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Promoting Good Governance.

20 million children unvaccinated in 2018 globally, Nigeria has highest number 

ABOUT 20 million children missed out on life-saving vaccines globally in 2018, while three million children live in Nigeria, according to new data from the World Health Organisation and the UNICEF.

The report published on Monday indicates that most unvaccinated children live in the “poorest countries and are disproportionately in conflict-affected countries” where almost half are in 16 countries. The countries include Nigeria,  Afganistan, the Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Ethiopia. Others countries are Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

The vaccines for a child’s immunisation are including doses of hepatitis B, measles, yellow fever, pneumococcal conjugate, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP) vaccines. But WHO says more than one in ten children were unvaccinated in 2018. If these children do get sick, WHO says, they are at “risk of the severest health consequences, and least likely to access lifesaving treatment and care”.

It notes that ten countries account for 11.7 of the 19.4 million under and unvaccinated children in the world. “This list includes some countries with moderate coverage and very large birth cohorts, and other countries with substantially lower coverage,” WHO explains. The estimated number of vaccinated children have been calculated using population data provided by the 2019 World Population Prospects (WPP) from the UN.

Nigeria is the highest with the number of unvaccinated children globally. Credit: WHO

 

“Vaccines are one of our most important tools for preventing outbreaks and keeping the world safe,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization. “While most children today are being vaccinated, far too many are left behind. Unacceptably, it’s often those who are most at risk– the poorest, the most marginalized, those touched by conflict or forced from their homes – who are persistently missed.”

The health agency said countries need a 95 per cent coverage of immunisation to protect against outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

The data also shows that eleven countries were below 60 per cent in the coverage of the third dose of DTP. DTP is a combination of diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) which are serious ailments but are preventable with vaccines. Nigeria is part of the 11, others include, Angola, Chad, the Central African Republic, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Samoa, Somalia, South Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic, and Ukraine.

DTP3 coverage is calculated for children under one year of age.

On the measles vaccines, the UNICEF and WHO data shows that of the 774 local government areas in Nigeria, 283 have achieved 95 per cent coverage of the vaccine. In other words, 491 local government areas are yet to meet up with 95 per cent benchmark of vaccination coverage for measles in 2018.

An earlier report by UNICEF indicated that nearly four million Nigerian children under one year of age missed out on the first dose of measles vaccine in 2017.

“Measles is a real-time indicator of where we have more work to do to fight preventable diseases,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s Executive Director.

“Because measles is so contagious, an outbreak points to communities that are missing out on vaccines due to access, costs or, in some places, complacency. We have to exhaust every effort to immunize every child.”

According to a WHO report which calculated the under-five mortality rate in 2018, about 5.4 million children before reaching their fifth birthday.  Also, a UNICEF report in September 2018 estimated that every five seconds, a child under the age of 15 dies. It noted that the majority of these deaths happen before a child clocks five years old. Access to immunisation, medicines, clean water, electricity, more health facilities and doctors could have prevented their deaths, UNICEF mentioned.

In Nigeria, it is estimated that one in ten children died before clocking five.

Faisal Shuaib, Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) said in April 2019 that not less than 2,300 children under five years of age die daily in the country from preventable causes.

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