Friday, 8 September 2017

FG, NARD Ends In Deadlock

Doctors Insist On Payment Before Resumption

The doctors, operating under the aegis of the National Association of Resident Doctors, after the meeting, which began at about 2:30pm on Wednesday and ended at 12:30am on Thursday, insisted that their salaries must be paid before they will call off the strike.

FG, NARD in new terms of settlement as Doctors insist on payment before resumption

After about 10 hours of negotiation, striking resident doctors in the country in the wee hours of Thursday signed a new Memorandum of Terms of Settlement with the Federal Government.

The doctors, operating under the aegis of the National Association of Resident Doctors, after the meeting, which began at about 2:30pm on Wednesday and ended at 12:30am on Thursday, insisted that their salaries must be paid before they will call off the strike.

It was gathered that the Federal Government negotiation team, which was led by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige, promised that the doctors would receive their bank alerts on Thursday (today).

The leadership of NARD will then meet on Friday (tomorrow) to decide on the next line of action.

According to a communique of the meeting, signed by all stakeholders in the health sector and released by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, the meeting is expected to reconvene on November 2, 2017 to examine the process expected to have been followed through by the two disputing parties.

The Memorandum of Terms of Settlement reads: “A meeting was held on September 6, 2017, following the strike embarked upon by the members of the National Association of Resident Doctors of Nigeria (NARD) on September 4, 2017. The meeting considered the Memorandum of Terms of Settlement dated August 31, 2017 which was signed by the Parties at the end of the conciliation meeting held at the instance of the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment to address the 6 – point issues of concern to the members of NARD.

“In view of the ongoing strike by members of NARD, an emergency meeting was convened by the Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment to address areas of dissatisfaction in the Settlement by NARD. The meeting noted NARD’s Position that despite the signed Memorandum of Terms of Settlement, the industrial action by its members emanated from a distrust of Government commitment to execute its own end of the Terms of Settlement. The Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment expressed displeasure that NARD members embarked on strike inspite of the signed collectively agreed Terms of Settlement dated August 31, 2017, and conciliation in progress in line with the provisions of Section 5 of the Trade Disputes Act, CAP. T8, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN), 2004. The issues of concern to NARD were therefore re-addressed as follows:

1) Failure To Pay Our Salary Shortfall Of 2016 And January To May 2017

Acknowledging the need for the Resident Doctors to receive their full salaries, the meeting deliberated extensively on the accounting difficulties encountered in the disbursement of salaries to non – regular payrolls labeled ‘Non Regular Allowances’ as against regular payrolls covered by the IPPIS platform.

“The meeting further noted that the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation (OAGF) did receive one Authority to Incur Expenditure (AIE) of the sum of #13.2 Billion to address the shortfalls in Public Sector including payment of the salaries of affected doctors in Federal Tertiary Health Institutions (FTHI). After due considerations by the meeting especially of the document submitted by NARD on “Salary Shortfall”, it was agreed –

i. That the OAGF has to employ checks and balances in disbursing Government funds. Accordingly, though verifications had been done by the Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit (PICA), there was still need to carry out authentications. Payment would therefore be made directly to the affected FTHI for Doctors and Staff that have been authenticated, and additionally, a soft copy would be forwarded to the Parent Ministry (FMoH), Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, CMDs, NARD and NMA;

ii. That the FTHIs on list A of the document submitted by NARD that have been authenticated by OAGF were expected to receive payments on or before Friday, September 8, 2017 as OAGF tendered a mandate containing 8 FTHI and pledged to forward an additional list of the remaining FTHI to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for necessary action between September 7 – 8, 2017;

iii. That the 2nd batch (list B) Mandate will be treated as soon as their AIE is sent to OAGF since NARD claimed that PICA had verified the shortfalls.

2) Failure To Rectify The Salary Shortfall From August 2017

The meeting noted and agreed with NARD demand for a 100% payment of salaries to its members. However it was observed that the shortfalls were basically experienced by those not on the IPPIS platform termed “Non Regular Allowances/Payments”. The challenges on this issue were discussed extensively and it was noted that the OAGF was currently capturing the Paramilitary Staff on IPPIS Platform and would be ready to deal with members of NARD by first week of October precisely October 4, 2017. In this regard, it is expected that the 100% payment will be implemented as from October 2017, as September salaries were already at advanced stage of preparation. However, any shortfall that occurs will be treated together with that of August, 2017.

The role of the Cash Management Department and PICA in the payment of the Non Regular Allowances (Non IPPIS), and the determination to find a permanent solution to the issue of salary shortfalls was acknowledged. The meeting resolved that the Honourable Ministers of Labour and Employment, and Health together with the Budget Office of the Federation and one member each of NARD and NMA would discuss the matter with the Honourable Ministers of Finance (HMF), and Budget and Planning (HMBNP) as soon as Honourable Minister of Finance returns to the country.

