Top policy makers make commitment to improve lives of children and women in Northern Nigeria
Gombe, Nigeria, 17 September, 2008 – The Governor of Gombe State, Dr. Mohammed Danjuma Goje, and other top policy makers comprising Secretaries to the State Governments and Commissioners of line Ministries from 10 out of the 36 states supported by UNICEF in Nigeria, have given firm commitment to enunciate policies; set up systems; and make adequate budgetary allocations to the sectors to actualize children and women rights.
The Governor and the policy makers made the commitment following an appraisal of the situation of children and women in the zone at a meeting attended by traditional and religious leaders, state coordinators of UNICEF-assisted programmes; Assistant Representative and Chief of UNICEF Field Office, Bauchi, Mr. Mohammad B. Jalloh, and UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, Dr. Suomi Sakai.
Following an appraisal of the situation of children and women in the zone, based on indicators from the 2007 Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 3 (MICS 3), the policy makers resolved to take concrete actions in the areas of health; education and programme sustainability as follows:
“The third world experience clearly indicates that women and children remain the most neglected and vulnerable segments of the society,” said Governor Goje while declaring the meeting open. The Gombe State Governor eulogised UNICEF for the latter’s partnership with the government. “Our pre-occupation has always been the welfare of our citizens that is why we wholly subscribe to the lofty objectives of UNICEF. Currently a number of rural healthcare, primary school infrastructure and water supply projects are being executed through collaboration with UNICEF, the state and local governments and the communities where the projects are located,” Governor Goje added.
The governor, who had earlier signed the 2007/2008 Gombe State /UNICEF implementation agreement, as part of the overall programme for the top policy makers’ meeting, assured that his government would continue to release its counterpart fund of N43 million($372,069) Naira which it has always released since May 2003 for the execution of UNICEF- supported projects in the state.
The Governor who expressed happiness at the reduction of HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in the state from 8.2% in 2004 to 4.2% in 2008, a development which he attributed to the sustained efforts of the government to combat the pandemic, said his government would continue to intensify efforts through awareness campaigns to sensitise the people on the dangers posed on the disease and polio, with emphasis placed on preventive strategies for the eradication of the two diseases.
UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, Dr. Suomi Sakai, in a statement, called on the policy makers to take definite actions to address the health issues impinging on child survival in the zone. She identified these issues as including immunization, basic education, passage of the child rights law and the need for explicit state governments’ strategies on children.
Decrying the reversal of the gains made in immunisation in the zone with increase in the number of children paralysed by polio rising from 143 in 2007 to 368 in 2008, Dr. Suomi described the situation as not only unacceptable, but called for action to halt the trend, “especially in the key states of Kano, Jigawa, Bauchi, Borno and Yobe.”
“Enhanced commitment and programme ownership by political, local, traditional and religious leaders to primary health care and to the immunisation plus days through sustained advocacy are required to improve visibility and acceptance,” said Dr. Sakai. “Strengthening of the health systems with the integration of services under the integrated Maternal, Neo-natal and Child Health Strategy also provides a solid base for eradicating polio in addition for ensuring better health for children and women,” added Dr. Suomi.
Describing immunisation as one of the corner stones for good primary health care, Dr. Suomi joined the Government of Nigeria appointed Expert Review Committee on polio in advocating that a task Force on immunisation be established and made operational at all states and LGA levels nationally.
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