The World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) have called for an immediate action to check the impending measles and polio epidemics in Nigeria.
The global agencies in a statement made available to PREMIUM TIMES on Wednesday said this was necessary as COVID-19 continues to disrupt immunisation services in Nigeria.
WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, noted that the pandemic has had a devastating effect on health services and in particular immunisation services, worldwide.
He said the development has left millions of vulnerable children at heightened risk of preventable childhood diseases.
He noted that tools and knowledge are all that is required to stop diseases such as polio and measles from spreading across the country.
“But unlike with COVID-19, we have the tools and knowledge to stop diseases such as polio and measles.
“What we need are the resources and commitments to put these tools and knowledge into action. If we do that, children’s lives will be saved.”
In recent years, there has been a global resurgence of measles with ongoing outbreaks in all parts of the world.
Vaccination coverage gaps have been further exacerbated in 2020 by COVID-19. In 2019, measles climbed to the highest number of new infections in more than two decades.
PREMIUM TIMES earlier reported how eight people lost their lives as a result of a strange disease, suspected to be cholera in Ibadan, the Oyo State capital.
Although Nigeria was declared free of the wild poliovirus in August 2020, it remains at risk of the viral disease.
Poliovirus transmission is also expected to increase in Pakistan and Afghanistan and in many under-immunized areas of Africa, according to WHO and UNICEF.
Away from COVID-19
Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, explained that other deadly diseases are threatening the lives of children in poor areas.
She said the COVID-19 pandemic has moved focus from other diseases.
Ms Fore said additional financial resources are required to safely resume vaccination campaigns and prioritize immunisation systems that are critical to protect children and avert other epidemics besides COVID-19.
“We cannot allow the fight against one deadly disease to cause us to lose ground in the fight against other diseases.
“Addressing the global COVID-19 pandemic is critical. However, other deadly diseases also threaten the lives of millions of children in some of the poorest areas of the world,” she said.
Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, said routine immunisation is the only way to keep the children safe.
“Immunization is the best way to secure the future of our children. It is very safe, effective and available at all government health centres,”.
Mr Hawkins urged caregivers and parents to ensure their children are fully vaccinated and protected from childhood killer diseases.
WHO Country Representative, Walter Mulombo, called for engagement of traditional and religious leaders to keep vaccination rates high.
This, he sai, will address the continued threat of the vaccine-derived polio and other vaccine preventable disease outbreaks, including measles.
WHO and UNICEF estimate that US$655 million (US$400 million for polio and US$255 million for measles) are needed to address dangerous immunity gaps in non-Gavi eligible countries and target age groups.