Abuja Rachael examines the importance of immunisation and vaccination for both the mother and child, even as Sustainable Development Goal Three targets achieving more than 90 per cent coverage of all basic vaccinations among children aged 12-23 months. Strangely, despite the importance of immunisation for the health care of children and the mother, most women blindly refuse all for meaningless reasons.
Immunisation during childhood has been proven to be the most effective strategy for the prevention of many infectious diseases. The vaccination of children against childhood diseases carries obvious medical and economic benefits as well as numerous indirect and often far-reaching added societal benefits.
Vaccination programme provide an opportunity for the provision of other primary health care services. It also leads to a direct and measurable reduction of child mortality rates and becomes an opportunity for a higher standard of living as it encourages small families and, in this way, contributes in the family planning programmes’ success.
When a child gets vaccinated, they create antibodies without ever having to be infected. If a parent chooses to wait until adulthood to have their child vaccinated, they run the risk of their child being exposed to a virus that their immune system cannot defend against.
Additionally, their child won’t be protected from the serious, sometimes life-threatening, consequences of contracting certain viruses.
Routine childhood immunisation is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions, estimated to avert two to three million deaths per year. The routine vaccinations recommended in an infant’s first year protect against harmful and deadly diseases including polio, tuberculosis, yellow fever, measles, diphtheria, and hepatitis B. Most of these vaccines require more than one dose, requiring parents to bring their infants to multiple wellness visits during their first year of life to be fully vaccinated.
The Federal Government through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), and partners have advocated for immediate measures to ensure that routine immunisation services are continued to protect the most vulnerable infants and children in the country.
Data from the Nigerian Demographic and Health Survey, 2018, shows that 31 per cent of children, aged 12-23 months, received all basic vaccinations. Indicating that only 3 out of every 10 children, aged 12-23 months, received all basic vaccinations. 7 out of 10 children have not received full vaccinations with some having received as low as just one vaccine.
The data also showed that 19 per cent of children, aged 12-23 months, are not vaccinated at all. A review of the childhood vaccination trend of children, aged 12-23 months in Nigeria, revealed that in the past 15 years (2003-2018), there has been an improvement in the percentage of children that have received all basic vaccination or have been vaccinated at all.
For instance, the percentage of children that have received all basic vaccinations increased from 13 per cent in 2003 to 31 per cent in 2018. Similarly, the percentage of children that have not received vaccination decreased from 27 per cent in 2003 to 19 per cent in 2018.While this indicates a positive trend, Nigeria still has a lot to do to meet Sustainable Development Goal 3 target of achieving more than 90 per cent coverage of all basic vaccinations among children aged 12-23 months.
Nigeria’s childhood vaccination coverage also falls short of Global Vaccine Action Plan (GVAP) targets, putting a large number of children at risk of death and vaccines – a preventable diseases in the future. According to public health experts, to improve immunisation coverage among children in Nigeria, it is important that Nigerians are convinced of the necessity of vaccination.
They said there is the need for an ongoing communication efforts on the benefits of vaccines, which they decried has not been sufficient if people do not trust those providing the information and delivering vaccination services. They said building trust usually starts by recognising the parents’ concerns, identifying context-specific origins of mistrust, and constructing trusted spaces for community dialogue to address the origins of mistrust.
The Chairman, BIOVACCINE Nigeria limited (BVNL), Prof. Oyewale Tomori, said that different factors affect immunisation coverage in the country, stressing that Nigerians, in general, do not believe immunisation is necessary.
Tomori said that there is a need for immunisation services to be re-designed in the country, while considering hard-to-reach communities in consultation with the people living there, considering the local context, and avoiding constructing barriers to reach, such as geographic and social distance, cost, and timing.
He attributed some of the problems to health care provider barriers to immunisation, including lack of knowledge about indications for and contraindications to immunisations, poorly trained medical staff, and absence of a reminder system for missed vaccinations.
He, however, said that the opportunity and provision of vaccination empower a mother to protect her health and that of her child through her actions, giving an added psychological feeling of control and empowerment in her life. “Therefore, while vaccination services can be delivered alone, they are best delivered along with other services that are needed by children in their first year of life and by pregnant women.
“These services may include, among others, child growth monitoring, use of oral rehydration to treat diarrhea, promotion of breast-feeding, malaria treatment, and maternal and child health services.,” he explained.
