Nearly 600,000 children under the age of five die annually due to pneumonia, diarrhea, and malaria in Nigeria. Together, this represents 72% of Nigeria’s under-five-mortality. There is a strong need to curb these statistics as Nigeria hasn’t substantially reduced it’s child mortality numbers.

These diseases, that cause a significant proportion of deaths of children in Nigeria, could be prevented through vaccinations. Yet, rising vaccine program costs and the financial implications caused by impending transition out of Gavi support are real challenges. There are also effective treatments that can prevent the majority of the remaining deaths caused by diarrhea, malaria, and pneumonia. However, these treatments are not reaching the children who need them.

Access to appropriate treatment for diseases affecting under-fives is constrained by limited care seeking, poor diagnosis, and the failure to provide appropriate treatment even when the diagnosis is made correctly. For example, most caregivers in Nigeria fail to recognize pneumonia as a disease that needs prompt and serious medical attention. In fact, fewer than a quarter of caregivers are aware of the two danger signs of pneumonia such as, fast breathing and difficult breathing.

Poor availability of essential medicines in healthcare facilities is another significant obstacle. Nearly one-quarter of public health facilities do not stock antibiotics for pneumonia. Availability of commodities at public-sector institutions is often worse in northern states where mortality burdens are highest.

Another key barrier to treatment is insufficient knowledge and skills among Community Health Extension Workers to properly diagnose and treat childhood illnesses. Training materials on essential childhood diseases have not yet been properly integrated into a comprehensive training unit that is suitable for Integrated Community Case Management implementation.

There is also the challenge of recruiting and retaining qualified staff at healthcare facilities. There is a lack of sufficient and usable job aids, as well as trainings. Providers are often not trained on how to properly diagnose pneumonia and may not have the proper equipment to measure a respiratory rate.

 

Recommendations

There is a need to continue to raise the popular profile of child health and pneumonia in Nigeria so that the hard work of governmental support to community-based child health programs can continue. Speak Up Africa suggests that a national advocacy campaign around child health, pneumonia influencers and policy makers would help to create the policy environment for Nigeria to continue to push its child health agenda.

Speak Up Africa proposes a campaign that will be led by a group of credible influencers across different platforms. We will recruit iconic Nigerians as public health champions across multiple communication platforms. Through capturing influencers across various arenas, we will ensure that the campaign is widely reaching its target audiences through different mechanisms.

As there is a need for increased messaging and advocacy around child health, now is the perfect time to make the case for continued engagement at the community level.

To learn more, please read the Nigerian Landscape Assessment or contact Roxanne O'Connell at roxanne.oconnell@speakupafrica.org.