The President, Paediatric Association of Nigeria (PAN), Olufemi Ogunrinde, has debunked the claim that best hands in the nation’s health sector have moved out of the country in search of greener pastures.
Mr Ogunrinde, who spoke on Wednesday in Akure, Ondo State capital, at a news conference to announce the 54th Annual General Meeting and Scientific Conference of the association, said there are still many excellent medical practitioners in the country, whom he said are committed to serving humanity despite the multifarious challenges confronting the nation as a whole and the health sector in particular.
The theme of the conference is: “Optimising Child Healthcare in Nigeria Despite Current Socio-Economic Challenges.”
He said: “I want to salute the health workers that are staying behind to continue offering services and I want to say that it is not the best brains that are leaving.
“We still have best and fantastic brains who are not leaving, who are committed to stay in this country despite everything.”
The association’s president, however, lamented the infant mortality rate in the country and advocated optimal performance of stakeholders for the well-being of children in Nigeria
Mr Ogunrinde said: “We at PAN are not so happy with poor health indices of Nigeria, though we have made some gains in recent years compared to 1990, but we still have some number of children dying.
“The last statistics show 74 children die per 1000 births and neonatal deaths almost double that number, about 100.
“So, to every 1,000 children that are born, about 100 die. That is about 10 per cent. That is a loss to any nation. When you compare it to what other people are getting in other climes, it is about three to 1000.
“Also we still have a number of children that are malnourished. They are stunted, they are not growing well. And from experience, these children constitute a social problem.
“They hardly develop well. They may grow up well with adequate nutrition, but damage has been done to the brain especially in the first to three years when they are supposed to get the nutrients, but they were not given.”
The paediatrician added that such damage could be permanent, saying that this would invariably affect the trajectory of the nation.
“Can you imagine a nation that is full of defective adults? It is not going to function very well,” he said.
The PAN President asked mothers to adhere strictly to exclusive breastfeeding and necessary vaccination, adding that they should access good healthcare services for their children.
“We ask mothers to give exclusive breastfeeding to their children and husbands should encourage their wives and let them have vaccination and others as directed.
“Let us protect ourselves so that our children will not become orphans. I believe in the popular saying that health is wealth. There should be a demand from the people for good quality health.
“We have made ourselves available despite poor welfare and salary, but it is like people are not demanding our services.
“May be you say you cannot afford them, which may be true or because you have faith in the so-called alternative medicine or for other reasons, but I think there is need for re-orientation of people to seek health in the appropriate place.
“When your child is sick, you go to appropriate place and when you do that continuously, and you create a demand, everybody in government will see that health is wealth and they will do the needful,” he said.
Mr Ogunrinde said the association was collaborating with everybody to ensure that children survive, live a quality life and achieve maximal development.
“For me Nigeria has great potential, so when we treat our children well and they grow up, we will have a fantastic country. Everything will just fall into place, but we need to start now,” he said.
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According to him, the Ondo and Ekiti state governments should tap into the pool of paediatricians that are available in their states for quality healthcare of children.
“They should approach and harness their (paediatricians) potentials regularly and they can give advice on the way forward: our children need to survive,” he said.
He said the 3-day conference in Akure would discuss sickle cell anaemia, pneumonia and other factors that could impact negatively children, and proffer solutions.
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