In November 2013, in an unprecedented synergy of programmes , the Federal Ministry of Health of Nigeria and its partners joined the world to mark both the World Pneumonia Day on the 12th of November and the World Prematurity Day on the 15th of November 2013. These events were fully supported by partners like WHO, UNICEF, USAID/TSHIP, Save the Children, Silver Lining Initiative, Small Big Souls, These culminated in close to a weeklong activities that dovetailed into each other and ended in community outreaches. How important are pneumonia and prematurity in the overall strategy to reduce childhood mortality and achieving MDG 4 in Nigeria?
According to Dr. Nosa Orobaton , the Chief of Party of the USAID/ Targeted States High Impact Project (TSHIP) in Nigeria, “Most people in Nigeria may not be aware that Pneumonia is the number cause of deaths among children worldwide…as much as 1.2million children die annually from this disease. Our country is ranked number 2 in the list of ten countries with the highest incidence of pneumonia deaths among children under the age of five annually. It is painful to say that we record over 140,000 child deaths annually.” He had further added that halving pneumonia deaths in Nigeria by 2015 would significantly impact on the global picture. For this reason, USAID/TSHIP and other partners have been supporting the Federal Ministry of Health and the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) to ramp up interventions around this deadly disease as part of the Saving One Million Lives Initiative of Nigeria. In addition, USAID had supported this effort by setting up a position of a National Pneumonia Coordinator to give technical support to the ministry, NPHCDA, and partners to control this disease.
The World Pneumonia Day Seminar was aimed at raising awareness had the theme Combating Pneumonia in Nigeria: A discussion on its challenges and innovative solutions. As a result of the seminar, government and partners were able to better understand the challenges faced in scaling up pneumonia programme across the country, stakeholder activities in the country, and to assess potential gaps in the system. The Federal Ministry of Health and partners reached consensus on the way forward to ensure that communities derive maximum benefit from the programme .
The World Prematurity Day followed on the heels of the World Pneumonia Day. In his media roundtable on Friday 15th of November, to commemorate the World Prematurity Day the Honourable Minister for Health, Professor Onyebuchi Chukwu, represented by the Director of Family Health Dr. Balami Wampada, had stated that preterm constitutes 12% of live births and also accounts for 33% of newborn deaths. These figures are quite high.
In my remarks as the Senior Advisor and National Pneumonia Coordinator for USAID /TSHIP programme , I had further made the public aware that there was a strong linkage between pneumonia and prematurity, because preterm babies tend to be challenged by shortage of surfactants in their lungs that tend to lead to respiratory distress and their predisposition to pneumonia. I had also added that environmental hygiene is very important in prevention of diseases among preterms and older children.
The world prematurity day also featured radio talks shows and community outreaches to Daki Biyu and Jahi both districts in the Federal Capital Territory . It was rounded up with a church service on Sunday 17th of November.