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Too many babies born too small, WHO says



The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Thursday alerted that too many babies were born too small as over 20 million babies were born with a low birthweight (less than 2500g; 5.5 pounds) in 2015.

This is about one in seven of all births worldwide.

These findings are documented in a new research paper developed by experts from the WHO, UNICEF and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, published in The Lancet Global health on Thursday.

The study, the first-ever estimates documenting this major health challenge, noted that birth weight is an important gauge of maternal and foetal health as well as an important determinant of perinatal, neonatal and post neonatal outcomes.

It said that approximately 80 per cent of newborns (2.5 million newborns) who die every year are Low Birth Weight (LBW), under 2500g, because they were either born preterm or small for gestational age or both.

On the implications of this outcome, it said: “Birth weight matters because of its strong association with neonatal health and survival, child growth, and Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) risk in adulthood.

“Girls whose height and weight remain low into motherhood risk giving birth to another generation of nutritionally disadvantaged children,’’ it said.

Also, the low birth weight babies who survive have a greater risk of stunting, and developmental and physical ill health later in life, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

However, “ A birth weight of less than 2500g, the WHO definition of LBW is an imperfect measure.

“This is as it conflates babies who are small because they are born preterm, those who reach full term but have had their growth restricted in utero, and babies who are both preterm and growth restricted. But although gestational age is even more predictive of risk than birth weight, the latter is much easier to measure’’.

Dr Mercedes de Onis, Department of Nutrition at WHO, who is a Co-author said: “Low birth weight is a complex clinical entity composed of intrauterine growth restriction and preterm birth.

“This is why reducing low birth weight requires an understanding of the underlying causes in a given country.

“For example, in Southern Asia a large proportion of low birth weight babies are born at term but with intrauterine growth restriction, which is associated with maternal undernutrition, including maternal stunting.

“Conversely, preterm birth is the major contributor to low birth weight in settings with many adolescent pregnancies, high prevalence of infection, or where pregnancy is associated with high levels of fertility treatment and caesarean sections (like in USA and Brazil).

“Understanding and tackling these underlying causes in high-burden countries should be a priority.’’

To make improvements, the study suggested that reducing the incidence of low birth weight requires a comprehensive global strategy, which must include improving maternal nutritional status.

It must also incorporate treating pregnancy-associated conditions such as pre-eclampsia (hypertensive disease of pregnancy); and providing adequate maternal care, perinatal clinical services and social support.

According to it, affordable, accessible and appropriate health-care is critical for preventing and treating low birth weight; pregnancy care should be fully integrated with appropriate care for low birth weight babies.

Therefore, in terms of closing progress gaps and data gaps it said: “First, it is important for governments to examine the causes of LBW, given that they differ by region.

“High-income countries will have a predominance of preterm births among their LBW figures, and these might be driven by maternal obesity, smoking, non-medically-indicated caesarean sections, or older maternal age.

“Social determinants of health and education are therefore likely to be key focus areas in these regions.

“In Africa, preterm birth is also the main driver, with a mix of adolescent pregnancy, maternal infections, and possibly genetic influences.

“In South Asia, however, about half of LBW is related to foetal growth restriction driven by undernutrition among girls, as well as maternal obesity, NCDs, anaemia, and exposure to tobacco smoke and indoor air pollution.’’

The second recommendation by the study is for survival gaps to be closed in by low-income countries as high-income and middle-income countries have made rapid progress in the care of LBW babies, reducing both deaths and disability.

“Thirdly, health professionals and advocacy groups should ignite demand for better birth weight data.

“With more births taking place in facilities, and given the minimal cost implications, weighing every baby at birth and having the data recorded in routine health information systems is not a monumental task.

“Women and families should be empowered to demand a birth weight for their baby and an explanation of the possible cause and implications, should it be below 2500g,’’ the study advised.

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NOA, UNICEF to partner religious leaders to end female circumcision in Imo



Mr Victus Ekeocha, The NOA Director in Imo, made the pledge in Izombe,  Oguta, on Wednesday at a one-day “Advocay Dialogue with Religious Leaders for FGM Abandonement in Oguta Local Government area of Imo.”

Ekocha said that UNICEF,  through the World Health Organistaion (WHO), had  discovered that female circumscision was not beneficial to the girl child,  but rather was fraught with many disadvantages.

He said the sensitization  programme was aimed at seeking collaboration of religious leaders in the fight to curb FGM.

He said the religious leaders had the respect and acceptance of thier church people as such their preachings on the harmful effect of FGM would go along way in depeening the awareness.