NARD was also assured that notwithstanding IPPIS coming into existence in October, 2017, the arrears accumulated in salary shortfalls on the Non Regular Platform, would be paid based on the old payment regime and liquidated.

3) Failure To Circularize House Officers’ Entry Point

The meeting noted that since the Memorandum of Terms of Settlement of August 31, 2017 was executed, progress had been made by the Government. The FMoH and NSIWC had made a computation of the financial implications for the House Officers’ Pay amounting to approximately N422, 564,729.34. The end of October, 2017, was given as deadline to entirely solve the monetary problem of House Officers entry step by capturing it in the 2018 budget. The NSIWC promised to forward a memo to the Presidency following the receipt of a letter of demand from the FMoH and would issue the relevant circular immediately a favourable response is received by the NSIWC from the Presidency.

4) Failure To Correct The Stagnation Of Promotion Of Our Members And Properly Place Them On Their Appropriate Grade Level

After extensively discussing the issue by all parties, it was concluded that while the Appeal filed by the FMoH in the Appeal Court against the Judgment of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) on skipping is pending; skipping for doctors should however continue as currently applied for other health workers. Hospitals that are yet to implement skipping for doctors are to commence. Also, there should be no “same scale” promotion except at the terminal grade level and in accordance with the Public Service Rules. Payment for skipping shall stop if the Appeal Court invalidates the payments.

5) Failure To Enroll And Capture Our Members On The Integrated Personnel Payment Information System (IPPIS

On this issue, the meeting concluded that item v of the Memorandum of Settlement dated August 31, 2017 should be adopted and implemented. Item v under reference provides as follows – “Based on the information given by the members of NARD, it was noted that only 18 Federal Tertiary Health Institutions had so far submitted their Nominal Roll. The meeting concluded that NARD members should be on the IPPIS platform and that the CMDs as well as the MDs should be requested by the FMoH to submit their Nominal Roll to the Office of the Accountant General of The Federation (OAGF) and copy to the FMoH and FML&E on or before September 15, 2017. It was agreed that all Resident Doctors should be captured on IPPIS platform by the end of October 2017.” OAGF confirmed the receipt of submissions from additional 9 FTHIs as at September 6, 2017.

6) Failure To Budget, Deduct And Remit Both The Employer And Employees’ Contributions Our Pension To Our Retirement Savings Account Since 2013

The meeting admitted and considered a letter by the Federal Ministry of Finance Ref. No. OHMF/SPO/NARD/289/VOL.1 dated June 8, 2017 on the subject “Re-Stoppage of Budgetary Provision And Deduction at Source For the Contributory Pension Scheme For Resident Doctors” which reaffirmed the earlier position taken that Resident Doctors are entitled to the Contributory Pension Scheme. After due discussions, item vi of the Memorandum of Terms of Settlement of August 31, 2017 was re-affirmed and adopted for implementation. The item vi states that “…NARD members are on Pensionable appointment and as such the FMoH in conjunction with OAGF and Budget Office of the Federation (BOF) should take necessary steps to ensure that adequate budgetary allocations are made to cover the Pension requirements of NARD members. Furthermore, FMoH should issue a letter in that regard to the Head Civil Service of the Federation who would correspond with the Budget Office of the Federation for necessary action, as the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) had in a letter of February 12, 2015, Ref.PENCOM/INSP/C&E/CCPA/66/15/1167 to the Honourable Minister of Health affirmed that members of NARD are ‘Employees’. The letter went further to define an employee as any person employed in the service of the Federation, the FCT, a Government of a State of Nigeria, Local Government Council or private company or organization or firm.

7)  The Federal Government will appeal to State Governments and Organisations that owe salary shortfalls/emoluments to Health Workers to make genuine efforts to liquidate these arrears in the spirit of revamping the Health Care System in the country.

8)  The meeting agreed that NARD National Officers are to present the outcome of the re-negotiated Memorandum of Terms of Settlement to an emergency meeting of its members by Friday September 8, 2017 with a view to suspending the strike once there is evidence of payment of the Mandate as presented to the meeting, to the affected Institutions.

9)  No member of NARD will be victimised as a result of this strike if suspended, after the Emergency Meeting of Friday, September 8, 2017

10)  This Conciliation Meeting is adjourned to reconvene on Thursday, November 2, 2017.”

