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Measles: Abia records 22 suspected cases



He made the disclosure in an interview with Nigeria News Agency in Enugu on Thursday.

Nwokocha said that samples from the victims were taken to the Public Health Laboratory in Lagos for analysis, adding that the result was still being awaited.

He said “if the result is out and confirmed positive, that is when we can

say it was truly measles outbreak and that one person died as a result of the disease.’’

He added that the ministry had done “case searching in community to see if there are other suspected cases. Random samples from other households in the community were taken for analysis as part of measures to put the case under effective check.’’

The director said that the ministry carried out surveillance about the disease all year round with informants in every community, who were trained on how to identify the features of measles and other water-borne diseases.

He also said that the ministry posted focal persons to health facilities, who would always liaise with the informants for effective surveillance at the community level.

“The idea behind the surveillance is to ensure prompt identification of an outbreak and response by all the health personnel involved.

“At the local government level, there were Disease Surveillance and Notification Officers, saddled with the responsibility of investigating suspected cases and

reporting to the state.

“Once an outbreak is suspected, it must be reported to the state. It must not be more than 48 hours for the state to carry out an investigation and initiate intervention,” he said.

The public health expert said there was an ongoing elimination plan for measles, which included routine immunisation.

He added that aside from the routine immunisation as control measure, the state also carried out campaign immunisation as a fill-gap measure for children that missed the routine immunisation.

“These efforts notwithstanding, not every child is naturally captured, not every child that is vaccinated is protected, hence the occasional recurrence of the disease.

“At every given time, you still have a pool of those not protected. Very small percentage is still exposed and vulnerable to attack,” he explained.

He expressed satisfaction that the immunisation coverage in the state had continued to record substantial increase annually.

In his contribution, Dr Chinagozi Adindu, the Executive Secretary of the state’s  Primary Healthcare Development Agency, said the agency would commence another statewide measles immunisation campaign.

Adindu said 147 teams made up of stakeholders in the health sector would be deployed in each of the 17 local government areas to facilitate the exercise.

“We have enough stock of vaccines and we will apply for more vaccines to ensure sufficient quantity.

“Apart from measles immunisation services, rendered in 742 primary healthcare facilities in Abia, the agency also opened outreach centres for proximity to reach children in far-flung settlements.

“The agency officials visit communities and organise seminars on measles and other diseases in villages and market squares, at least once or twice every week.

He advised parents to always present their children for immunisation and

visit primary healthcare facilities for booster doses.

Meanwhile, other South East states of Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi and Imo said

there are no outbreaks of measles in their domains, as preventive measures are

put in place to forestall its occurrence.

The states made the disclosure in separate interviews with NAN while reacting to suspected reported cases of the disease at Wusar Community of Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna.

The Director of Public Health, Imo Ministry of Health, Dr Chidiebere Okeji, said there was no reported case of measles outbreak in the state.

Okeji told NAN in Owerri that measures were taken by the ministry to prevent any outbreak.

According to him, there is 98 per cent measles immunisation coverage in the state.

He, however, urged parents and guardians of children eligible for vaccinations to ensure they were brought out for routine and supplementary vaccinations to guard against measles and other vaccine preventable diseases.

Okeji explained that though measles was an epidemic disease, it was equally preventable by timely vaccination, adding that the ministry had increased efforts to ensure vaccines were made available.

He disclosed that the ministry also collaborated with the UN

Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organisation (WHO) to ensure that potent vaccines were made available to children.

“This is achieved by ensuring that the cold chain system is functioning optimally so that vaccines are stored at appropriate temperatures’’.

The public health physician stressed that failure to store the vaccine appropriately would make it lose potency.

The director advised parents to disregard misconceptions about the dangers of immunisation, adding that trained experts examined them to certify that they were not “biological weapons targeted at people.”

“It is proper to state clearly that immunisation is free, effective and protective; additionally, it brings the assurance of good and robust health for the child while defending against preventable diseases.

“What a child suffers after contracting the disease could be far reaching; a child could become blind, suffer pneumonia and may

suffer deafness from the disease.

“Additionally, malnutrition can result from it especially if the child was malnourished.

“The gains of ensuring your child is immunised outweighs whatever imagined disadvantages associated with immunisation. What we advocate is for people to discountenance rumors and take advantage of the free immunisation,” he said.

In Enugu, Dr Okechukwu Ossai, the outgoing Chief Disease Surveillance Officer, said that the state placed its disease surveillance officers in the 17 local councils on watch for symptoms of measles.

Ossai, recently appointed as the Administrative Manager of Enugu State Hospital Management Board, said the ministry was partnering with Nigerian Medical Association and other healthcare providers on the need to report any case of measles as soon as possible.

He said “the state’s Ministry of Health adopted proactive measures through increased surveillance by placing officers in the 17 local government areas in the state on watch for measles.

“The ministry also deployed 86 disease surveillance focal persons to the 17 council areas for rapid report to government.’’

Ossai said that the ministry used indigenous language in radio health programmes to sensitise residents on the viral disease, its symptoms and prevention.

Corroborating, Dr Ifeanyi Agujiobi, Permanent Secretary of Enugu State Ministry of Health, explained that the viral disease affected mostly children between zero and 10 months due to their low immunity level.

