The Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, on Monday said that the Federal Government would establish primary healthcare centres in every political ward to increase access to health services.
Enahire said this in Abuja, at a news conference to mark World Pneumonia Day as well as World Pre-maturity Day which are celebrated on Nov. 12 and Nov.17 respectively.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Global Coalition against Child Pneumonia in 2009 picked Nov. 12 as World Pneumonia Day to raise awareness on the under-rated childhood killer disease.
The coalition also seeks to advocate for affordable solutions that will save millions of young lives from Pneumonia.
The minister explained that pneumonia takes the life of one child every 20 seconds somewhere in the world, adding that it was an even more potent killer than HIV/AIDS, malaria and measles all combined.
“ While most deaths from Pneumonia occur in developing countries, up to three-quarters of the global mortalities is thought to occur in Nigeria and 14 other countries.
“ Indeed, WHO estimates that Nigeria witnesses about 143,000 under-five deaths annually, due to this disease which translates to 392 under-five deaths per day.
“Most of these deaths occur in Nigeria due to ignorance or lack of access to healthcare facility; that is why we decided to establish primary health care centres in all political wards; people don’t have to go up to five kilometres to access a hospital.
‘`If this strategy is worked out and if stakeholders too can help us build primary healthcare centres, it will benefit everyone and bring services to people since that is the challenge,’’ he said.
Ehanire said that the ministry was also working on introducing community health advisers who would be recruited from communities and assigned to households to care for them.
According to the minister, these advisers will regularly visit homes to ensure people are healthy and make referrals in cases of emergencies, thereby curbing deaths.
He said that the services of the advisers would include ante-natal among others, adding that the ministry was also looking at working on efficient transport system and mapping out ambulance services to help convey sick people to the hospital .
The minister said that mapping of ambulance was ongoing, adding that the private sector would also be drawn into this to assist and then be refunded later .
He said that all accredited and assigned ambulances would be paid, adding “with this strategy, the number of deaths will be reduced as most people die due to delayed access to healthcare .’’
Ehanire said that as deadly as the conditions could be, pneumonia and prematurity could be defeated if consistent and integrated approaches were adopted to prevent, protect and care for the children.
He said that the Nigeria Integrated Pneumonia Control Strategy and Implementation Plan, brought together all critical services and interventions to create healthy environments, promote best practices proven to protect children from pneumonia.
According to the minister, the ministry remained committed to increasing high impact interventions and advocacy, like routine immunisation, prenatal care, exclusive breast feeding, Kangaroo Mother care, human resource and capacity development, to curtail major childhood killer diseases.
Earlier, Dr Adamu Isah, Chief of Party, Inspiring Project Save the Children, Nigeria, said that the organisation decided to focus on pneumonia because the disease remained the biggest killer of children under five, both globally and in Nigeria.
Isah said that children suffering from malnutrition or those that had their immune systems weakened by other infections, and those living in air polluted areas were prone to the disease .
He said that Save the Children supported the Federal Ministry of Health to produce a roadmap to help in combating the disease and urged all stakeholders to sustain the fight against pneumonia and raise awareness in rural communities.
This, he said, was because 40 per cent of women in rural areas could not recognise the symptoms of pneumonia and this ignorance contributes to high rate of deaths .
He called for the implementation of roadmap towards an effective tackling of the disease.