Saving the children against pneumonia in Jigawa

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Pneumonia is silently killing people in Nigeria especially in Jigawa state. In this report, BAYO MUHAMMAD ALABIRA writes on efforts to address the scourge.

Due to the dangerous nature of pneumonia and its negative impact on children in Nigeria and Jigawa state in particular, Save the Children International embarks on the first-ever National Integrated Pneumonia Control Strategy and Implementation Plan in order to minimize its negative effects on children in the state.It is on record that in 2020, Nigeria became the first country to launch a National Integrated Pneumonia Control Strategy and Implementation Plan with a view to addressing the menace on children and mostly those in hard-to- reach rural areas. The strategy was said to have been developed through a multi-stakeholder collaboration between the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) and the ‘Every Breath Counts Coalition’.

The worrisome rate
It was also been discovered according to Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) 2018 that under-five death rate is 132 per 100,000 live births. To that extent, childhood pneumonia is one of the leading causes of these deaths every where in Nigeria. 
Reason for more death is not far fetched as it has further been revealed that lack of access to vaccines, antibiotics and oxygen, indoor air pollution and malnutrition are among the major drivers of preventable deaths from pneumonia.
Strategy towards eradicating the scourge
In an effort to save more lives in Jigawa state and in line with the Federal Ministry of Health’s roadmap (FMoH) launched in 2020, Save the Children International, Nigeria is taking the lead to commence state-level dissemination of the National Integrated Pneumonia Control Strategy and Implementation Plan. 
Also the strategy was developed through a multi-stakeholder collaboration between FMOH and Every Breath Counts Coalition with an effort to prevent the scourge to a preventable level and point.
Because it is an integrated approach that aligns with and builds on existing national policies and strategies on child health, this is said to have been the best way to prevent the child killer disease.

The event took place in Dutse, the Jigawa state capital recently and was well attended by stakeholders at national, state and local levels. 
Pneumonia which is also termed the ‘forgotten killer’ has not been given much attention as other childhood diseases over the years in Nigeria. 
The introduction of this strategy is not only placing pneumonia at par with other killer diseases but provides a sustainable pathway towards the eradication of the disease in the country.
Nigeria cannot achieve its goal of ending preventable child deaths without deliberately targeting tested and proven interventions that protect against, prevent, detect and treat children with pneumonia. 

Like many other diseases, pneumonia is fueled by socio-cultural, socio-economic barriers and inequities that put children from low-income families at the greatest risk of pneumonia deaths. Although pneumonia is preventable and treatable, the weakened health system, particularly at the primary healthcare level means that more children wiuld not have access to timely care. 
The National Integrated Pneumonia Control Strategy delivers tangible priorities and recommendations as well as coordination and accountability mechanisms to strengthen pneumonia control in a manner that is integrated into existing child health policies and strategies in Nigeria. 

This emphasises that this strategy does not prioritize pneumonia-focused programming or isolated approaches, but calls for a strong coalition of partners to put pneumonia on the map and ensure funding and progress matches its disease burden. 

Country director, others speak
“It is not acceptable to see that millions of children are dying every year from a disease that we have the knowledge and resources to defeat. We only need more commitment and dedication to ending the killer disease,” said Amanuel Mamo, acting country director, Save the Children International Nigeria. “At Save the Children, we have resolved in line with the vision of our funder that we would continue to do our best through a partnership with our allies like GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and in collaboration with the government to ensure that children who are suffering from pneumonia have access to vaccines, antibiotics and oxygen, which are essential to stop the scourge of pneumonia.” 
However, Dr Isah Adamu, chief of party, INSPIRING Project, Save the Children International Nigeria said, “Save the Children International through the INSPIRING project funded by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) is pleased to be part of this progress and accelerated efforts towards ending preventable child deaths due to pneumonia. 
“In line with the National Integrated Pneumonia Control Strategy, the project is implementing sustainable approaches in Jigawa and Lagos states that can be scaled at health facility and community levels,” he stressed. 

He added that, “We believe that efforts to control pneumonia must not only seek to equip hospitals or train healthcare workers but also engage communities and strengthen their capacities in addressing harmful norms, behaviours and practices that put children at greater risk.”
The chief of party said within its framework, the integrated strategy prioritizes proven interventions that demonstrate the most potential method to reduce disabilities and deaths from pneumonia.
According to him, “These include protecting and preventing children from new cases of pneumonia through immunisation such as the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) and Hib vaccines, reduction of household air pollution particularly from cooking smoke and improved nutrition.
“And to manage more serious cases of pneumonia effectively, diagnosis and treatment of sick children using oral antibiotics such as Amoxicillin DT and Oxygen is necessary. And it is the only way out for the scouge.”
The strategy, therefore, he said seeks to strengthen the enabling environment policy and financing, data as well as information systems, coordination and partnerships, demand-side community prevention and care-seeking and supply-side service delivery, supply and distribution aspects of pneumonia control. 
The chief of party further explained that organisation is confident that Jigawa state would take the lead among all other states in Nigeria towards adoption, prioritisation and implementation of the integrated pneumonia control strategy and implementation plan as part of its aim towards ending preventable child deaths. 

Adding further, he said that Save the Children is calling on the state government to speed up the process of implementing the Basic Healthcare Provision Fund (BHCPF) and ensure equitable access to healthcare, especially for children and families at the local levels in order to reduce, if not eliminate out-of-pocket expenditures. 

He stressed that, “Save the Children has also through the GSK partnership, is committed to continued collaboration with the Jigawa state government and contribute towards an accelerated reduction in child deaths.”
According to him, Save the Children believes that every child deserves a future. In Nigeria and around the world. “We work every day to give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. When crisis strikes and children are most vulnerable, we are always among the first to respond and the last to leave. 
“We ensure children’s unique needs are met and their voices are heard. Save the Children delivers lasting results for millions of children, including those who are in hard-to-reach areas in the state,” he added. 

“We do whatever it takes for children, every day and in times of crisis, transforming their lives and the future that we share. Save the Children has been working in Nigeria since 2001 and is currently present in 10 states of the federation.”