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Nigeria, UNICEF Launch First National Child Health Week

UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman, who visited Nigeria to launch the country’s first ever National Child Health Week, said an unacceptably high number of children in the country are dying from preventable diseases, and she called on Nigerian government officials to provide integrated healthcare, Xinhua reports (8/3).

According to a UNICEF statement, the goal of child health week, which will be held twice a year in Nigeria, is to deliver a package of “high-impact, low-cost child survival interventions,” including immunizations, deworming medicines and insecticide-treated nets. In addition, women will be “counseled on key household practices like breast-feeding and basic hygiene.” Veneman said that although Nigeria is the “most populous country in Africa … more children die in Nigeria than any other country in Africa, largely from preventable diseases” (7/31).  

“During the week, 30 million children will receive immunisation for various diseases, including polio. Nigeria is one of the four remaining polio countries in the world and accounted for 85 percent of all cases in Africa,” Veneman said, the Guardian writes (Ukwuoma/Akhaine, 8/3).

Veneman said UNICEF will spend an additional $5 million for polio education, Xinhua writes (8/3). Though she said that “Nigeria made progress this year” with polio immunizations, Veneman added that “there is a need to build on this if polio is to be eliminated in the country,” the Daily Trust/allAfrica.com reports. Veneman also talked about malnutrition, the need for clean water and good sanitation, and she urged people to use of insecticide-treated nets to prevent malaria.

Babatunde Osotimehin, Nigeria’s minister of health, said the federal government is working on a health bill to finance primary healthcare. Over the next three years, he said the country expects to receive about $600 million from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the World Bank to fund programs (Muhammad, 8/3).

In related news, the Washington Post examines Nigeria’s “unreliable agriculture output.” Though the country was a “major agricultural exporter before oil was discovered off its coast in the 1970s,” today almost “90 percent of Nigeria’s agricultural output comes from inefficient small farms, according to the World Bank, and most farmers have little or no access to fertilizers, irrigation or other modern inputs,” the Washington Post writes.

The country is now “one of the world’s biggest importers of food staples, particularly rice and wheat, both of which the country could potentially grow in large enough quantities to be self-sufficient,” according to the article. Despite the imports, “about 38 percent of Nigerians younger than 5 suffer from moderate or severe malnutrition, according to UNICEF, while 65 percent of the population — roughly 91 million people — are what humanitarian organizations call ‘food insecure'” (Hecht, 8/2).

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