Those who signed the new terms of settlement included the President of the Nigerian Medical Association, Prof. Mike O. Ogirima; the President of NARD, Dr. Onyebueze John; The Deputy Director (EXP) Social, BOF, Gideon S. Mitu; the Acting Director (IPPIS), Office of the Auditor General of the Federation, Olufehinti Olusegun; the Chairman of the Committee of Chief Medical Director and Medical Directors of Federal Health and Tertiary Institutions, Prof. Thomas Agan; and the Director (Inspectorate), OAGF, M. K. Usman.

Others include the Permanent Secretary, General Services Office, Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Dr. R. P. Ugo; the Permanent Secretary, Service Welfare Office, Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Didi Walson Jack; and the Chairman of NSIWC, High Chief R. O. Egbule.

Others are the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole; the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Prof. Stephen Ocheni; and Ngige.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Professionals Canvass Mental Health Promotion For Development

·           Abayomi Receives Award of Excellence In Medical Leadership

Health professionals have called for the promotion of mental health in the country especially among aspirants to leadership positions.

This, they explained, is to ensure that they have the qualities and ability to pursue the good of the society. They made the call during the during the just-concluded Annual Scientific Conference And Gathering organised by the Faculty of Clinical Sciences, College of Medicine, University of Lagos (CMUL), Idi-Araba, Lagos.

Speakers at the conference with the theme, “Mental Health In a Recessed Economy,” and sub-theme, “Role of Academics in Emotional Health Promotion,” linked general well-being of individuals to their state of mental health.

Among those who canvassed for this recently was Professor Jude Uzoma Ohaeri, a Professor of Psychiatric, University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), Enugu State.

In a lecture entitled, “Mental Health Promotion As A National Development Strategy: The Role of Professionals in the Field,” Prof. Ohaeri observed that it was important for leadership aspirants to undergo mental health check to confirm that they have critical human traits that make for successful leadership.

The Professor of Psychiatrics, said that that the World Health Organisation (WHO) defined mental health as “a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.” In analysing the WHO’s definition, Prof. Ohaeri said that there are two aspects that stress on wellbeing and absence of disease.

He noted that people who have disease are neither the problem of the country nor patients that have psychiatric problem. He said, “The problem of Nigeria is that people who are deficient in aspects of humanity seek this power and they rule us at whatever level, whether as class teacher or whatever that is the problem.”

“So my lecture says we have to do something which is called mental health promotion in order  to make sure that people who aspire to such heights are people who are in general society, have these elements of humanity that make for the foundations for flourishing of the individuals and flourishing of society.
“That is the branch of my talk really that the law bars you from contesting from any leadership positions  if you are deficient in altruism, kindness and in good neighbourliness, even if you are not depressed as you will bring all those deficiencies into whatever you are asked to do and that is the problem we’re facing.”

On the theme of the conference, Professor Adeola Onokoya, a Professor of Orthomology at College of Medicine, University of Lagos (CMUL) Nigeria, said, “It’s no news that our economy is in recession or if you like to use the word depression and we know that recently we’ve had a lot of unpalatable news about members of the community, children, students and people committing suicide.

“There is no doubt that the theme is linked with what is happening in the country and all the things human beings would require for a healthy living for your mind to be at rest. “We’re just trying to look at mental health promotion as a role for everybody. This is because everybody is affected.

“Even research has shown that mental health is the most common form of ill-health. About one in four of individuals is affected in a lifetime by mental health. So it is a topic that we need to educate people on; let people be aware that there are interventions that could be used to proffer solutions for people who may require it.

“It’s important for us to let people know because there are some people who suffer from depression and actually they do not know because of what is called somatisation,” he stated.
Dr. Abayomi Ajayi, Managing Director, Nordica Fertility Centre, who was the special guest of honour on the occasion, while speaking also said that there is an intersection between infertility and mental health.

“This is because of the high premium we place on child bearing, people who don’t have children feel like something is missing,” Dr. Abayomi explained. “When people are stretched and not relieved it could lead to depression which is an ill- health that can translate into other serious mental issues. So procreation is really an essential factor for one’s mental health stability,” he added.

WHO says that health is not just the absence of infirmity but a state of well-being.
Dr. Ajayi also stated that there is treatment for infertility like any other medical disorder, while we are not saying that people should not go to prayer houses, we however advise that they seek medical attention.

He also noted that the job of a doctor as an administrator involves looking after so many people at the same time, but most doctors seem to be more concerned about the clinical work and does not really bother much about the business angle. He therefore called for more training of doctors to be better administrators.

