Business mogul and computer programmer, Bill Gates, Aliko Dangote and the governors of Borno, Bauchi, Yobe, Sokoto, Kano and Bauchi states signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to reduce child mortality rates in their respective states. This agreement was signed on Wednesday the 20th of January, 2016.
At the event, Dangote clarified the importance of child immunizations against polio and other harmful diseases. He also harped on the need for government commitment in order to improve health care in the area. “Immunzsation is lifesaving, cost effective and is the cornerstone of every primary health care system. The leadership and guidance of the federal government and the commitment of the governors are critical for success. For me, bringing health care to the community is something I care about deeply so it is very important that communities trust that health services are there for them,” Dangote said.
The new alliance between Dangote, Gates and the north-western states to promote immunization is coming at a time it is most needed, particularly in the north. In an analysis of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) survey results by the United Nations Development Programme, alarmingly low numbers were recorded for immunized children in the northern part of Nigeria. Also, in the north west, about 69 percent of children die before their first birthday. These worrying results were one of the factors responsible for Nigeria’s ranking among African countries that failed to meet the MDGs.
Even though immunization is key to reducing high mortality rate in Nigeria, that is just one way to handle it. There are many factors that aid the high infant mortality rate in the country and they include:
- Lack of quality primary health care
There are regional disparities in the availability of health care facilities in Nigeria with the northern states recording the least. An American-based professor, Usman Yusuf, emphasised the need for government investment in primary health care within the country by saying “Eighty percent of our healthcare needs are centered around primary healthcare, the state governments must therefore focus on primary healthcare delivery. If we focused on this, many illnesses will be dealt with before they escalate.”
Government officials must also remember that these health centers will not function efficiently without highly-skilled medical personnel or trained health care providers and they need to be sought out as well.
The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition reported that over 10 million children are afflicted with stunted growth in Nigeria. These numbers are not surprising due to the Boko Haram scourge which has caused the displacement of about 2 million people in the country. However, it is important to note that if the government does not aid the IDPs and improve the quality of living in the camps, more infants will die, thereby increasing the already high rate of infant mortality.
- Poor family health care practices
One of the major reasons why families indulge in unhealthy practices is ignorance. The government and humanitarian organisations should invest in the education of parents, especially mothers situated in the northern parts of Nigeria.
As one of the countries that has recently adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Nigeria owes it to its citizens to meet its third target which is to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” Although there are no set indicators for the measurement of the SDGs, it is time for the government to hold itself responsible and accountable to end the blight of infant mortality in Nigeria.