The NOA  official said that NOA, in collaboration with UNICEF, had since 2015 been creating awareness on the dangers of FGM and the need to abandon the practice by people in variuos communities of the state.

Ekeocha said efforts were being made to ensue that communities in the state abandon “such harmful cultural practices”,  adding that awareness was being created in the nine local government areas of Imo since 2015 to stop the FGM practice.

The UNICEF Child Protection Officer, Mr Victor Atuchukwu, also said that research hasd shown that FGM had no benefit to the girl-child and women and could not make a female child promiscous as was erronously believed.

He commended the religioius leaders for coming out enmasse to attend the programme, which he said,  would go along way in making the people of Oguta have more understanding of the ills associated with FGM.

Mr Ben Mbakwem , UNICEF FGM Consultant in Imo and Ebonyi states, said that the sensitisation and advocay programme was to accelerate efforts toward reduction of FGM, thus fulfilling the rights of girls and women.

He said it was also to realise the goals on Social and Gender Norms Transformation by 2021 and the elimination of female genital mutilation by 2030.

Mbakwem identified the complications of FGM to include intensive pain, excessive bleeding, uninary incontinence, difficulties during menseruation and delivery.

Earlier, Dr (Mrs) Oby Azubuike, the Director, Ministry of Gender Affairs in the state, said the main objective of the programme was to provide an opportunity for religious leaders to dailogue about FGM and its harmful effects on girls and women in their congregation.

She said it was equally to strengthen the capacity of religious leaders to enable them take on effective role in the campaign to eliminate FGM and to demystify the misperception and misinterpretation that the practice of FGM is a religious requirement.

Azubuike said the programme was also meant to sensitise church members that FGM is not a religious requirement as well as enable them reach a concensus to denounce the practice.

The religious leaders, who attended the programme, promised to partner the National NOA and UNICEF to end the FGM in the state.

Apostle David Dibua, the  Chairman of Oguta Chapter of Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), who spoke onbehalf of the clerics, described the sensitisation as a welcome development and worthwhile.

He said religious leaders had come to the understanding that FGM is harmful to the girl child, adding that the Bible never recommended its practice.

“God in his wisdom did not include women in his commandments on male circumscision so I wonder why the tradition has involved women,” he said.

Dibua promised, on behalf of the traditional rulers, to sensitise church members through the different groups and arms of the church as the practise had led to divorce and problems in most homes.

NAN reports that religious leaders from different denominations including the Catholics, Anglicans and Penticoastals attended the meeting.

Edited by Tajudeen Atitebi

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Saraki welcomes milestone of Nigeria as Polio free



An NGO, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, has welcomed the milestone of Nigeria being free of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) for three years.

Its Founder, Mrs Toyin Saraki, said in a statement on Wednesday in Lagos that the last case of WPV was detected on Aug. 21, 2016, in Borno.

“Since then, no new cases of WPV have been detected in any part of Nigeria.

“This is a major step toward certifying our country as WPV free,” she said.

However, the founder said that the country must celebrate cautiously and without complacency.

According to her, to sustain this success, the country must continue Polio mass immunisation campaigns with the same great drive and commitment as before.

“This is vital in order to ensure that all children are protected against polio, including the Circulating Vaccine Polio Virus (CVPDV) which can occur in areas with weak routine immunisation coverage, and other vaccine-preventable diseases,’’ she said.

Saraki said that the foundation’s Maternal Monday social media advocacy campaign and MamaCare Frontline programme were committed to supporting the immunisation work of the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Nigeria.

She also pledged to support the National Primary Health Care Development Agency, the Federal Ministry of Health and the National Centre for Disease Control.

“Giving mothers access to information on the safety and importance of vaccines is a necessity in order to empower them to make immunisation choices in the best interests of their children,” she said.


Edited by Muhammad Suleiman Tola

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Polio: Foundation supports government to get WHO certification



Sir Emeka Offor Foundation, had restated its commitment to support the Federal Government through the National Primary Health Development Agency (NPHCDA) to achieve World Health Organisation’s Certification for a polio free nation.

Nigeria News Agency reports Nigeria has achieved three years without a case of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) since the last isolated WPV case in Borno on Aug. 21, 2016.

Sir Emeka Offor, the Rotary International Polio Ambassador to Nigeria made this known while briefing newsmen on Wednesday in Abuja.

He said the news conference was part of the activities to celebrate three years without records WPV in the country.

Offor said that three years without polio virus in Nigeria indicated that the years of fighting the menace of polio had received impetus since no child in Nigeria was paralyzed as a result of wild polio virus.