One of the major highpoint of the event was the conferment of ‘Award of Excellence In Medical Leadership’ on D.r Ajayi. Conferring the award on him was  ‘Award of Excellence In Medical Leadership’ Prof Ben Oghojafor, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Management Services who said that Dr. Ajayi was being recognised for his leading role in general health through fertility management in the country.
The award to Dr. Ajayi and his fertility centre is the second one in a month as his clinic also won one of this year’s Nigerian Healthcare Excellence Awards (NHEA).

Contending with five other hospitals nationwide, the 2017 award was presented to Nordica Fertility Centre at the annual event which celebrates distinguished personalities and organisations who have contributed immensely to the growth of the Nigerian health sector.

Increase Funding For Family Planning To Achieve SDGs

To control rapid population growth, its associated problems and achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), stakeholders have called for increased budgetary allocation to family planning as Nigeria joins the rest of the work to mark 2017 World Population Day (WPD).

Speaking on this year’s WPD theme, “Family Planning, Birth Spacing: Empowering People, Developing Nations,” Chief  Eze Duruiheoma, Chairman, National Population Commission (NPC), said that family planning and birth spacing are measures to attain a sustainable family size by way of allowing for adequate intervals between births, employing especially the use of contraception.

Duruiheoma said, “Family planning is not only about saving lives but also empowering people and developing nations. “Family and birth spacing are personal decisions but their profound implications on health, economic and social wellbeing of the society are far reaching.
“That is why simple individual decision has become a developmental agenda that must be addressed on a sustainable.”

Nigeria’s population is expected to surpass that of the U.S. by 2050, according to new UN projections that the West African country could be the world’s third most populous country by the end of this century. The 2013 NDHS results indicate that the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) is 5.5 births per woman. This means that, on average, Nigerian women would give birth to 5.5 children by the end of their childbearing years.

Meanwhile, the goal of the National Policy on Population for Sustainable Development is to achieve a reduction in the total fertility rate of at least 0.6 children every five years according to statistics from National Population Commission, 2004.

In a report by Matt Lesso on the Borgen project, Nigeria is struggling with over-population and most residents of cities like Lagos live in severely overcrowded slums. Many houses and apartments consist of just one room to house entire families. More than 50 people can share a bathroom, sink and living space.

Youth unemployment in urban areas is around 50 percent. This has fueled an increase in crime which is rampant in many cities. This high level of youth unemployment has also helped fuel the rise of militant groups like Boko Haram.

This is even as Nigeria’s fertility rate is approximately 5.5 children per woman that is a woman can still give birth to five or more children regardless of the means of providing for them.

Many fear this rise in population growth will fuel poverty, hunger and civil strife. But, the problems will be particularly acute in Nigeria, according to experts. While some view this increase in population as a potential for more economic growth and status as a global hegemony, many others fear the population boom will cause the country to collapse.

With family planning population growth can be controlled starting with individual family deciding how many children it can cater for, when to give birth to them and how to space them.

Dr. Omasanjuwa Edun, the Lagos State Team Leader of the Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative (NURHI) said that family planning is designed to help the family have quality life contrary to speculations that it was instituted to discourage procreation. According to World Health Organisation (WHO), Family planning reinforces people’s rights to determine the number and spacing of their children.

Family planning can be used to reduce maternal mortality which is currently at 555/100,000 live births in Nigeria (NDHS 2013), the world health body says. By preventing unintended pregnancy, family planning /contraception prevents deaths of mothers and children. With a well-planned family, parents are also able to take adequate care of children they already have.

Research has shown that many Nigerians have negative perception of Family planning. Many have the misconception that family planning is all about reducing expected number of children to be born using risky medical interventions that can potentially cause major complication in women such as infertility.

However, experts stress that family planning simply provides a safe, affordable and effective way to have children when you want them, and provide a period of ‘rest’ for mothers in between pregnancies.

Commenting on this recently, Mrs. Toyin Saraki, Wellbeing Foundation founder, explained: “Family planning information and contraception is a fundamental human right, empowering women to decide when and where to have a child, and how many children they wish to bear, according to their circumstances.

“We recommend that mothers space their childbirth by 1000 days, to better sustain the health and socio-economic wellbeing of mother, child and family.”

To provide family planning services, experts insist that the government needs to; increase funding for Family Planning and ensure increase in budgetary allocations for FP/CBS in the state to cover consumables, supplies and infrastructure, commodity, logistics, management, training of skilled providers and demand creation.

Global World Population Day is celebrated on July 11 every year. It is a global day to focus attention on the urgency and importance of population issues and this year’s theme is emphasising how access to safe, voluntary family planning is a human right. It is also central to gender equality and women’s empowerment.