The president, National Council of Women Societies (NCWS), Mrs Lami Adamu, said that despite the importance of immunisation for the health care of children and the mother, most women blindly refuse all for meaningless reasons.
According to Adamu, Vaccine hesitancy has long hampered global vaccination drives, which indicates that the drivers predate the pandemic. In poor, rural areas, health resources are often scarce. Doctors from the capitals or from abroad often oversee vaccinations.
She said that the histories of neglect and exploitation leave communities distrustful of outsiders bearing mysterious shots. She said that it took another World Immunization Week for people to talk about the importance of vaccination.
“What happens after the week? We go back again as education and awareness on the deadly consequences of avoiding childhood vaccinations given to parents by healthcare providers should be intensified.
Also, there should be more programmes that provide support to new parents and educate them on parenthood to avoid being overwhelmed as a result of inexperience not only when we get to celebrate the week of immunisation,” she stressed.
She said that the Government should ensure that all health facilities have vaccines for children. “It’s a pity when I hear people say they are looking for where to vaccinate their children, in this time and age. It’s sad,” she said.
Meanwhile, Khadija Hamid Bobboyi, Vaccine & Essential Drugs Associates, Africa Health Budget Network,(AHBN), said that with 25 countries reporting polio cases in 2021, even one case in any country would be worrisome since the Poliovirus can spread – and may already be circulating undetected.Bobboyi said that trust in vaccines is built through conversation.
“During this World Immunisation Week (WIW), observed globally from April 24 to 30, all of us from AHBN encouraged Nigerians to reach out to their health care provider to begin the conversation and learn how immunisations can protect them and their families and their communities. “When people say there is no evidence of a link to a vaccine, their self-denial of available evidence is all the evidence they need.
“As we commemorate world Immunisation Week, it is good to know that Immunisation is one of the world’s most successful cost-effective health interventions. “As Nigerians, let’s take advantage of the routine immunisation made available in the country to ensure that our children are reached with life-saving vaccines,” she said. (NAN)
The Agony of Ikarama Community
FROM TAYESE Mike, Yenagoa
Ikarama is a Community under Okordia Clan in Yenagoa Local Government Area of Bayelsa State which is also blessed with crude oil in large quantity that have brought untold hardship and penury to them. The oil that suppose to be a blessing is more or less a curse as a community with less than hundred thousand people cannot feel the impact of their God given resources.
What a sad and pathetic situation and the agony Ikarama people are facing might not be too different from other oil and gas producing communities across the Niger Delta. Why Ikarama case is so peculiar is because the community has witnessed the highest frequency of oil spill since 1991 and till date not much has been done to clean up the environment and proper remediation carried out within and around the community and its environment.
The peaceful Ikarama Community that have been enjoying agrarian life in time past started their problem when oil was discovered in 1964 and from that time till date every valuable things to the Community have virtually been eroded due to the activities of the multinationals.Shell Petroleum Development Company started operation of oil exploration in Ikarama community and also Exxon Mobil since that same 1964 but nothing to show forth as an oil producing community.
The constant oil spills in the community has caused so much environmental pollution as the people can no longer farm while fishing activities has completely come to a halt since fish cannot survive in an Hydrocarbon polluted areas, most of the economy trees have gone into extinction while so much sickness and diseases have ravaged the community. Diseases like cancer, skin disease, infertility especially in men, blood disorder, asthma, still birth and other horrible disease due to the activities of the Oil Companies.
The Community cannot boast of a good health center, clean water and other social amenities that make life more meaningful despite the fact that every part of the community is blessed with crude oil. The recent incident that took Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) to the Ikarama Community was the case of a young man who was trying to make a living for himself and his family hired an excavator last year to excavate the ground for fish pond but surprisingly oil was oozing out of the ground and the same experience this year after spending so much resources only to end in futility.
Visiting the community is the Director of HOMEF and his team in company of Morris Alagoa an environmental Activist to see the extent of oil pollution in the community. Dr. Nnimmo Bassey described Ikarama Community as the capital of oil spill incident in the whole of Niger Delta because Ikarama community has the highest frequency of oil spill. It’s really shocking to see the level of pollution in this community. Meanwhile we heard that shell has come severally to take samples of the soil at various depths but till date, nothing has been heard about the result been released.
Nnimmo said what really brought HOMEF to the community was to see for themselves the sad situations of a community youth who have invested so much by trying to excavate the ground for fish pond last year and this year and surprising oil was coming out of the ground. He said, they want to make sure the result of various samples shell have collected so far is been released for proper action.
