The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released a report stating that nearly half of the 67 million children who missed routine vaccinations between 2019 and 2021 live in Africa. India and Nigeria, which have large birth cohorts, had the highest numbers of children who had not received a single routine vaccination by the end of 2021.
The agencies attributed this to COVID-19 pandemic disruptions, armed conflicts, and a decline in confidence in vaccines due to an increase in misleading information. UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children 2023 report reveals that vaccination coverage levels decreased in 112 countries during the pandemic, marking the largest sustained backslide in childhood immunization in 30 years.
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Dr. Melchior Athanase J.C. Aissi, the Director General of the West African Health Organisation (WAHO), said that 40 new outbreaks of emerging and re-emerging diseases have been recorded in recent years in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Aissi stressed the need to strengthen the capacity of the Regional Centre for Disease Surveillance and Control (RCSDC) to respond effectively to epidemics and other health emergencies in the sub-region.
He urged the economic community to view health security as an investment that forms the foundation of productive, resilient, and inclusive economies and societies.
Meanwhile, the Programme Manager, Anambra State Tuberculosis, Leprosy, and Buruli Ulcer Management, Dr. Ugochukwu Chukwulobelu, disclosed that Nigeria ranks sixth in the world and number one in Africa in terms of tuberculosis burden. Anambra state has the highest number of childhood tuberculosis cases in Nigeria.
The state government, in collaboration with the National Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control Programme (NTBLCP) and other partners, has set up 14 laboratories with gene Xpert machines for diagnoses and about 800 Directly Observed Treatments (DOTS) centers for TB.
The major problem is lack of awareness among residents about TB, diagnosis, and treatment. Chukwulobelu charged the media to sensitize the public on the burden and symptoms of TB and how and where patients could get medical help.