How Exercise, Weight and Age Affect Fertility

Exercise should be encouraged for both women and men who are gearing up to try to conceive.
However, excessive, strenuous exercise in women may result in disruption of the ovulation cycle, thereby affecting her periods. Normal exercise has not been linked to miscarriages (loss of pregnancy), but certain forms of exercise (for example, high-impact or contact sports or scuba diving) should be avoided in pregnancy. In men, too much exercise may cause a low sperm count.

Weight and fertility
A healthy diet is very important for women who are looking for a baby. Being overweight can affect a woman’s fertility and can cause complications during pregnancy. A woman who is overweight and who is planning a pregnancy would be advised to lose weight before she conceives.

Obesity can affect fertility by causing hormonal imbalances and problems with ovulation, particularly for obese women having their first baby. Obesity is associated with poly-cystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common cause of infertility. PCOS is a common hormonal condition especially in infertile women, affecting up to one in five women of reproductive age. Early diagnosis, living a healthy lifestyle and treatment can help optimise fertility.

If a mother is obese, it increases the risk of pregnancy complications and health problems for the baby. Risks associated with obesity in pregnancy include miscarriage, hypertension, pre-eclampsia , gestational diabetes, infection, blood clotting, need for induction of labour, Caesarean birth and stillbirth.

Babies born to overweight or obese mothers are more likely than those born to healthy-weight mothers to become obese children and adults, and to have more health problems. Weight loss with anorexia or bulimia can disrupt a woman’s menstrual cycle and thereby reduce her chances of becoming pregnant.

Being underweight can also reduce a woman’s fertility. It can cause hormone imbalances that affect ovulation and therefore a woman’s chance of getting pregnant. Compared to healthy weight women, underweight women are more than twice as likely to take more than a year to get pregnant. Having a BMI under 18.5 is considered ‘underweight.’

Figures about women, weight and fertility
• Women who are overweight or obese have less chance of getting pregnant overall. They are also more likely than women of healthy weight to take more than a year to get pregnant.
• The risk of pre-eclampsia doubles in overweight women and triples in obese women. Overweight women have twice the risk of gestational (pregnancy-related) diabetes and obese women eight times the risk, compared with women of healthy weight.
• A woman who is obese is more than twice as likely to have a miscarriage as a woman of healthy weight. There is twice the risk that her baby will not survive.
• Infants born to obese women are more likely to be large for their age, need neonatal intensive care or have a congenital abnormality.

For women with diabetes, it is especially important to plan for pregnancy. If possible, it is recommended to review your diabetes and your general health with your doctor, at least three to six months before trying to conceive.

Age and fertility
A woman’s peak fertility is in her early 20s. At age 35 and beyond (and particularly after 40), the likelihood of becoming pregnant reduces. As men age, levels of testosterone fall, and the volume and concentration of sperm change.

Healthy couples younger than 30 years who have regular sexual intercourse and use no contraception have a 25 per cent  to 30 per cent chance of achieving pregnancy each month.

Africa Re-strategize On Immunisation

A new road map for implementing the Addis Declaration on Immunisation (ADI )  has been launched.

The event happened in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda recently, at the inaugural Africa Health Forum.
The launch followed the decision in January this year, at the 28th  African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, by heads of government from the continent to approve the ADI, which was earlier drafted and signed by ministers and other top level delegates at the Ministerial Conference on Immunisation in Africa in February 2016.

The foreword to the 35-page report informs that the “endorsement paves the way for accelerated implementation of the ADI roadmap to ensure that everyone in Africa, no matter who they are or where they live, can access the vaccines they need to survive and thrive.”

While noting that “Africa has made tremendous gains in increasing access to immunisation in the last 15 years,” progress, it says, “has stagnated, leaving one in five African children without access to life-saving vaccines.”

The result is that “vaccine-preventable diseases continue to claim too many lives.”
The roadmap was “developed with the aim of providing the Member States with a framework to achieve the ADI commitments.”

There will be a help though from elsewhere as “multilateral, donors, civil society organisations, and others have expressed their willingness to support and work with countries to ensure the successful implementation of the ADI.

Notably, World Health Organisation (WHO) in the African Region (AFRO) and Eastern Mediterranean Region (EMRO) and the AU Commission (AUC )have proposed the establishment of a secretariat to provide technical assistance and help monitor progress toward achieving the ADI commitments.”

The implementation is targeted “through three areas of focus: generating and sustaining political commitment and funding; strengthening technical capacity and overcoming barriers to access; and closely monitoring progress.”

Besides revealing the roadmap, the report shed light on efforts of some African states, prior to now, to develop vaccines.

