|© UNICEF Nigeria/2009/Pius|
|UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, flanked on her left by Kebbi State Deputy Governor Alh. Ibrahim Aliyu, Nigerian Minister of State for Health Dr. Aliyu Hong and other top government officials, along with children paralyzed by polio, in Birnin Kebbi, north-west Nigeria.|
ABUJA, Nigeria, 3 August 2009 – UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman, concluding a visit to the northern states of Kebbi and Sokoto in Nigeria, announced $1.85 million in additional support for UNICEF nutrition programmes.
The newly allocated funds will be used to scale up integrated community-based nutrition stations where families can bring their children for preventive and curative assistance.
"Lack of essential health services, malnutrition, inadequate access to clean water and basic sanitation contribute to high rates of child mortality," said Veneman. "Through close cooperation among the Government of Nigeria and religious and traditional leaders, there is hope."
Child Health Week
In Kebbi, Veneman participated in the launch of the first-ever National Child Health Week in Nigeria, which will provide life-saving immunizations and basic health interventions to mothers and children.
The integrated package of services includes widespread distribution of insecticide-treated bed nets. Malaria is the number one killer of children under the age of five in Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, but the country is on track to achieve universal coverage of bed nets by 2010.
The UNICEF Executive Director met with traditional and religious leaders, who play a vital role in educating and guiding communities on health-care practices.
"Sustainable community-based approaches are essential for successful outcomes," said Veneman.
"Government officials, health workers and traditional and religious leaders are working closely together to accelerate progress. Knowledge is key. If communities understand the importance of basic hygiene, including clean water, proper sanitation, handwashing with soap, sleeping under an insecticide treated bed net, immunizations and proper nutrition – including breast-feeding – child deaths can be reduced and girls and boys can be given a healthier start in life."
Discussions with government and faith-based leaders also focused on the need to eradicate polio. Nigeria is one of only four polio-endemic countries in the world and the only endemic country in Africa.
The head of the UN children's agency also announced the allocation of over $5 million to contribute to polio eradication efforts in Nigeria.