 women of child bearing age. We cannot afford to normalize these deaths.”
She therefore urged the goverement to improve the rate of vaccination nationwide in order to “protect kids from vaccine preventable diseases.”
According her, “the greatest and most cost-effective investments that we can make to protect our children, safeguard their futures and give them a chance to live healthy, productive lives.
“The African Vaccination Week not only gives us the opportunity to celebrate our gains but empowers us for the work that lies ahead.
“The efforts to achieve widespread immunisation coverage cannot happen without the effective collaboration of the public and private sectors. This is why partnerships with public health organisations such as the NPHCDA matter.
“On the national scale, immunisation yields healthy dividends for countries.Research shows that every dollar spent on childhood immunisation will save $16 in healthcare costs, lost wages and lost productivity while providing a return on investment of as much as $44,” she added.
“As we mark Africa Vaccination Week, I am here to remind you that vaccines are safe, they are accessible and they are free. And you should trust me – I ensured that all 7 of my kids are vaccinated.
“This is also a call to action for federal and state governments to support vaccination efforts by allocating more funds to the health budget.
“Lastly, change begins and is sustained through the grassroots. SMEs and entrepreneurs are key to delivering innovations to revolutionise healthcare,” she added.
In his address, the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, identified lack of awareness, fear and insecurity as responsible for the poor immunisation coverage nationwide.
He, howevwr, noted that in collaboration with stakeholders the government has been able to increase its immunisation coverage.
“Working together with partners, traditional, religious, political, and opinion leaders, we have achieved improvement in routine immunisation coverage rates from 48 per cent in 2015 to 57 per cent in 2018 as revealed by the recent SMART survey conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics,” he said.
While noting that immunisation is the cheapest and most effective means of saving lives, the NPHCDA boss added that inadequate funding remain a drawback to effective and efficient immunisation.