“Between 2012 and 2016, 23 African countries had registered vaccine clinical trials. In many of these countries, multiple trials were conducted. For example, 16 of these countries registered a total of 38 vaccine clinical trials between 2015 and 2016. Only two national regulatory authorities in Africa (that is Egypt and Senegal) are recognised by WHO as applying stringent standards for quality, safety, and efficacy.

This recognition is required in order for countries to manufacture prequalified vaccines for international markets, including UNICEF and Gavi purchase,” it says.

Lagos State Government Restated Its Commitment Towards Maternal Health

The Lagos State Government has restated Its commitment towards maternal, peri-natal and child (under-five year) health, saying it is one of the most important issues that determined national well-being.

Making the declaration recently, at the flag-off of this year’s Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, (MNCH) Week across the state, the government said that it plans to reach 640,000 pregnant women under the programme.

MNCH Week offers a veritable platform to simultaneously contribute to the reduction of child morbidity and mortality and improving maternal health indices. The week held between 3 and 7 July, 2017.

At a news conference weekend, at the Lagos State Government Secretariat, Alausa, in Ikeja, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, Special Adviser to the Governor on Primary Health Care, Dr. Olufemi Onanuga said it was a known fact that maternal, peri-natal and child (under-five year) health was one of the most important issues that determined national well-being.

He said when aggregated, this group (women of child bearing age and under- five year old) represents over 42 per cent of the state’s total population, apart from their constituting a vulnerable group, adding that every individual, family and community was, at some point, intimately involved in pregnancy and the success of childbirth and parenting.

“It is a rather sad fact that most of the maternal and child deaths and morbidity are avoidable if preventive measures are taken, and adequate care is available. “It is for this reason that I fully lend my voice and support to the Integrated Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Strategy adopted in Nigeria as a panacea to frontally tackle the twin issue of maternal and child morbidity and mortality,” he explained.

Onanuga said during the July round of implementation, a wide range of high-impact, low-cost, protective, preventive and promoting services would be provided to the whole family. These will include routine immunization; Vitamin A supplementation; growth monitoring and promotion, screening for malnutrition and appropriate counselling/management/referral; distribution of de-worming medicine, and distribution of Information Education and Communication (IEC) materials aimed at improving the health seeking behaviour. In addition, tetanus toxoid will be given to women of child-bearing-age, who are also counselled on key household practices like exclusive breastfeeding, complementary feeding and basic hygiene. Antenatal care and family planning services will be provided.” he said.

The special adviser further said that the 57 Local Government Areas and Local Council Development Areas were expected to flag-off this programme as this would create the necessary awareness for enhanced mobilization of the target population to all the Primary Healthcare Centres, PHCs, throughout the State.

He urged all Traditional Birth Attendants (TBAs) to ensure they were registered, and continue to refer patients early while being conversant with the danger signs in pregnancy and newborns, while imploring women to notify the authorities of any unregistered quacks and charlatans in their neighbourhood.

Onanuga further appealed to all community leaders to take full responsibility of ensuring that all the targeted groups were reached and effectively mobilized to the PHCs during this year's Maternal, Newborn and Child Health celebration.

Sickle Cell Disease: Experts Stress Importance Of Early Diagnosis

Experts have reiterated the importance of early diagnosis, saying it can prevent many difficulties and ease treatment, thereby increasing the chance of patient’s survival.
To this effect, Lagos State, while marking the World Sickle Cell Disease Awareness Day penultimate week, announced that testing for sickle cell disease will soon become a compulsory part of the newborn screening programme.

Sickle cell disease and sickle cell trait can be diagnosed with a simple blood test and can also be diagnosed before the baby is born.

Speaking recently in an interview, Dr. Jide Idris, Commissioner for Health in the state, said that the purpose is to diagnose affected babies early in life and thus introduce timely and lifesaving interventions that would manage avoidable suffering and possibly prevent death. The test will utilise blood from the blood samples used for other routine newborn screening tests, Dr. Idris said.

It can show whether a newborn infant has sickle cell disease or sickle cell trait, the Commissioner added.
The prenatal (before birth) screening is done using a sample of amniotic fluid or tissue taken from the placenta. The placenta is the organ that attaches the umbilical cord to the mother’s womb. This test can be done in the first few weeks of pregnancy for people who are at high risk due to their genotype.
The incidence of sickle cell disease can be reduced if intending parents have adequate information about genotype compatibility.

According to a survey conducted in Abuja recently, 42 per cent of the respondents do not know what genotype is. This information and genotype testing should be made accessible through religious and youth organisations, the survey recommended.

There are four genotypes in humans - AA, AS, SS, AC (AC being a variant of AS gene). Intending couples should know both their own genotype as well as their partner’s genotype at the early stage of their relationship before they are well rooted in love and emotions. These can easily be checked through a blood test.