Not just NOSDRA only should involved in it but Ministry of Environment at both the state and federal level should get involved in the process of ascertaining the level of contamination, not just in one location but the entire community soil because oil pipeline transverses the length and breath of the Community and in fact other Niger Delta Community “we are very disturbed by what we are seeing that plants will remain stunted for a over a year. It says a lot about what the people have to contend with and it is a sad thing that government will just be carrying on as if nothing is happening, as if Niger Delta is just a place to be exploited, this is totally unacceptable.
He described the health challenge of the people as pathetic because anywhere there is activities of oil and gas activities, oil spill, gas flair and other unwholesome activities will follow like exposing them to hydrocarbon. They will definitely have serious health challenges like skin disease blood disorder, cancer, still birth infertility especially in men amongst the rest. So the critical thing is to clean up the environment, carry out heath audit across the Ikarama Community and the rest of the Niger Delta, take measure to remove the sickness and diseases hiding in the body of the people or already manifesting and they should make sure they stop completely the oil spill and the gas flares.
Shell and other oil companies must need to carry out thorough remediation in the community. The HOMEF Director said what is going on in Ikarama and the Niger Delta can be called environmental racism and they won’t do this in their country. So we are calling for enough clean up.
As the oil companies are planning to sell of their Assets and move to deep waters, obviously they are running away from responsibility and accountability and before they move to the deep waters operation they should consult with the communities that they are leaving and must be ready to clean up the environment they have polluted over the years and carry out proper remediation and make sure adequate compensation are paid.
Seeing the pathetic situation of the people and the community environment is Mr Alagoa Morris, an environmentalist, who said monitoring the environment demanded factual and evidence-based data collection, recording and reporting. Alagoa who had written over seventy (70) reports on Ikarama oil spills called on Shell and other oil companies to be proactive when such happens for the safety of the rural dwellers, and the aquatic lives that the people depend on.
2023: Nigerian Military and Protection of Democracy
As military coups have all of a sudden become fashionable in the West African sub-region and the Nigerian Army continuously dealing with rumbles from its officers, Sumaila Ogbaje in this piece harps on the need for the Nigerian military to dedicate itself to its constitutional responsibility especially as its hands are full from all manners of security challenges posed by Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists, bandits and separatists groups.
It’s no longer news that Nigeria experienced long history of military rule, during which members of Nigerian Armed Forces twice truncated democratically elected governments. The first was in 1966, and the second in 1983. The military presided over the affairs of Nigeria for a cumulative period of 29 years.
Experts have viewed military government as an antithesis to democratic governance, as the country’s constitution is often suspended to give way for decrees as seen in Nigeria when the military took over.
These periods were viewed as the era of military intervention in Nigerian politics, where the centre was governed by military Head of State and the states by Military Administrators.
Nigeria will be heading for election in February 2023, which will make it 24 years of unhindered democratic governance since the end of the military regime in 1999.
This is a huge step towards consolidating democracy in the country, in spite of the challenges being encountered within the period arising from bad governance by elected officials, poverty, insecurity, among others.
Recent military coups in some African countries had sparked fears in Nigeria owing to numerous challenges bedeviling the nation.
They include over a decade of insecurity, ranging from terrorism and insurgency in the North-East, banditry in the North- West and North-Central as well as secessionist agitation in the South-East and South-West.
In spite of these obvious threats, the Armed Forces of Nigeria has continued to demonstrate unalloyed loyalty to the nation, providing support to civil authorities in the protection and defence of Nigeria.
The military has also come out at different times to reaffirm its commitment to protecting democracy and civil rule in the country, warning that it will deal decisively with any personnel found engaging in any act of disobedience to democratic order.
In the words of a former Commander of United States Central Command, Gen. Joseph Votel, an apolitical military was essential to maintaining balance among all institutions in a country, as the military often confront threats of active pandemic, civil unrest and economic crisis.
Votel said that resolving these crises would require coordinated efforts involving the federal government and state governments, the military, press, business communities and academia.
According to him, although, the military is an entity within the executive branch, its place within the constitutional order requires special consideration and respect to secure the intentions of the nation’s forefathers.
The four-star general posited that the U.S. military had at one time or the other came under intense scrutiny, but had managed to maintain the esteem of the people it served.
“For our democratic system to work, civilian leadership must have trust and confidence in the military and its leaders, without concerns of partisanship. Like those civilian leaders, every person who joins a military branch, both enlisted members and officers, takes an oath “to support and defend the constitution.”
