Prof. Samuel Ernest, a Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health, has called for a renewed focus and concerted effort to reduce the high rate of child mortality in the country.
He made the call on Thursday in Ilorin while delivering the 171st Inaugural Lecture of the University, entitled: “…And the Child Died, Oh! No! Not Again: Adventures in Childhood Morbidity Prevention and Mortality Reduction”.
Ernest of the College of Health Sciences, University of Ilorin, disclosed that acute respiratory infection killed more than 500,000 children in the country annually.
The expert also revealed that malaria accounted for 10 per cent of childhood diseases, adding that 25 per cent cases of malaria among mothers constitute a danger to the foetus.
Ernest, who also said that 85.8 per cent of children usually have severe anaemia, described the developments in Nigeria as unacceptably high.
He identified pre-term birth, perinatal asphyxia, sepsis, pneumonia, malaria, malnutrition among others as some major causes of child mortality in the country.
The don canvassed further investment in the local production of vaccines for immunisation as cost effective measure to prevent diseases among children.
“Immunisation remains the most cost effective way to prevent diseases in our world.”
“Vaccine production locally will reduce the cost per head for each antigen,” Ernest said.
The lecturer called for more public awareness and education on the importance of vaccines and why it should be heightened, especially for vaccine preventable diseases.
He advocated a national research synthesis group that would help the Federal Government collect, collate, synthesise and scrutinise the outcome of researches on different sub-specialties to implement and fast-track them.
Ernest also called on the government to “integrate regular health appraisals, remedial measures and follow-up on the prevention of communicable diseases, healthful environment and nutritional services.
The don solicited adequate funding of Primary Health Care (PHC) at the grassroots for the immediate health needs and reduce the severity of morbidity-causing diseases among children.
He also advocated a more aggressive national campaign against sickle-cell disease to reduce the gene carriage from the present 22 per cent to less than 10 percent in the next 10 years.
Ernest also urged, “Attention to the mother’s health and improving the coverage of Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) must be pursued.”
He advocated an increase in the duration of maternity leave to between 6 months and one year so that mothers could breast feed babies without excuses.