The World Health Organisation says immunisation is one of the most successful and cost effective health interventions ever introduced.
Vaccines prevent about 3 million deaths every year.
The theme for this year’s World Immunisation Week is: Are Your Vaccinations Up-To-Date?
I have been wanting to work on this story for a long time. It is a common practice to see Nigerians buy cooked foods and drink in plastic bags. I have done several times in the past with my colleagues; but had often wondered if it is a healthy thing to do. In the cause of my research and speaking with Emmanuel Unuabonah I realised we are gradually poisoning and killing ourselves. It is probably why we have rising cases of kidney failures and cancer related cases.
Nigeria faces renewed risk of under-5 deaths from vaccine preventable diseases in 2014
Nigeria faces a renewed risk of losing many children this year to vaccine preventable diseases, arising from potential vaccine stock out. In 2013, Nigeria experienced a major measles vaccine stock out resulting in the occurrence of 57,892 measles cases with 348 deaths. In 2012, the number of reported measles cases was 11,061, with 126 deaths. This represents more than 500% increase in the number of measles cases from 2012 to 2013. Indeed the reported number of measles cases in 2013, was the highest in the last 6 years. Most (78%) of the 2013 measles cases occurred in children between the age of 9 and 59 months. Significantly, 88% of the children coming down with measles had not received a single dose of measles vaccine. With the measles vaccine stock out in 2013, our national measles coverage rate of 42%, about half of the coverage rate of 80% for all vaccines, recommended by WHO.
Nigeria also has the largest population of people in Africa at risk of contracting Yellow Fever; yet vaccine coverage was at an alarmingly low rate of 35% in 2012; also as a result of stock out of the Yellow Fever vaccine. Vaccine stock outs are regular and frequent features of health care delivery in Nigeria. In 2013, there were stock outs of the BCG, Hepatitis B and Yellow fever vaccines at various times during the year1. According to the October 2013 edition of the Routine Immunization and Logistics Feedback, published by the NPHCDA, the anticipated stock out dates for EPI vaccines are – DTP and Measles (January 2014), BCG and HepB (February 2014), TT (March 2014), OPV (April 2014) and the DPT+HepB+Hib combo (May 2014). We had exhausted our stock of yellow fever vaccine since December 2013. While some frantic efforts have been made to procure more vaccines, the current stock level of vaccines will be completely depleted by March/April 2014. With the 2014 budget yet to be approved by the National Assembly, the Federal Government may not be able to release funds on time to procure vaccines needed for the rest of the year.
1 National Database 2013. Routine Immunization Performance
For some vaccines, it takes up to six months or more between placing an order and delivery. It is therefore crucial that funds are released on time to ensure that we do not experience vaccines stock out and shortages. Delay is not only dangerous but deadly to the 6-7millions annual cohort of Nigerian children, left unprotected in the absence of vaccines. Vaccine preventable diseases still account for about 40% of all childhood deaths in Nigeria2.
Vaccines are fragile and cannot be kept on shelves like biscuits and pure water. Vaccines are manufactured on demand; the needed quantity ordered and paid for far in advance of the anticipated time or period of use. To compound the problem, Nigeria imports every dose of an estimated 130 million doses of vaccines needed to fully vaccinate our annual cohort of 6-7 million new born Nigerian children. It is indeed a matter of shame and distress for the so called GIANT OF AFRICA to remain so blatantly impotent on this issue of vaccine production.
It is about time for Nigeria to seriously, vigorously and efficiently pursue the manufacturing of some vaccines locally. The current feeble and half hearted attempts must give way to a purposeful policy. Given the way our government works, it may be more efficient to fully and completely engage the private sector in the production of vaccines in Nigeria. Government should then play a regulatory role in ensuring that safe and efficacious vaccines are produced. Past government involvement in vaccine production has followed the well known patterns of vehicle assembly plants and power generation disasters. We dare not involve the ponderous hands and grubby fingers of government in such a delicate project of vaccine production.
Finally, The Federal Government needs to amend the national policy, to put immunization funding on first-line charge in the annual budget; which means that funds for immunization can be accessed directly once the national budget has been passed.
Oyewale Tomori FAS, NNOM
President, the Nigerian Academy of Science
2 NPHCDA bottleneck analysis, 2012
Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) is calling the Federal Government of Nigeria to order the withdrawal of men of the Joint Task Force JTF from Bodo community in Rivers state. Shell petroleum is said to have engaged/contracted JTF when the indigenes had a peaceful protest over Shell’s recent pollution and failure to live up to a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recommendations to cleanup Ogoni environment.
In a press statement released by ERA/FoEN on December 17, 2012, the protest in Bodo community is connected to a June 21, 2012 blow-out from a Shell facility for which the community has been mounting pressure on the company for clean- up.
Community folks allege that instead of conducting proper clean up, officials of Shell bribed some chiefs with N10 million with a request that they lie to the community members that the spill was an act of sabotage.
The bribe however angered the community people who started protests since last week. Sensing major trouble, Shell allegedly contacted the JTF which subsequently drafted that swooped on the community last Saturday.
ERA/FoEN described the massive deployment of soldiers to the community and brutalization of community people as “a provocative attempt to shield Shell from taking responsibility for its environmental crimes in Ogoni land”.
