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Diphtheria: Katsina, UN Agencies Collaborate To Tackle Outbreaks

During a meeting with Katsina State Government, led by Malam Dikko Umaru Radda, Dr. Walter Kazadi Molumbo, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Country Director, led several representatives from international agencies as well as some of her partners to discuss strategies that are focused on advancing healthcare initiatives, strengthening immunization efforts, and addressing the ongoing diphtheria outbreaks.

At the meeting held at the state government house yesterday, Dr. Molumbo emphasized the importance of collaboration between the international health agency and the new administration to align investments and resources with the government’s manifesto and priorities.

Molumbo stressed the urgent need to bolster routine immunization efforts, particularly in light of the ongoing diphtheria outbreak, pointing out that the outbreak serves as a clear signal of immunity challenges within the community, particularly among children. He also stressed the importance of revitalizing primary healthcare and extending efforts beyond routine immunization.

“The recent diphtheria outbreaks highlight the vulnerabilities in our community’s health. We must reinvigorate routine immunization in primary healthcare to ensure the well-being of our children and the overall population.”

The WHO Country Director commended the collaborative efforts of various agencies in responding to the outbreak. He however noted that while progress has been made in combating wild polio virus transmission, the challenge of vaccine-derived polio remains. Molumbo expressed optimism about Katsina’s role in achieving success against these health threats.

“The partnership between Katsina and neighbouring Zamfara is crucial in stemming the spread of these viruses. Katsina’s efforts are vital in preventing the further outbreak and transmission of these diseases.”

Dr. Molumbo highlighted the pivotal role of local leaders, traditional rulers, organizations, and agencies in the fight against health crises. He also called upon the state government to intensify COVID-19 vaccination efforts to ensure a larger portion of the population is protected against the virus.

In conclusion, Dr. Molumbo expressed gratitude for the collaboration with the Katsina government and its commitment towards achieving universal health coverage and reaffirmed WHO’s support in achieving these goals.

Speaking earlier, Dr. Faisal Shuaib, the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), while emphasizing on the vital importance of primary healthcare during the visit, underscored the significant role investing in primary healthcare plays in enhancing the future well-being of communities and fostering economic growth.

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“When you invest in primary healthcare, you are laying the foundation for a stronger health system that directly benefits the people of Katsina. It not only improves access to healthcare where individuals live and work but also fuels economic growth, increases productivity, and fosters social stability,” Dr. Shuaib said.

Addressing the challenges faced by the state, Dr. Shuaib pointed out that while commendable progress has been made under the leadership of Governor Radda, there is a pressing need to address gaps in human resources.

Dr. Shuaib highlighted the need for synergy and collaboration between the state and health agencies to combat these vaccine-preventable diseases, stressing that a unified approach and a well-coordinated plan are essential for eradicating these threats.

“This issue is not unique to Katsina State but extends across the nation. The shortage of human resources at the primary healthcare level remains a critical hurdle, impeding the achievement of primary healthcare indicators,” Dr Shuaib said.

Dr. Shuaib also emphasized the importance of proper distribution and the recruitment of additional healthcare professionals such as midwives, nurses, and chief agents.

“Infrastructure, while crucial, is not the primary challenge in the healthcare sector,” Dr. Shuaib stated. While acknowledging the importance of well-equipped healthcare centres, he underscored that without a sufficient number of skilled healthcare workers, the potential benefits of these facilities would be undermined.

Dr. Shuaib reiterated the far-reaching impact of a robust primary healthcare system. “Investing in primary healthcare not only strengthens individuals but also builds strong families and thriving communities, ultimately leading to a prosperous nation,” he emphasized.

Responding, Governor Radda while acknowledging the complexity of the challenges faced by the state, however, emphasized that his administration’s major policy agenda includes a strong focus on the health sector. He highlighted the proactive measures taken by his government, even prior to assuming office, to develop a strategic policy aimed at elevating the state health sector to new heights.

“We came well prepared and are wasting no time in implementing our strategic policies,” Governor Radda affirmed, stressing the calculated decision to appoint young and capable individuals to key positions within his cabinet.

The Katsina Governor then presented to the visiting team a need assessment report already conducted for the health sector, reflecting his administration’s commitment to tackling healthcare challenges head-on.

Governor Radda while acknowledging the gravity of the challenges facing the health sector, said monumental efforts are required to address them effectively, highlighting that the state government cannot do it alone.

The Katsina Governor reaffirmed his administration’s dedication to routine immunization and the enhancement of primary health facilities across the state’s 361 wards and emphasized the critical role that these facilities had in supporting underserved communities, particularly the impoverished majority that overwhelmingly supported his election.