40 Percent Burden of Child Mortality in North West, says UNICEF
By Uangbaoje Alex, Kano
United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF on Thursday says 40 per cent of the burden of child mortality; children under 5 years of age in Nigeria are in the North West region of the country.
Chief of Health, UNICEF Nigeria, Sanjana Bhardwaj, who disclosed this in Kano, links it to the outburst population in the region which she said is the major cause.
Bhardwaj, stated this during a 2-day retreat organized for Health Commissioners from seven states in the region to change the trajectory of child mortality in the region.
According to her, “We are looking at two big issues around child survival and the well being of the child. We call it to ‘Survive and Thrive’ component for a child. We know we have very high mortality, high number of children die in Nigeria. And we bear a large burden, the global burden rests on Nigeria. Within Nigeria when we look at the data, we find that the North West states are carrying 40 per cent of the burden of child deaths.
“So one thing this meeting is talking about is why are children dying? What are the causes? What is it that we are only doing because the government and partners are doing a lot to change these? So, we are trying to understand what is happening right now? What is the current status? What are the bottlenecks and challenges as well as what we need to do more? And do we need to do everything differently?
“There is also focus around Thrive, we know that nutrition is a concern particularly malnutrition linked with stunting, wasting for children.
“We are trying to work with the commissioners and their teams to address these problems. A lot is happening in this area, huge commitments by government to change these but we want to see how to accelerate the pace to reach every child in the zone, make sure every child, women gets the package of services and are able to access care and get quality care. Our aim is to take the region forward,” Bhardwaj said.
Corroborating Bhardwaj, UNICEF Nigeria Representative, Peter Hawkins said the region ranks the highest stunting and underweight with 57% and 35% respectively as well as rank second with 9% of children with wasting.
Hawkins however called for a change in strategy as well as renew commitment from the government to reverse the trend.
“We are working hard every day and I must confess we keep facing new challenges everyday which calls for a change in our strategy to deliver collective results for children and I believe this meeting provides the enabling platform to share experience, challenges, bottlenecks and opportunities towards fast tracking results for child survival and wellbeing in the states of the northwest in Nigeria to foster and enhance the rights of children to survival.
“UNICEF is totally committed and ever ready to collaborate for the improvement of the lives of children to tackle among others infant and maternal death, child malnutrition and other diseases quite preventable but unfortunately killing the children.
“I urge states to renew commitment and the way we do business including timely budgeting and release of funds to help tackle child survival challenges,” Hawkins stated.
In his remarks, the Host Commissioner (Kano State), Dr Ibrahim Tsanyawa said the indices from the region are poor which calls for redoubling of efforts by the states to share their experiences and forge ahead to improve the indices.
In attendance at the meeting were the State Commissioners of Health, Chief Executives of Primary Health Care Development Agencies, the State Contributory Insurance as well as persons working at the high level in terms of planning and working around health issues.
Caroline Jehu-Appiah, the Deputy Director Health and Nutrition, Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation (BMGF) Nigeria Country office was also part of the meeting. She expressed commitment to join forces to accelerate child survival and change the narrative to enable children live and thrive.
The North West states in attendance include Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara and Kaduna.