Council of Traditional Rulers canvasses support for child and family health

By ORIH CHIBUIKE, The Nigerian Voice, Abuja

The Chairman, Nasarawa State Council of Traditional Rulers also Emir of Lafia, Alhaji Dr. Isa Mustapha Agwai 1, has directed the State’s traditional rulers, religious and community leaders to give desirable attention to child and family health.

The Traditional Ruler said this during a Media Dialogue in Child and Family Health organised by the Federation of Muslim Women Association Nigeria (FOMWAN) in collaboration with Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) under the aegis of Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health (PACFaH) held at Emir’s Palace in Lafia, Nassarawa State.

He reiterated that the State’s Traditional Council and religious institutions have the mandate to inculcate in their subjects and followers, the essential impact of child and family health, urging them on maximum support for the on-going PACFaH’s advocacy in the State.

The Traditional Ruler commended the women for brilliant initiative under a unified umbrella like FOMWAN-PACFaH to demand accountability from governments on their commitments to child and family health, assuring the group on the Council’s maximum support.

Also, the Madakin Lafia also known as “Second-in-Command to the Traditional Ruler”, Alhaji Isiaka Dauda, bemoaned the years of socio-cultural challenges confronting interventions in child and family health, noting that the State’s Traditional Council would embark on bold step not only to address the challenges, but also constantly advocacy to the relevant institutions as well as policy makers for adequate budgetary allocation to child and family health.

Speaking at the dialogue, the Project Director, FOMWAN-PACFaH, Hajiya Farida Sada Yusuf, explained that PACFaH Nigeria is a partnership of eight (8) Nigerian NGOs working to encourage government, at national and state levels, to identify innovative mechanisms to provide adequate funding for four (4) important areas in child and family health such as Routine Immunization, Family Planning, Amoxicillin as first line treatment for Pneumonia and ORS-Zinc as treatment for childhood diarrheal diseases, and Nutrition.

She added that the coalition has been working assiduously with policy and decision makers towards achieving the stated objective across 8 focal states—Lagos, Oyo, Bauchi, Kano, Kaduna, Niger, Nassarawa and FCT.

“As the traditional and religious institutions are highly respected by the communities and policy makers, FOMWAN-PACFaH holds this dialogue today primarily to raise institutions’ consciousness on the challenges confronting child and family health, especially at the grassroots. We hope this interface will trigger persistent advocacy by traditional and religious institutions for prioritised and desirable policy attention to child and family health,” the Project Directed stated.

In a paper titled “PACFaH: A Roadmap to Achieving Effective Child and Family Health in Nigeria”, FOMWAN-PACFaH Program Officer, Hajiya Adama Musa Kachalla explained that globally, nutrition contributes to nearly half of all child deaths, amounting to more than 3 million children each year.

She said, “The main indicator for malnutrition is stunting—a situation where children are too short for their age. Stunted children have poor physical growth and brain development, preventing them from thriving and living up to their full potential. Nutrition as a multi-disciplinary issue best addressed through well-coordinated and multi-sectoral approaches, stating that the adoption and implementation of the National Strategic Plan of Action on Nutrition (NSPAN) 2014-2019 will improve maternal and child nutrition in Nigeria.”

The Programe Officer urged the traditional and religious leaders on intensive advocacy for the implementation of the National Strategic Plan of Action on Nutrition at every level, with emphasis on maternal and child nutrition by government in the state.

She noted that although up to 30% of maternal deaths can be prevented through adequate access to and uptake of contraceptives, no fewer than 576 women out of every 100,000 live births die as a result of these pregnancies and childbirths.

“This figure translates to 111 women and young girls dying daily or 5 women every hour.” Kachalla urged the traditional and religious leaders on enhanced advocacy to policy makers for adequate funding for Family Planning.

The representative of development Research and Projects Centre (dRPC), Dr. Abdul Aziz Mashi, called for strategic advocacy to the state government to: increase domestic budget for RI and ensure timely release of funds for vaccines procurement and logistics; promote access to needed health care; establishment of vaccine intervention fund (VIF) to draw contributions from public and private sources; strengthen the accountability mechanism for RI in line with National Routine Immunization Strategic Plan, to make working groups (Finance, indicators, advocacy and mobilization) more functional.

Dr. Mashi added that childhood pneumonia and diarrhoea are leading killers of children under the age of 5 years with over 1.5 million children die globally and more than 400,000 in Nigeria. She called on the state’s traditional and religious institutions to advocate to government to take concrete steps to mitigate the avertable death of children under age 5 through: adoption of Amoxicillin Dispersible tablet (DT) as the first line therapy (FLT) in the standard treatment guideline for childhood pneumonia and its inclusion on the Essential Medicines List (EML); adoption of Zn/ORS as First Line Therapy for the treatment of childhood diarrhea; creation of a specific budget line for Amoxicillin DT/Zn/ORS in the Ministry of Finance; and increase (funding, procurement and distribution) of the child health commodities-Amoxicillin DT & Zn/ORS co-packed.

The Chairperson, Christian Association of Nigeria, Mrs. Lydia Attah reiterated that Christianity is not against child and family health, calling on the State’s Christian leaders to support FOMWAN-PACFaH on its on-going advocacy in child and family health in the state.