Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna
The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, on Tuesday urged government at all levels to pay more attention to children in poor communities in the implementation of its Sustainable Goals, SDGs, to achieve results.
Mohammed Fall, UNICEF Country Representative in Nigeria, made the call at a two-day Acceleration Conference on SDGs, organised by Kaduna state, to strengthen partnership with local and international partners for effective implementation.
According to him, there is a much higher return on investment, with double-fold gains when investment is made on the poorest children compared to those of the wealthy. “This is important as out-of-pocket expenditure among the poor is around 80 percent.”
Fall also stressed the need to focus attention on outreach activities targeting communities, households, parents, pregnant women and children, prioritising preventive – rather than curative – services.
He said that UNICEF would support Kaduna state government to integrate intervention of health, nutrition, education, water and sanitation services to accelerate attainment of SDGs.
“We have recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the state government integrating our support in routine immunization to a broader partnership building on primary healthcare under one roof.
“This is part of our efforts to take health services to poor communities in all parts of the state, to ensure that women and children have a chance of survival and have a quality life.
“We want to see a situation where a pregnant mother, a nursing mother and children could access all health services in one health facility, be it immunization, nutrition, antenatal care, sanitation and hygiene,” he said.
He commended the state government for making huge investment in the health sector, adding that Kaduna state has paid over one billion as counterpart fund to different intervention areas with UNICEF.
He, however, expressed concern over the state’s disturbing malnutrition and sanitation indices, which he said would impair progress being made in primary healthcare service delivery.
Also speaking, Susan De, Interim Deputy Director, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, stressed the need to harmonize health intervention to achieve more results.
De also called on the government to mobilise community leaders, private sector to invest in the provision of health services, stressing that funding must be increased, and budgetary allocation be cash-backed.
She said that the foundation would continue to support the Kaduna state government in ensuring quality of health services at primary healthcare centres.
Dr. Eugene Kongnyuy, of United Nations Population Fund, stressed on the need to build a health system that works and takes health services to the doorsteps of the people.
Kongnyuy expressed concern that about 70 per cent of women in Kaduna state deliver outside the health facilities, which according to him, predisposes pregnant mothers to untimely deaths to complications during delivery.
He also stressed the need for a robust accountability framework that would ensure transparency in the health sector for quality service delivery.
The state’s commissioner for Health and Human Services, Dr Paul Dogo, said that the state government has in the last three-and-half years focused attention on building a health system that work.
According to him, no amount of funding will create a positive health outcome without the existence of a strong health system.
“This is why the government partnered with local and international partners to build health system, particularly primary healthcare, to provide quality services.
“Our health outcomes are improving, but we need more support to do more towards achieving SDGs by 2030.”