Nigeria’s Civil Society Warns Of A Possible Polio Resurgence, Thousands Of Child Deaths As Government Cuts Vaccine Money

Nigeria’s Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) warned on Thursday that recent gains recorded as a result of sustained child immunisation may soon be lost, alerting that a resurgence of the defeated polio endemic may now be a possibility as well as thousands of other avoidable child deaths as a result of budget cuts.

In 2012, Nigeria accounted for more than half of all polio cases worldwide, but concerted efforts by all levels of government, civil society, religious leaders and tens of thousands of dedicated health workers led to the eradication of polio in 2015. That achievement was possible following the immunisation of every child under the age of five with vaccine, multiple times.

However, these gains may soon be reversed, and CISLAC warned at a press conference in the commercial city of Lagos on Thursday that a fresh onslaught of the disease may be possible if the momentum was not sustained, adding that “it is strongly recommended that the governments and stakeholders at all levels must be encouraged not to relax the tempo of their interventions against the disease”.

The coalition of civil society organisations in a prepared statement in collaboration with Community Health and Research Initiative (CHR) read at the press conference said it was worried that the Nigerian Senate during its review of the 2016 budget as submitted to the National Assembly by President Muhammadu Buhari had slashed by 50 percent the N8 billion allocated for routine immunisation and polio eradication.

“This is worrisome as the funding requirement for Nigeria to access counterpart funding for immunisation is certainly below the approved budget line by the Senate. By implication, sustaining immunisation will remain a serious challenge in the country,” CISLAC said in a written statement obtained by TheSimonAtebaNews.

“We are also aware that the unintentional cut in immunisation budget line was as a result of inadequate understanding by the legislature of the primary and significant purposes the fund was originally allocated to serve.

“The legislators must understand that Nigeria is at crossroads based on the simple fact that it has joined the Lower Middle Income Countries (LMIC) with a GDP of about $510 billion in 2014, declaring the country the biggest economy in Africa ahead of South Africa which has occupied the 1st position for a long time.

“As you are all aware, the country has over the years enjoyed Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative (GAVI) funding support for immunisation which contributed to the significant reduction of under-five mortality rate.

“By virtue of the LMIC, the country has commenced its transition process from GAVI support. This implies that the immunisation funding requirement for Nigeria increases overtime to the 2020 when the transition process will elapse,” the civil society added.

CISLAC said immunisation “is the way to go to save the lives of our children, reduce cost of health care and give the children who are the leaders of tomorrow the opportunity to live their potential, but if we as a nation cannot provide health care to our children what message are we sending to the world?”

“We call on the legislators to understand the intricacies of the immunisation financing and support fulfillment of the Government of Nigeria’s commitment to sustainable immunisation at all levels”.

The coalition of civil society organisations urged the National Assembly to understand “that adequate health care delivery remains the topmost priority of the constituents. We advise Nigerian government to strategically adopt the IPV to bypass the future hurdles, and ensure adequate budgetary provision in the ongoing 2016 Appropriation and beyond to effectively sustain intervention on immunisation”.

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