“The forceful occupation of Bodo by the JTF is totally objectionable. We must remind the Nigerian government that peaceful protest is a right of citizens in any true democracy. It is simply unacceptable for the JTF to re-enact the same brute force that did not and will not dampen the spirit of the Ogoni people to demand their lawful right to a pollution-free environment”, said ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey.
“Rather than deploy the JTF to Bodo to brutalise people already traumatised by Shell’s wanton destruction of their environment and livelihoods, the Nigerian government should deploy such energies in compelling Shell to comply with the UNEP recommendations for a thorough cleanup of the environment in Ogoniland”.
The UNEP assessment submitted to President Goodluck Jonathan on August 4, 2011 showed hydrocarbon pollution in surface water throughout the creeks of Ogoni land and up to 8cm in groundwater that feed drinking wells. Soils were found to have been polluted with hydrocarbons up to a depth of five metres in 49 observed sites, while benzene, a known cancer-causing chemical was found in drinking water at a level 900 times above World Health Organisation (WHO) acceptable levels.
The report also documented that fisheries have been destroyed and that wetlands around Ogoniland are highly degraded. These have led to irreparable loss of livelihoods and will take 30 years to correct. The report also recommended a $1 billion restoration fund for Ogoniland.
However, more than a year after its release, Shell is yet to commence remediation activities.
ERA/FoEN Director, Programmes and Administration, Godwin Uyi Ojo said: “The UNEP report is clear on what Shell should do without delay. Unfortunately, Shell has chosen to embark on a “merry-go-round”on the issues.”
“That Shell allegedly bribed community chiefs to lie about its own irresponsible actions in Bodo is the height of insult on the people and indeed the entire Niger Delta people impacted by the company’s operations. We again demand the immediate withdrawal of the JTF from the community and implementation of the UNEP report in its entirety.
The eighteenth session of the conference of the parties (COP18) in Doha, Qatar came to an end without the inclusion of gender equity negotiations to address the issues of climate change; despite previous suggestions on the possible difference women’s participation could make. Women and children are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation and it is only reasonable to empower women to help achieve the targets of the Copenhagen Accord (COP-15) of limiting global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius
Women maybe tagged the ‘weaker sex’ and yes we may give way easily to tears but according to psychology experts, women are more liable to take risks in positive decision making and not let their emotions sway their judgments. Historically women are making life changing decisions every single day whether it is on how and where to get fuel to cook and feed their household; to bring up children, ensure the home is clean. The reality of how thick-skinned women are, can be seen and felt in the most populous continents of the world (Africa and Asia), where women are traditionally treated as second class citizens.
I think the only reason the man is free to make decisions is because women take the load off their shoulders. Women die young in these poor countries because they carry so many loads. This confirms the adage that states that: ‘A man is only as good as the strength and encouragement his wife gives him’. However, the biggest flaw is that some men fail to recognize or perceive the contribution they make.
During Rio+20 in Brazil June,2012 , the list of challenges advocated for by UN women includes the Nairobi Forward-looking strategies for the Advancement of women, Chapter 24 of Agenda 21,Section K of the Beijing Platform for Action, and the Conventions on biodiversity and Climate Change initiated in Rio in 1992
At COP-18 in Doha, Qatar, Christiana Figueres, the UNFCCC Executive Secretary told delegates that: ‘…women are global leaders and powerful agents of change’. In another meeting, Dr Nawal Al-Hosany, director of sustainability at Masdar emphasised the need for gender equality in the fight against our changing climate: ‘…men and women have a responsibility to play an active part in the dialogue and movement to address climate change’.
Some of the most influential and dynamic leaders in the world today and historically, have been women. Without there contributions and the critical decisions they made, countries would not have the democratic freedom they enjoy to this day.
An example of how times have changed with regard to integrating women into roles which could historically be considered ‘men’s territory’ as requiring high risk decision making where emotions cannot sway your judgment is portrayed in how the Royal Navy in recent years allow women to serve on active duty warships. In fact not just to serve, but even command some of the most highly technical vessels in the world today. Given this scenario, shouldn’t women be included in climate change negotiations? Can they not be part of those influencing debates and add value to the subject matter? It is however consoling to note that a decision on gender inclusion was approved as a DRAFT at the just COP-18 in Doha, Qatar concluded. Perhaps the tide has turned on womens participation on effective decision making to tackle the challenges of a changing climate!
British scientists are exploring the lost LakeEllsworth in the Antarctic. The expedition is being sponsored by the Natural Environment Research Council and is believed to be costing around seven million pounds. http://news.sky.com/story/1022465/british-scientists-to-explore-lost-antarctic-lake
While I applaud and see the necessity of the project, my concern is the availability of resources Western scientists enjoy. African scientists, particularly those in Nigeria are falling behind due to lack of opportunity and funding to explore and research those scientific challenges facing the country today. The sad reality is reflected in a project I was commissioned to produce by Nature Washington DC. The title was ‘Science in Africa’: My contribution, ‘view from the front Line’ was published on 29 June 2011http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110629/full/474556a.html and televised. This can also be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=neMCPpHUNTk
It is little wonder that Professor Temi Emmanuel Ologunorisa, a renowned climate scientist expressed a deep concern regarding the situation in Africa as a whole and said ‘that is why it is difficult if not impossible for a scientist based in Nigeria to win a Nobel Prize in Science.’