Written by Ijeoma UKAZU

7.2 million children at risk over non-release of immunization funds

There are fears that the lives of over 7.2 million children in Nigeria are at risk as the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, withholds the release of N12.8bn for immunization.
After months of President Muhammadu Buhari’s assent of the 2016 budget and barely five months to the end of the year, there is still no release of funds for implementation of routine immunization activities which will protect the lives of children from vaccine preventable diseases and death.                                                        
While deliberating during a 4-day national training for media practitioners and CSOs in Kaduna on routine immunization budget tracking and advocacy, there was consensus that the non-release of the funds to the relevant agencies in charge of implementation exposes Nigeria to a possible reversal of the achievements of two years since the interruption Wild Polio Virus in Nigeria.
 The training which was organized by the Community Health and Research Initiative, CHR, with support for the Partnership for Advocacy in Child and Family Health (PACFaH) had participants expressing fears that Nigeria’s image in the global community could be tainted owing to delays by the Ministry of Finance to release funds for immunization.
It was also stated that the financial burden of polio eradication was largely borne by international donors.
According to a Stears report, Nigeria’s total contributions to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative amounted to roughly $111 million between 2006 and 2013; and the estimated funding required for eradication efforts in Nigeria is $170 million just for 2016.
Project Director, Dr. Aminu Garba, CHR/PACFaH, who delivered a lecture on budget tracking elaborately, exposed the weaknesses in the 2016 health budget and the need for immediate implementation.
“We have less than five months to the end of 2016 yet nothing has been released for immunization, for procurement of vaccines and other logistics. As a nation we cannot continue to depend of development partners to buy the vaccines we need in the country yet we have funds for such purposes in our budget.”                                                           
He further stated that the “delay in releasing routine immunization funds puts the country at risk of experiencing stock out of vaccines in few months, if the Ministry of Finance is unable to priorities needs to protect the lives of under five children in the country   
“Immunization is the way to go to save the lives of our children, reduce cost of health care and give the children who are the leaders of tomorrow the opportunity to live their potential, but if we as a nation cannot provide health care to our children what message are we sending to the world.”
Mrs. Chika Offor, coordinator of Vaccine Network in Nigeria, also called on the Ministry of Finance to understand that by virtue of Nigeria joining the Lower Middle Income Countries, LMIC, with a GDP of about $510billion in 2014, the country will no longer enjoy the Global Alliance for Vaccine Initiative, GAVI, funding support for immunization which has made significant contribution to the country’s immunization it is important to sustain the gain achieved so far.

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