According to him, that shared loyalty to the constitution should give elected leaders the confidence that the military and its leaders are serving the common good.
“It therefore behooves that elected leaders would always want prudent military advice that is free of political bias,’’ he said.
Before and after the 2015 general elections in Nigeria, there were accusations and counter accusations about involvement of some senior officers of the Nigerian Army in the various elections, which the military hierarchy took decisive measures to address.
Before the 2019 elections, the then Chief of Army Staff, retired Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai, set up of a “Special Standing Court Martial’’ to try any partisan personnel during the general elections.
Buratai had warned that any Nigerian Army personnel found hobnobbing with politicians or being partisan will be investigated and sent to the Special Standing Court Martial.
He added that any officer or soldier who wishes to be sympathetic to political, religious or ethnic cause should voluntarily retire from the Nigerian Army.
So, as the 2023 general elections draw near, the current military hierarchy has also drummed its determination to ensure smooth and safe conduct of all elections come 2023 across the country.
During the just concluded Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Second Quarter Conference in Abuja, the Army Chief, Lt.-Gen. Faruk Yahaya, ordered for a review of Nigerian Army Rules of Engagement and Code of Conduct ahead of the general elections.
Yahaya directed all personnel of the Nigerian Army to remain apolitical while providing enabling and secured environment for electoral processes to thrive, assuring that the army would continue to enhance civil-military relations and provide necessary support in aid of civil authority.
He said that the Nigerian Army must continue to discharge its constitutional roles in support of the civil authority without compromise.
“Accordingly, commanders are reminded that as the 2023 General Elections approaches, troops under their command must remain apolitical and operate professionally.
“They must continuously review their contingency plans for the provision of security support through an effective mechanism of cooperation with other security stakeholders.
“As earlier highlighted during my opening remarks, the reviewed Rules of Engagement and Code of Conduct for Operation Safe Conduct guiding troops during the upcoming 2023 General Elections will be distributed in earnest.
“I therefore urge you to thoroughly sensitise troops on their contents and implore them to operate in accordance with extant provisions throughout the period,’’ he said.
Also, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Lucky Irabor, reiterated the commitment of the armed forces to supporting and protecting democratic governance and institutions to effectively discharge their constitutional responsibilities.
Irabor, while addressing newsmen recently, warned politicians and their supporters who are planning to cause trouble during the 2023 general elections to desist, saying the military would not stand by and watch anyone cause trouble before, during and after the elections.
He said that though it was obvious that some individuals were not desirous of peaceful elections, the armed forces would give necessary support to the civil authority to ensure peaceful conduct of the elections.
According to him, the military will ensure a peaceful period during the upcoming elections, so that everyone will have a country to be proud of.
The CDS also advised those desirous of getting political positions and appointments after elections to conduct themselves peacefully.
“Anyone who is looking forward to be elected, must do it within the ambit of the provisions of the law, because we will not in any way stand aside and see those who perpetrate violence all because they are looking for political office or appointive offices.
“Nigeria remains a nation that must live in peace, desire to live in peace, and Nigerians deserve to live in peace.
“And so, we will not allow criminals among those or if you like, thugs that might have made themselves available for anyone to use.
“We are working very closely with the police and we stand ready to give them all the support that is necessary, because going forward, Nigeria must be peaceful and that is what we are looking forward to,” he said.
Indeed, Nigerians are looking forward for peaceful elections and happily the Nigerian Army has pledged unalloyed loyalty to sustain and deepen democracy. (NANFeatures)
Democratic Betrayals: the Challenge of Statehood
By Wealth Dickson Ominabo
Recently Nigerian leaders and other democratic actors in the country have been in a binge of festivity; celebrating democracy in the country . From May 29 when many governors took time out to give account of their years of stewardship to Sunday June 12 when the federal government rolled out the drums to celebrate the new Democracy Day in Nigeria, our nation’s public sphere has been obsessed with commentaries about the valiance of democracy and the sacrifices of the different actors in time past and present.
Without a doubt , democratic rule was not an easy wish. It was not a buffet served on a dinner table to citizens and other democratic enthusiasts. Democracy was birthed from the streets of rugged struggle; a struggle that had some casualties, heroes and villains . Democracy was a product of agitations and negotiations by different stakeholders.Here lies the vault of great expectations; that democracy will be properly nurtured, cherished and yield good fortunes to the citizens.
