Nigeria still has a long way to go on immunisation — EU

Polio Immunization

Despite investing over €200 million in Nigeria’s health sector, the European Union (EU) has said there is still a long way to go in the country’s immunisation programme.

The EU has invested over €200 million in support of Nigeria’s health system between 2002 and 2019.

Speaking at the end of its project dissemination seminar, European Union Support to Immunisation Governance (EU-SIGN) in Abuja on Thursday, European Union Ambassador to Nigeria and West Africa, Ketil Karlsen, said this has left the union with mixed feelings.

The theme of the seminar was “Improving Immunisation Governance: Progress, Challenges, Good Practices, Lessons and Recommendations for the future.”

Mr Karlsen noted that it will be reviewing its programmes so as to know what can be done differently in the future.

He said: “Fundamentally the European Union has provided a very long and consistent support for the health sector in Nigeria.

“€200million since 2002, straight 17 years non stop we had partnered with Nigeria authorities, specific society and state government.

“We have come to this crossroad where we need to look at the result and note what we can do differently, what can we do better.

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“We stand here with mixed feelings in the sense that only yesterday we celebrated three years without new cases of polio in Nigeria.

“It is only possible, thanks to the collaboration between partners, the federal government, state government and also civil society and a number of international organisations,” he said.

Alarming child mortality

He highlighted that the rate of children’s deaths in Nigeria is alarming.

“But there is still a mixed feeling, nevertheless, because when you look at the numbers, we see that many children are in difficult health conditions.

“UNICEF said one million children below the age of five years in Nigeria die every year and that is really an alarming figure.

“Looking at the immunisation rate in the country, the North in general and the North west in particular, we know that there is a long way to go,” he said.

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On the likelihood of EU taking up another program in the country, he noted that the European regional body is defining its priorities for the years ahead.

This, he said, is not for Nigeria alone but a global thing.

“The European Union is currently in a phase where we are defining our priorities for the coming years. This is not only in Nigeria but through out the world,” he said.

He, however, assured that the EU will continue to support the government’s programs and policies.

Speaking on the gains of the EU investment in immunisation, Fiona Braka, the immunisation team lead for World Health Organisation (WHO), said the support from the European Union to the government of Nigeria has greatly impacted on the success on the polio eradication programme.

“And through WHO, the EU provided a grant between 2011 and 2016 to support the polio eradication initiative and subsequently renewed the support in 2017 that will run for four years.

“And with that support, WHO was able to work closely with the government to address the constraint we are facing with eradication of polio and, with that support, campaigns were able to be implemented in areas where immunity needed to be boosted, in high risks state to reach more children with the polio vaccine and interrupt the virus transmission,” she said.

In his remarks, Joseph Oteri, Director, Disease Control and Immunisation. National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) said the EU program has made lots of impact in the country.

Representing the Executive Director of the agency, Faisal Shuaib, Mr Oteri said “This program has impacted a lot as Nigeria celebrated three years without any polio case.

“If you look back, a lot of solar refrigerators were given to states under this program and you know what this means to immunisation. This makes the vaccines very potent.

“All the states where you have EU signed projects have been doing very well. They contributed immensely to where we are today. If we recall, our immunisation coverage has improved in the past years,” he said.

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