The Lagos State Health Ministry boss further noted that there is need to provide adequate safe blood for transfusion to save and support lives. According to him, 104 donor drives were carried out in various corporate organisations by Lagos State Blood Transfusion Services (LSBTS) between 2016 

Efforts to End Malaria Scourge Receives Boost

With this year’s Nigeria Prize for Science Competition recording the highest number of entries from 27 scientists worldwide, experts believe that fight to end the malaria scourge in Africa has received a boost. At the moment, the scientists are working on innovations in Malaria Control to win the coveted $100,000 with their new findings.

The General Manager External Relations of Nigeria LNG, Dr. Kudo Eresia-Eke, said this recently, in Lagos at the formal hand-over of entries to the Advisory Board of the Nigeria Prize for Science. Dr. Eresia-Eke expressed optimism that this year’s prize competition will throw up a notable innovation in combating the malaria scourge in Africa, particularly in Nigeria.

In his remarks at the ceremony, Dr. Eresia-Eke said “The journey every year of The Nigeria Prize for Science is punctuated by milestones. One of those milestones is actually the announcement of the closure and number of entries for the year.

The theme for this year’s Prize competition is “Innovations in Malaria Control.”
The General Manager said: “As of last year, we had 16 entries generated by the same theme. But we did not have any one of good enough to emerge as the winner of the prize. As we have always maintained, the prize will be awarded for no other reason than excellence. “There was no winner, but in recognition of the importance of the theme, it was decided that the theme be repeated in 2017.”

“Malaria is probably Africa’s biggest killer and in Nigeria, the figures show that there is probably nothing that kills more than malaria. This underlines the relevance of the theme “Innovation in Malaria Control, according to him.”

He also said: “To ensure that what we received this year were higher in number and quality than previous years; we devised a global sophisticated communication strategy to ensure that the information gets to the right centres and scholars working on Malaria control all over the world. “We are thus happy to record this year, the highest number of entries for the Science Prize since inception, almost doubling the number of entries for 2016.”

Dr. Eresia-Eke further said that the Nigeria Prize is open to all irrespective of nationality.
What is common to all prospective winners is the focus on Nigeria, especially the focus on thematic Nigerian problem, one that weighs down on us so much that a solution if found would greatly impact the country positively, he added.

“This is why it is open to world. It does not matter who finds solutions to the Nigerian problems. All that counts is that it helps to build a better Nigeria, in line with the vision of Nigeria LNG.”

“It is the vision of Nigeria LNG (NLNG) to help build a better Nigeria, using avenues at its disposal, including the promotion of excellence and in this case, the promotion of science,” he said.

Professor Alfred Akpoveta Susu, the Board Chairman, received the entries on behalf of the Advisory Board for The Nigeria Prize for Science. He remarked that the criteria for the evaluation of these entries normally will be determined by the Advisory Board and the panel of judges.

Professor Susu said: “Fortunately for the prize this year, we have already done that. What happens now is that the panel will receive the entries and evaluate them. They will meet with the Board and we will decide on who the winner might be. “We hope that we will get a winner this time because malaria is a devastating disease that has killed a lot of people especially pregnant women and children.”

Professor Susu is a past winner of The Nigeria Prize for Science. Other members of the Advisory Board are Professor Michael Adikwu, Vice-Chancellor, University of Abuja and also a past winner of the science prize and Professor Elijah Mshelia, a nuclear physicist.
The rest are Professor Barth Nnaji, renowned scientist and former Minister of Power and Chief Dr. Nike Akande, two-time minister and President, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the country’s premier chamber of commerce.

Commending NLNG, Dr.Akande stated that the theme on malaria control was a good cause which she urged Nigerians from all walks of life to adopt. She added that the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry will promote the cause and strengthen the link between research and development and industries.

Prof. Catherine Falade, the Chairman of the panel of judges and a professor of pharmacology at the University of Ibadan, assured that excellence remained the fulcrum of judging the entries. She added that the process will be thorough.

Other members of the panel include Professor Sunday Ene-Ojo Atawodi, Professor of Biochemistry at Ahmadu Bello University and Prof. Obioma Nwaorgu, a public health parasitologist and epidemiologist from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Akwa.

The first winner for the prize in 2004 was Professor Akpoveta  Susu and his then doctoral student, Kingsley Abhulimen. In 2005, there was no winner. Professor Michael Adikwu won the prize in 2006. In 2007, as it was in 2005, there was no winner, however, in 2008, Dr. Ebenezer Meshida emerged winner.

Professor Andrew Nok and Professor Akii Ibhadode won the prize in 2009 and 2010 respectively. There has been no winner since 2010.