23 years ago, democracy was a thing hoped for; a prayer point to many, who believed that democracy was the promise land- a system of many possibilities, an oasis where the basic rights of citizens will flourish and dreams and aspirations will be realised.
23 years later, democracy is losing its meaning, its value and essence in the lives of the citizens. Beyond the refrain of democracy being the government of the people by the people and for the people, the real meaning of democracy is lost in the multiple conflicts and social contradictions in the nation. Almost all the intrinsic promises of democracies have either been betrayed by different actors and the values of a democratic reign have been discarded. The promises of liberty, justice and peace have been betrayed.
The virtues that define a democratic state are eroding – freedom of expression is daily curtailed, freedom of thought, conscience and religion are being challenged by non-state actors, while the civic space is shrinking on a daily basis even as the state is busy in pursuit to capture institutions to their advantage.
The ballot is losing its potency at every electioneering cycle, votes are traded to the highest bidder, our democracy is commercialized, legitimacy is manipulated, accountability and good governance are trivialized, social justice is ostracized.
Today, the sovereignty of the Nigerian state is contested with non-state actors – those without the mandate to govern- now superintend over a large expanse of the Nigerian territories, imprisoning citizens and executing punishment, and judgement on innocent citizens in different guise through different terror tactics and strategies. They kidnap, kill and rape and impose levy on citizens in different parts of the country. They move daily from state to state like roaring lions devouring the destinies of many and taking others to slavery and servitude. Government to which the people willed their sovereignty through the ballot decides to share its legitimacy with these non-state actors through indiscretion, inaction and dereliction of responsibilities.
In Nigeria, democracy has not been able to address the challenges of the citizens. Civilian rule in all these years has failed to guarantee the two basic democratic rights – freedom from fears and wants. Nigeria is at a crossroads; it is captured by human miseries, and characterized by sallow marks such as hunger, poverty, conflicts and underdevelopment. Nigeria is a fallow ground for extremists – who cling to different frustrations to undermine the State, thereby exposing the country to wanton fragilities.
One cannot but situate the crisis of Nigerian statehood to the challenge of leadership amplified by sustained culture of democratic betrayals by government. The Nigerian Guardian in a recent editorial aptly captures the crisis of the Nigerian state when it wrote that :
“ The deluge of socio-economic and political upheavals in the Nigerian polity currently portrays a very bad omen for peace, progress and continuity of the country. For an entity with so much potential, the wasting of assets, both human and material, in the past few years has been monumental even to the uncaring. In totality, the ruling political elite at all levels of government have ran the country almost aground such that hope for a redeem is dim; and, unless some drastic action is initiated, not only will it be difficult for the country to survive eventually, her downfall can be slow, steady and painful. The handwriting is on the wall, and the dastardly results are playing out. Surely, the state of the Nigerian nation calls for a change of direction to avert a looming doom.”
The Paper drawing the attention of all stakeholders to the near collapse of the Nigerian state, warned of the danger of the sustenance of the present governance culture of democratic betrayal, abscondment and dereliction of responsibilities by leaders .
It posited that : “Today, the country is hell-hole describable by the absence of government in the national space and negative sovereignty; it is a country living a lie. It might not be so lucky this time around. It is the time to act; and to act quickly to rescue it from the brink of disintegration.”
As Larry Jay Diamond, aptly observed in his article “Three Paradoxes of Democracy,” founding and preserving democracy are two different things. For democracy to endure, he argues that it must be deemed legitimate by the people and “..this legitimacy requires a profound moral commitment and emotional allegiance, but these develop only over time, and partly as a result of effective performance.” Democracy he asserts will not be valued by the people “unless it deals effectively with social and economic problems and achieves a modicum of order and justice.”
Here lies the challenge of Nigeria’s democracy and the recession of the country into a failed state. The point must be stressed that the fault does not lie in democracy as a form of government but on the actors – coy democrats who are too shy to live and act according to the dictates of democracy.
To improve Nigeria’s democracy and make it work for the common good of all citizens, leaders and all democratic actors must incentivize social and economic rights of citizens. This is the most sustainable way to reinforce the waning legitimacy of the Nigerian State.
Legitimacy is not an end in itself- it doesn’t start and end with electoral mandate. Legitimacy is enhanced through shoring up of public trust; trust is reinforced through fulfillment of democratic promises and commitment to the social contract between the government and the citizens.
Ominabo is the Communications officer at the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation
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