Insecurity hindering immunisation in Northern Nigeria – Sultan of Sokoto

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By Amos Tauna

The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, has said insecurity and other factors hinder Northern children from accessing immunisation.

The sultan, who was in Kaduna on Wednesday, chaired a strategic meeting with traditional leaders and development partners to chart a way forward, organised by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) in collaboration with the Sultan Foundation for Peace and Development.

The meeting discussed the challenges preventing northern children from accessing immunisation services.

In attendance were representatives of the United Children Trust Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), Kaduna State Deputy Governor, Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe and other stakeholders.

He emphasized the traditional institution’s commitment to ensuring that communities benefit from routine immunisation.

According to him, the meeting was to discuss with traditional leaders ways to reach out to totally inaccessible and displaced communities of Kaduna, Niger, and Katsina states to ensure every child in the north is immunised.

He explained, “We do not lack support from our people, what we lack is implementation and that is why the north is lagging behind in immunisation.”

Alhaji Sama’ila Muhammad Mere, the Emir of Argungu, who is the chairman of the Northern Traditional Leaders Committee on Primary Health Care, stressed the need to convene the meeting arose from the situation report received by the first quarter NTLC review meeting from Zamfara.

According to him, in his report to the meeting, the Zamfara State NTLC representative stated that the devastating security situation in the state has made access to many communities and children difficult or impossible, creating a risk of the outbreak of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases, especially the mutated vaccine-derived polio virus.

He stated that Zamfara currently has the highest burden of the disease in the country, and the strain of the virus from the state has been found in 28 states in Nigeria and 29 countries across Africa, saying that following detailed discussions of the report from Zamfara, it was noted that similar security situations also exist in Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states.

He noted the meeting would take situation reports and mitigation suggestions from 48 districts of 34 LGAs from Kaduna, Niger, and Katsina states and urged the district heads to speak sincerely about the situation in their areas of administration and suggest how best they think the government and development partners can work with them to ensure that every child and mother is reached with a vaccine and desired medical support.

Faisal Shuaib, the Executive Director of NPHCDA, hailed the traditional rulers for their invaluable support in the eradication of circulating variant polio virus (cVPV2) from their communities.

He believed that their influence has the power to shape the destiny of communities and asked for their partnership in securing a healthier and brighter future for northern children to be immunised.

He stressed that the battle against cVPV2 requires a united front – a bond between traditional, religious and local leaders, health workers, parents, and every citizen who dreams of a polio-free future.

WHO Country Representative to Nigeria, Dr Walter Kazadi Mulombo, in his remarks, announced that Nigeria recorded 51 polio cases between January and August 13, 2023, from 15 LGAs, as reported by the WHO.

Out of the cases, he explained that 47 (92%) were concentrated in the North West region, adding that the circulating variant poliovirus type 2 (cVPV2) had decreased by 63% compared to 2022.

He stated that the cases were largely concentrated in states facing security challenges, specifically in Kaduna state, with 19 LGAs with 111 wards that had insecure settlements, posing a risk to progress.

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