As the ongoing measles vaccination exercise enters its second week in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), DAVID ADUGE-ANI writes on measles and the efforts of the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA) to reduce the scourge.
On February 10, 2018, the Federal Capital Territory Administration (FCTA), through the Federal Capital Territory Primary Health Care Board (FCT-PHCB) commenced the vaccination of children, between the ages of 9 months to 5 years, in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), against measles disease. The vaccination campaign, which is expected to end on the February 22, is scheduled to take place in all the 62 wards of the territory, while an estimated 620, 000 children are expected to be vaccinated, within the period.
The acting executive secretary, FCT Primary Health Care Board (FCT-PHCB), Dr Matthew Ashikeni, had explained that vaccination campaign would cover schools, housing estates, places of worship and other places, to ensure that no child is missed. Ashikeni disclosed that a total of 3,998 settlements had been earmarked, while 1171 vaccination teams and 185 special teams are expected to work in 269 fixed posts and 2078 temporary posts. He revealed that Nigeria tops the list of countries with unvaccinated children from measles with 3.3 million children, followed by India with 2.9 million, Pakistan – 2.0 million, Indonesia – 1.2 million, Ethiopia – 0.9 million, while the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Ashikeni had explained that the measles campaign was meant to give children of FCT full protection, against measles, which, according to him, is a very deadly disease that could lead to complications. He gave the assurance that the campaign would achieve 100 per cent coverage, adding, “We are sensitizing, moblising, educating and ensuring that the people of FCT admit that immunization is important, saves lives, protective, safe and free.”
LEADERSHIP gathered that last year, the administration had received 180 reported cases of measles infection, with 13 laboratory confirmed cases, from 69 blood samples test, conducted in parts of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The confirmed cases were from four area councils, namely, Kwali area council (seven cases, Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) with three cases, Gwagwalada area council had two cases, while Bwari area council had one case.
Briefing newsmen on the outbreak of the disease, the then acting secretary, FCTA Health and Human Services Secretariat (HHSS), Mrs. Alice Odey-Achu explained that children below five years accounted for 46 per cent of the confirmed cases. Odey-Achu frowned that out of the 13 confirmed cases; only one of them was vaccinated against measles, noting that during the 2015 campaign, FCT coverage stood at 73. 9 per cent, this according to her is not good enough to reduce the burden of the disease, especially, with the daily influx of people into the territory.
Though there has been a substantial decline in global measles death, Nigeria still tops the chart of number of children not vaccinated against measles. A new report published by the World Health Organisation (WHO) indicates that 20.8 million children worldwide are still missing their first measles vaccine dose and more than half of these unvaccinated children live in six countries.
In a recent joint press statement, the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), UNICEF and WHO, noted that in spite of the substantial decline of global measles death, a lot still needs to be done. Nigeria tops the list of countries with unvaccinated children from measles with 3.3 million children, followed by India – 2.9 million, Pakistan – 2.0 million, Indonesia – 1.2 million, Ethiopia – 0.9 million and Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, with 0.7 million.
The executive director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, said a surveillance data shows that measles incidence among children less than five years increased in Northern Nigeria. Also, UNICEF survey earlier revealed that measles among children under the age of five increased more than two-fold in Northern Nigeria between 2014 and 2016.
To curtail the spread of the disease and prevent death of children under five, our reporter gathered that the federal government has released N3.5 billion for vaccination programme and a nationwide measles campaign for the 2017/2018 measles immunisation calendar.
Briefing newsmen recently on the 2018 measles follow-up campaign, scheduled for February 10th to 22th, in the FCT, the secretary of FCTA Health and Human Services Secretariat (HHSS), Barrister Elizabeth Amanda Pam, explained that the reasons for the 2018 vaccination campaign is as a result of an upsurge in measles cases, particularly in the last quarter of 2016 and first quarter of 2017, as well as poor routine coverage and outbreaks. Pam noted that Nigeria implemented the catch-up campaign in 2005, 2006 and a follow-up campaign in 2008, 2011, 2013 and 2015, adding that the 2018 campaign is needed to curb the 2016 and 2017 pockets of measles outbreak in the country.
She continued: “Incidentally, these campaigns have not met the required coverage target of 95%. In the 2015 campaign, the national average was 84.5% – not good enough to reduce the burden of the disease. So measles cases/ incidence and outbreaks continued till date.”
Represented by Dr. Bamidele Babade, a director in the secretariat, Pam added that Primary Health Care (PHC) facilities, outreach sites, public hospitals, offering routine immunization services, would be used as vaccination posts. She stated that Nigeria would need to achieve and maintain 95 per cent vaccination coverage against the disease, within each local government area, through routine and supplementary immunization campaigns, to reach the goal of measles elimination in the country.
Speaking at the flag-off ceremony of the February 2018 Measles Vaccination Campaign, in Abuja, last week, Pam directed all the six area council chairmen in Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to take up the challenge and be part of the measles elimination campaign. She urged the chairmen to be personally involved in supporting and supervising the measles vaccination campaign.
Pam also called on the area council chairmen to ensure the release of area council counterpart funds, at least two weeks prior to any immunization campaigns and every three months for routine immunisation. She maintained that the administration places high priority to the goal of measles elimination in Nigeria and has achieved much, particularly in expanding immunisation services to the rural communities. The secretary of health also called on royal fathers, religious leaders, managers of estates and nursery/primary schools, as well as all stakeholders in the FCT, to continue to support the administration to provide better health for all residents.
Speaking recently, chairman of Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC), Hon. Abdullahi Adamu Candido, urged all traditional rulers and parents to join the council in ensuring the success of immunization against polio and measles. Candido, who frowned at parents who do not allow their children to be immunised during the campaign, also maintained that the council was doing everything possible to ensure the success of the exercise, adding that the traditional rulers and other stakeholders must be in the same page to eradicate these diseases in our society.
“The council has noticed with utmost dismay that many of our people do not allow their children to be immunized, during the immunization campaigns, probably because of rumours and false information that fly around, thereby causing problems to other innocent children.
It is on this premise that we call on all stakeholders involved, the councillors, district heads, religious leaders, ward focal persons, market women leaders, youth leaders, National Orientation Agency (NOA) and other Nigerians, residing within AMAC, to put all hands on deck to achieve a measles and polio free generation. There is dire need for total synergy among all of us in order to come out successful, especially during this forthcoming measles campaign that will start on 8 February, 2018.”
Candido called on all parents and guardians to take advantage of this facility-based exercise to bring out their children and wards, between 9 to 59 months, for immunization, as this would go a long way in reducing outbreaks in the society.
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