Kogi-born Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health at the College of Health Sciences, University of Ilorin, Samuel Kolade Ernest, has described the rate of child deaths in Nigeria as unacceptably high, while calling for a renewed focus on and concerted effort to reverse the trend.
Prof. Ernest, who made the call last Thursday (August 3, 2017) while delivering the 171st Inaugural Lecture of the University, identified preterm birth, perinatal asphyxia, sepsis, pneumonia, malaria, malnutrition among others, as some major causes of child deaths in the country.
In the Lecture, entitled “…And the Child Died, Oh! No! Not Again: Adventures in Childhood Morbidity Prevention and Mortality Reduction”, the don canvassed further investment in the local production of vaccines for immunisation as cost-effective measures to prevent diseases among children.
Noting that “vaccine production locally will reduce the cost per head for each antigen”, Prof. Ernest pointed out that “immunisation still remains the most cost-effective way to prevent diseases in our world.”
The Inaugural Lecturer explained that “public awareness and education on the importance of vaccines should be heightened especially for vaccine preventable diseases.”
According to the scholar, “There should be a National Research Synthesis group that will help the Federal Government of Nigeria collect, collate, synthesize and scrutinize the outcomes of researches on different sub-specialties so that implementing them will be fast tracked.”
Prof. Ernest called on the government to “integrate the following into child health programming: regular health appraisals, remedial measures and follow-up, prevention of communicable diseases, healthful environment, nutritional services, mental health, dental health, eye health, ear, nose and throat (ENT) health, health education, special education needs for the handicapped children and school health programming”.
The don, who solicited adequate funding of Primary Health Care at the grassroots in order to attend to the immediate health needs and reduce the severity of morbidity-causing diseases among children, also advocated a more aggressive national campaign against sickle-cell disease to reduce the gene carriage from the present 22 percent to less than 10 percent in the next ten years.
While noting that “a step up in the approach to HIV prevention should include community involvement”, Prof. Ernest explained that “attention to the mother’s health and to improving the coverage of Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) must be pursued.”
He further pointed out that “increasing the duration of maternity leave to between 6 months and one year, so that babies can breast-feed without excuses within the first year of life” would have positive impact on Sustainable Development.
Prof. Ernest also suggested that “the Core Child Survival Strategies should continue to be prioritized”. These, according to him, “include Growth Monitoring, Oral Rehydration Therapy, Breast-feeding, Immunization, Food Supplementation, Family Planning, Female Education and Follow-up (GOBIFFFF)”.
He said that other strategies such as “IMCI, IMCI complementary course on HIV, National mandatory budgetary allocation to Health, National Ambulance and ambulatory services, Telemedicine and National Newborn care and Perinatal Home visits” should not be neglected.
Narrating his contributions to his field of study, especially in the areas of research as well as his efforts towards providing paediatric care aimed at preventing morbidity and reducing child mortality rates across the country, Prof. Ernest disclosed that he was part of the team that developed, supported and executed proposals to access Global Fund grant for HIV and AIDS in 2006 and 2007.
He added, “In Abuja, I was challenged to present a 240-page document in 10 minutes to the Country Coordinating Mechanism (CCM) the following day. After the presentation of my synthesis, all parties in the UN House agreed to adopt me as a member of the Nigerian Committee for Global Fund Grants. That singular act helped Nigeria to access funds in excess of US$250 million as part of the funding for HIV and AIDS prevention, treatment and care. This effort was geared towards stopping cries from families and individuals “…and the child died.” They were efforts shouting “Oh! No! Not Again.”
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