From Paul Orude, Bauchi
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has commended the 1,000 days integrated health services for pregnant women and under two children in Toro Local Government Area of Bauchi State.
The commendation was made on Tuesday when a Global UNICEF Office team, led by Ephrem Tekle, Associate Director Immunisation from the Headquarters, paid a courtesy call on Governor Bala Mohammed at Government House, Bauchi, on Tuesday
Also on the UNICEF Global Office team for the visit were Phoebe Meyer, Consultant – Immunisation Flagships, HQ, Rushnan Murtaza, Deputy Representative, Nigeria, Eduardo Celades, Chief Health & HIV/AIDS, Nigeria and Nemat Hajeeboy, Chief Nutrition, Nigeria.
Tekle noted that the integrated health intervention in Toro comprehensively addressed the needs of pregnant women from pregnancy up to the survival of children under two years.
“We are advocating for a continuation of one of your best practices that have been carried out in Toro LGA in collaboration with our UNICEF office here (in Bauchi State),” he said.
“The practice addresses the needs of pregnant women from the day of pregnancy up to the need of children till they are two years old, altogether 1,000 days.
“That is nine months of pregnancy and 730 days in the two years of the child.
“We know for a fact that implementation carried out this period will form the basis of survival and thriving of mother and child at health facilities.
“This has been done in Toro LGA. We have seen its success and we want to appeal to you to extend it to the other LGAs so that we put this state as one of the champions that already started it.
“This is a testimony of your leadership. We like to spell it out on a global level and we want examples that are doing well and we are lucky to be guided by your officials and the UNICEF team here in our office who have done a wonderful job of implementing it.
“So we are taking this example forward globally but it will be good if you extend it to other LGAs in the state”
He said the political will of the administration made the difference in the success in Toro.
“We are here to show our appreciation for a long-time partnership with the state government, which has been excellent,” he said.
Tekle also praised the administration for paying over N109 million as its counterpart funds and the state government’s plan to disburse N160 million.
“Our interventions require some commitment from government and your honouring them has brought trust,” he said.
He also recognised the enormous efforts of the state government in the area of human resources, especially in the employment of more than 1000 health workers.
“We really want to commend that and to really continue moving in that direction to ensure that the personnel are converted and deployed,” he said.
“We like to offer our continued support to expand your programmes and we believe that working at the community level is key.”
Responding, Governor Mohammed said he was delighted to welcome the UNICEF team to the state, saying UNICEF, over the years had, made a tremendous impact on the lives of the people of the state, particularly women and children.
He pleaded for a stronger partnership aimed at the continuous promotion of economic growth and livelihood towards reducing poverty.
Mohammed appreciated UNICEF’s support to the state to strengthen the health system to deliver integrated health services for children and women of reproductive age with a focus on health, education, water sanitation and hygiene as well as child protection.
He said the partnership with UNICEF has improved maternal and child outcomes and provided needed infrastructures, standard equipment to ensure the nutrition of under-five children, free antenatal, and hospital delivery among others in the health facilities among others.
He said the administration was facing challenges in solving problems in the critical areas of health because 40 per cent of the population is poor while undernourished children are put at a staggering 13 per cent.
He explained that the advent of COVID 19 has had ripple effects on healthcare delivery in the state saying measures were however taken to address them, thanking UNICEF for coming up with initiatives to support his Government to address some of these challenges.
“We have made concerted efforts with our partners particularly UNICEF to improve the nutritional health of our people through the establishment of 21 community-based acute malnutrition centres in nine local government areas,” he said.
“We built four new general hospitals in Azare, Dambam, Warji and Duguri and renovated over 10 secondary health care facilities with housing facilities for the accommodations of health workers.
“We renovated four PHCs and constructed 10 across the state in addition to 107 renovated through UNICEF and the European Union, EU.
“All in all we are targeting functional PHCs in each of the 312 wards in the State among others.
“We are working with the African Development Bank to provide human capital development solutions to some places like Azare Machema, Dagauda to breach the gap in human capital development for health
“The state government has approved the recruitment of 100 medical doctors to man our facilities.
“We have also engaged 160 medical and paramedical students”
Governor Mohammed called for the support of UNICEF to retain medical personnel employed by the administration.
“We trained many of them but they ran away. We have bonded them. If we build health facilities but there are no medical personnel then it is as if we have not done anything,” he lamented.
“The human capital is a huge challenge because of our lean resources. We need your support in the area of retention, area of expertise, area of welfare and what have you to regain our doctors.
Earlier while introducing the UNICEF team, the Executive Chairman of the Bauchi State Primary Health Care Development Agency (BSPHCDA), Dr Riwanu Mohammed, disclosed that the UNICEF team was happy with the success recorded in Toro and was in Bauchi to understudy it with a view to replicating it in other countries in the world.
“They are also here to learn about our annual operation plan which we are dealing with in our PHCs,” he said.
“Recently we included the ministry of health in the health sector annual operation where the Ministry of Budget and Planning tracks every activity and funds quarterly.
“UNICEF has been carrying out activities in education, WASH, rural water supply, environmental protection agency and the ministry of health.
“We have MoU partner with UNICEF, they used to give three hundred thousand dollars in our basket every year to support Bauchi.”