Low coverage of life-saving interventions
The tragedy behind this lack of progress in child survival is that two-thirds of the under-five deaths could be avoided, since life-saving interventions are well known and can be implemented on a large scale, even in settings where resources are constrained.
Reduction in under-five mortality rates can be obtained by major increases in the use of insecticide-treated nets, Vitamin A supplementation, immunisation, oral re-hydration therapy, and treatment of malaria. Apart from Vitamin A supplementation, however, many of these interventions still have a low coverage among the Nigerian population.
Access and utilisation of quality health care services by women and children remains problematic because of the weak Primary health Care system. Also parents and care-givers lack the relevant knowledge on proper child healthcare practices.
For example, while breastfeeding is recognised worldwide as one of the most effective way of improving the health status of children, only 17 per cent of infants are exclusively breastfed up to 6 months in Nigeria. Only 6 per cent of children under-five in Nigeria sleep under a mosquito net. Routine immunisation coverage rates are still very low. Only 18 per cent of Nigerian children between 12-23 months can be considered fully immunised according to the recommended schedule of vaccination.
In addition, the lack of access to safe water and adequate sanitation combined with insufficient hygiene practices impact negatively on children’s health. Only about half of the population uses improved drinking water sources and adequate sanitation. Diarrhoea continues to account for many deaths of children under-5.
Not only is the child at high risk of not living beyond his/her fifth birthday, but those who survive serious illnesses often do not reach their full physical, intellectual and social potential due to the effects of poor health care and nutrition.
As the weakness of the country’s primary health care system continues to pose a major challenge to child health, poverty and illiteracy also hinder people’s access to health care. Primary healthcare centres usually lack skilled and motivated staff, drugs and equipment. It is hoped that the Integrated Maternal Newborn and Child Heath strategy – recently adopted by the Federal Government of Nigeria- will address these issues by improving supply management, enhancing the capacity of health personnel and supporting high impact intervention packages that can significantly improve maternal and child health in a short period of time.