Family Planning: Sole Administrator Seeks More Involvement From Leaders

Tunji Ilelaboye, Sole Administrator, Agboyin-Ketu Local Council Development Area of Lagos, has called for more commitment of stakeholders to family planning to achieve its goals. Ilelaboye made the call in Lagos at a Town Hall Meeting on Family Planning organised in Somolu LGA of Lagos by a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) – Nigerian Urban Reproductive Health Initiative 2 (NURHI 2).

“The purpose of this gathering is to enlighten the populace, both male and female of childbearing age, on the benefits of family planning. “We have been paying lip service to issues on family planning, but now is the time to address them; this is what NURHI 2 is spearheading in Lagos State and the entire Nigeria.

“What they have done so far is going around all the local government areas through the Primary Health Centres (PHCs) to improve their family planning units. “It is expected that people should access informed family planning services with ease from providers who are knowledgeable,’’ he said.

Ilelaboye urged the three tiers of government to pay more attention to funding and equipping of PHCs.
According to him, PHCs are nearer to the downtrodden for access to healthcare services.
Dr Ajoke Ashiru, Chairperson, Inter-faith Coalition Group, NURHI 2, said that the NGO was targeting women of childbearing age – from age 15 to age 49 – in its advocacy for family planning. She urged more involvement of traditional, community, religious and market leaders in the advocacy.

“These play important roles in decision making, and we believe in them,’’ Ashiru, also President , Federation of Muslim Women Association of Nigeria (FOMWAN), said. She urged religious leaders to talk about family planning during sermons.

According to her, some of the benefits of family planning include child spacing, which enables a woman to recover fully from a previous pregnancy and delivery before having another child.
She added that family planning promote's family bonding and helped families to grow financially, thereby paving way for a healthy family and nation.

Mrs Olanike Soremikun, a Family Planning and Reproductive Health Manager in Somolu, noted that more people were seeking and accessing family planning services in the local government area.
“In most of the PHCs, an average of 16 acceptors used to come to access one method or the other, but now, the rise has been as much as 40 and 50.

“There is more awareness; this is why we started this programme for different stakeholders to educate  communities. “Most of these stakeholders may not be users, but they have daughters, daughters-in-law, neighbours and people in their communities that really need this services and information,’’ Soremikun said.

She urged participants at the meeting to educate more women and men on the need for family planning.

NASCAP Tasks FG Over Elimination of Child HIV Transmission

Dr. Aboje said this at the opening of a three-day communication strategic review workshop by Journalists Alliance for Prevention of Mother to Child transmission of HIV (JAPiN) in Calabar, Cross Rivers State, recently.

While stressing on the need for Federal Government to take charge of the programme, the National Coordinator, NASCAP, decried the country’s dependence on foreign donors to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV.

He further attributed over-reliance on foreign donors to be responsible for the lack of coordination in the HIV Health Sector Response, saying this result in duplication of efforts, parallel programme, among others.

Dr, Aboje  said: “Over-dependence on external donors is also responsible for lack of coordination in the HIV Health Sector Response resulting in duplication of efforts, parallel programme, wastage of resources with little or no impact on the patients.

“Instead of Government to dictate, guide and supervise donor agencies and implementing partners, the reverse is the case. They operate with minimum regards to stipulated guidelines or agreements with the Federal Government. In summary, ‘HIV Programme seems hijacked by international donors agencies.”
Aboje stated that currently, 380,000 children are HIV positive in the country, adding that Nigeria is committed to the goal of eliminating new HIV infections among children and keeping their mothers alive by 2020. He also said that the 90-90-90 target has received a boost in Nigeria with the new guidelines of test and treat.

The National Coordinator was optimistic that there is a renew hope of viral suppression that would provide the potency to stop further transmission as a prevention tool while prolonging the lives of the infected persons.

“The country has come a long way in its effort to control the HIV/AIDS epidemic, particularly in PMTCT. Beginning with the pioneer 11 PMTCT-provider  tertiary health facilities in 2002, the country now has 7,265 health facilities providing PMTCT services at all levels of the health care system.”
Aboje, however, stated that Nigeria’s target on eliminating new HIV cases in children among other things for 2018 was to ensure 50 percent of HIV-exposed children have access to HIV prophylaxis treatment and early infant diagnosis services.

He also declared that funding, inadequate political commitment, and funding at state and LGA levels, weak health infrastructure as well as inadequate engagement of the private health sector as some challenges against eliminating new HIV cases in children.

Prompt release of 100 percent budget for AIDS control, prevention, and treatment for the relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) would make a difference in the lives of people living with the disease, Dr. Aboje said.

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