Insecurity Threatens Access To Immunization Services In North-East – UNICEF

Phuong Nguyen

The United Nations Children’s Fund has said that rising waves of insecurity and forced displacement in north-east Nigeria will further expose children to malnutrition and imperil access to routine immunization services. The organization, therefore, says efforts must be ramped up to protect the well-being of children in the region and prevent immunization-related mortality and morbidity cases.

The UNICEF Chief of Borno Field Office, Phuong T. Nguyen who said this in a statement made available to journalists on Wednesday in Maiduguri, added that immunization prevents up to four million deaths annually.

Despite the benefits, however, Nguyen noted that many children living in conflict-affected regions continue to miss out on life-saving immunization services.

She said, “Data from the World Health Organisation shows that as a result of access constraints, 14 million infants did not receive their first dose of diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis in 2019. Another 5.7 million infants were only partially immunized. It is sad that 60 percent of these 19.7m children live in 10 countries, including Nigeria.’’

“Immunization is the foundation if children will do well in school and develop immunity against opportunistic diseases. We must protect our children now so that they can protect us in our old age. Already the COVID-19 pandemic is shrinking access to routine health services but escalating conflict in the north-east will erase the windows of opportunities that are still available.’’

While affirming that UNICEF will continue to support maternal and child health programmes in the north-east, Nguyen added that it is unacceptable that vulnerable children continue to die from diseases for which vaccines already exist.

“The benefits of immunization on children last for life. That is why immunization services for children and adults must be protected at all costs. Early this year, UNICEF supported efforts of the Borno State Government with the immunization of 469, 910 persons aged 9 months-44 years against yellow fever in high burden local government areas of the state where six cases were reported. UNICEF has facilitated the immunization of children against other vaccine-preventable diseases in the region and will continue to prioritise and advocate uninterrupted immunization services for children affected by conflict,’’ she said.

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