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Nigeria's high child mortality rate is caused by non-functional PHCs.

Lack Of Functional PHCs Leads To Alarming Child Mortality Rate

According to Dr. Salma Anas, the Special adviser on health to President Bola Tinubu, Nigeria’s high child mortality rate is caused by the lack of functional Primary Health Care Centres (PHCs).

Anas stated this at the 7th Annual Health Conference of the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists (ANHEJ), in Nasarawa State.

Nigeria is among the three percent of the world’s population and with a major contributor to the global burden of maternal and newborn deaths.

This, she said has attributed to poorly functional PHC systems resulting in a lack of available equipment and low healthcare coverage, as well as inadequate financing in the health sector.

She said the challenges to maternal and child deaths could be averted and prevented if the PHC is rebranded to guarantee health security.

According to her, having an effective primary health care system will build the foundation of a healthier society, whole reiterating the present administration’s effort to revitalise the sector to achieve the SDGs 2030 target of universal health coverage.

“The PHC is the fulcrum for a resilient health system and should be structured to be able to deliver services that will support the attainment of UHC and guarantee health security. The PHC is the entry point into the health care service delivery system where 80 percent of the health issues should be sorted out and essential with basic care needs provided.

“As a gateway to accessing health services, it should be designed to fit the purpose for proper functioning and operations to be prepared for the needs of the community where it is located. It should be a hub of positive interaction that gives hope and relieves anxieties and distress to whoever is there whether as a caregiver or client/patient.

“It should be community-owned and led for optimal utilization and sustainability of the PHC system along with the aspirations and potentials of the people and their developmental growth needs. The PHC should be linked to a secondary care facility for ease of referrals of cases requiring more expert attention,” she said.

Dr. Anas added that despite receiving the least attention from PHC in Nigeria, morbidity and mortality burden is still on the increase due to pregnancy-related conditions, as a result, weakening the link of the health service delivery system in the country, she said.

Also speaking, the founder of the Vaccine Network for Disease Control (VNDC), Mrs Chika Offor, said that vaccine advocacy by journalists was vital for public health education, countering vaccine hesitancy, holding authorities accountable, building trust, and fostering dialogue.

Offor, who is also the Chair of the Health Sector Reform Coalition (HSRC), said that their role in disseminating accurate and reliable information was crucial in ensuring the success of vaccination campaigns and protecting public health

While congratulating the newly elected ExCO of ANHEJ, she said that VNDC aimed to address key health challenges faced by children and women in the country, such as vaccine-preventable diseases and maternal health issues.

“Trust in vaccines and public health authorities is crucial for successful vaccination campaigns of any nation. ANHEJ can contribute to building trust by reporting on the rigorous scientific process behind vaccine development, testing, and approval.

“ANHEJ can also highlight the positive impact of vaccines on public health, sharing success stories and real-life examples of how vaccines have saved lives and prevented diseases,” she said.

She said that partnership with ANHEJ would signify a collaborative effort to prioritise and improve healthcare services for these vulnerable populations.

She said that the commitment would involve initiatives such as increasing access to vaccines, improving immunization coverage, and strengthening healthcare infrastructure and services in the country.

She said that by focusing on the health of children and women, the vaccine network and ANHEJ would aim to contribute to the overall development and well-being of the Nigerian population.

“The partnership will also involve advocacy and awareness campaigns to promote the importance of vaccinations and maternal health practices,” she said.

She added that the collaboration between ANHEJ and the vaccine network would highlight the commitment towards achieving better health outcomes for children and women in the country.