He said that the foundation had committed expertise, resources and time to support government toward achieving WHO certification of polio free nation.

“Our resolve is irrevocable; our determination is strengthened as we look into the future to achieve the second milestone which is the certification of Nigeria and Africa as wild polio virus free.

“I encourage all of us to stay focused; our surveillance and vigilance must be raised now.

“Our activities of advocacy, routine immunisation and field supervision must continue with alacrity as we approach the finish line,’’ he said.

NAN reports that following this achievement of three years without the Wild Polio Virus, Nigeria has commenced the process of documentation toward the final certification by the Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC).

The process involves a detailed assemblage and review of surveillance, Routine Immunisation (RI) and Supplemental Immunisation Activities (SIAs) Data by the National Certification Committee before submission of the final documentation to ARCC in March, 2020.

If ARCC is satisfied with the country’s documentation, Nigeria will be certified Wild Polio Virus free.


Edited by Grace Yussuf

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WHO 2020 Certification: Nigeria marks 3 years of free Polio



Nigeria has achieved three years without a case of Wild Polio Virus (WPV) since the last isolated WPV case in Borno on Aug. 21, 2016.

Dr Faisal Shuaib, the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), disclosed this at news conference on Wednesday in Abuja.

The briefing was organised by the agency to mark Nigeria’s achievement of three years without a case of Wild Polio Virus (WPV).

Shuaib said the NPHCDA was acknowledging milestone for this great achievement which kicks-in the process of attaining WHO certification of polio free nation by 2020.

He added that attaining three years without new case of WPV means that all the efforts and strategies of the Federal Government to end the circulation of WPV was working.

He assured that the agency would do everything possible to ensure that the gains are not reversed.

Shuaib said the current situation calls for a continuous vaccination of all the children.

He said that it is imperative that all stakeholders continue to support the polio programme through technical, financial support and political oversight to prevent the re-occurrence of WPV.

He added that the support was required to stop the spread of all the other types of polio virus in Nigeria.

“We need to collectively address the remaining challenges facing the programme, including the poor access to children in some parts of the country due to insecurity, poor health seeking behaviour of our people and vaccine hesitancy, among others,’’ he said.

Dr Clement Peter, the Officer in Charge, World Health Organisation (WHO), said as the last polio endemic country in Africa, Nigeria passing three years without WPV case was a step towards certifying Africa WPV free by mid-2020.

He added that following three-year mark, Nigeria has commenced the process of documentation towards the final certification by the Africa Regional Certification Commission (ARCC).

Peter said Nigeria would submit its final country data for evaluation in March 2020, provided there were no new polio cases.

He said if ARCC was satisfied with the country’s documentation, Nigeria would be certified WPV free between March and June 2020.

Dr Paul Basinga, the Country Director, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, however urged the federal government not to take the current success for granted.

He reiterated the commitment of the foundation to work with the agency to reach the last child with life saving vaccines.

He added that the foundation was also committed at strengthening the surveillance to detect and respond to any threat of outbreaks especially in hard to reach and conflict-affected communities.

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Youth development in focus as Dare assumes duty



The newly appointed Minister of Youth and Sports Development, Mr Sunday Dare, has promised to intensify efforts at youth development along side sports during his tenure.

Dare said this in Abuja on Wednesday as he assumed work to a rousing reception by staff of the ministry.

He said that the ministry was integral to the achievement of government’s agenda for growth and development of the nation.

“In this ministry we have youth, we have sports. Youth development is integral to the success of the administration because we have a massive youth population.

“This is a ministry that is close to the hearts of Nigerians. Beyond soccer, we have other sports; and beyond sports there are other ways we can develop the youths.

“Our mandate is very clear, there is need for us to broaden our horizon and to deepen the work we do,” he said.

The minister said that he would use is over two decades media visibility to ensure that the works of the ministry were effectively projected by the media.

“I know that the media is an integral part of youth and sports development, and I have a massive media background of more than 28 years.

“We will find a way to take sports out of the back pages to the front pages,” he said.

He urged staff of the ministry to intensify work on the ministry’s 2020 budget to meet President Muhammadu Buhari’s submission deadline of September.

Earlier, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Mr Olusade Adesola, expressed willingness of staff to work harmoniously with the new minister.

“The ministry is lucky to have a minister who is very friendly with the press.

“I welcome you, and I assure you that we are all committed to work with you to ensure that we take the ministry to the next level,” Adesola said.

Also present at reception was the Director-General of the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC), Brig.-Gen. Shuaibu Ibrahim, as well as heads of other agencies under the ministry.

Edited by Muhammad Suleiman Tola

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