Agujiobi said “measles starts at the onset of the rainy season but

being a viral infection, it has no direct treatment; but you quickly treat any symptom it throws up, that is what is called constitutional treatment method.’’

He listed the symptoms of the disease to include fever, dry cough, runny nose, sore throat, inflamed eyes (conjunctivitis) and tiny white spots with bluish-white centres on a red background found inside the mouth on the inner lining of the cheek -also called Koplik’s spots.

In Nsukka, Enugu state, Mrs Jane Ozioko, a Senior Health Officer in Nsukka Health Centre, said there was no report of any measles outbreak in the area.

Ozioko said the centre had directed immunisation focal officers in its 20 wards to be vigilant and report immediately any outbreak.

She said “as I am talking to you, we have not recorded any case of measles. However, we have put all our immunisation focal officers on red alert to report any case.

“We do not pray for any outbreak but if it happens, we have enough manpower and drugs to handle it.’’

She added that the state government had provided enough drugs to health centres to handle any disease outbreak.

Mr Benjamin Ani, a Community Leader in Lejja, said his community had been partnering with health officers in charge of children immunisation to ensure that children under five years were immunised in every round of immunisation.

He said “I cannot remember any measles outbreak in my community in the past four years.

In Anambra, the state government said no measles case in the 21 local government areas of the state.

Dr Uchechukwu Onyejimbe, the Director, Public Health and Disease Control, Anambra, said the state had intensified immunisation campaigns across

the local government areas.

He said that Anambra has trained health officers and received the report on Kaduna outbreak via Federal Ministry of Health and WHO.

“Since the development, the ministry notified relevant health agencies to ensure adequate observation of measles signs in all areas.

“When a child is having persistent dry cough, red eyes, rashes, loss of appetite, and constant fever, parents must rush such a child to nearby health centre

for checks.’’

Onyejimbe said the state maintained 90 per cent immunisation coverage record, noting that “because of the recent measles cases in Kaduna State, we have intensified the tempo in schools, Churches, markets and homes”.

Mrs Nnenna Okonkwo, a nursing mother resident in Awka, said she was not aware of any case of measles in her neighborhood in the recent time.

She said measles usually occur in the area during dry season when the weather is hot.

In Ebonyi, stakeholders in the health sector urged the state government and other relevant bodies to ensure that measles outbreak was prevented.

A senior official of Ebonyi Ministry of Health who preferred anonymity, disclosed that there was no outbreak of the disease in the state.

He said “data available to the ministry confirms this fact and the recent upgrade of the Alex-Ekwueme Federal Teaching Hospital, Abakaliki (AE-FETHA) helped in healthcare provision to our citizens.

“The state government on its own, will increase surveillance mechanisms especially in rural areas to prevent such occurrences and sustain interventions in the general hospitals and other health facilities.’’

Dr Jane Onye, a gynaecologist at Salvation Hospital, Abakaliki, urged parents to ensure that their children were immunised against measles and related diseases.

Chief Magnus Ngah, a Community Leader in Ngodo Community of Afikpo North Local Government Area, noted that the traditional institution had sustained enlightenment on parents to immunise their children and engage in general safe health practices.

“We use the traditional methods of information dissemination like town criers to educate mothers in particular to immunise their children in health facilities and maintain clean environments.

“We however, urge the government and other stakeholders to provide healthcare services in general hospitals and other health facilities as they are presently inadequate,” he said.


World Humanitarian Day: Red Cross seeks more support from Nigerians



As the world marks World Humanitarian Day, the Red Cross Society has called on Nigerians and the government to support its activities, especially its efforts to meet the needs of people in humanitarian crisis.

Mr Nwakpa Nwakpa, Head, Communication and Advocacy unit of the organisation, made the call in an interview with Nigeria News Agency , on Monday in Abuja.

NAN reports that the World Humanitarian Day is marked globally in recognition of humanitarian personnel and those who lost their lives while working for humanitarian causes.

“It is also a day set aside to highlight humanitarian needs, the causes and how best such needs can be addressed,” Nwakpa told NAN.

He said that humanitarian needs vary from emergency responses, search and rescue, evacuations, disaster risk reduction and cash transfer programmes.

“Humanitarian needs range from life saving messages, First Aid and prison visits, promotion of detainee welfare, protecting civilians, supporting health services, helping those affected by armed conflict, reuniting family members who were missing, among others.

“This day, we are remembering the heroes who have paid the supreme price; those who died in the cause of saving other lives. They cannot be forgotten.

“We also recognise volunteers around the world, who are the first to respond to cases of emergencies, disasters, conflicts, flood, epidemics, among others.

“It is therefore important that Nigerians recognised the significance of the day, while honouring those who have contributed and offered support toward humanitarian causes,” he said.

He said that humanitarian needs in Nigeria and around the world were enormous, and called on government, well-meaning Nigerians, NGOs, and development partners to offer support.

Nwakpa, however, appealed to those affected or attacked in the cause of responses not to give up,  urging those offering support to also not get weary in doing good.

He further called on the government to ensure that humanitarian aid workers were protected from harm as required by the International Humanitarian Law.

Edited by Olabisi Akinbode and Ephraims Sheyin



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Council boss tasks residents to adopt healthier life styles, pledges support for riverine



Mr Valentine Buraimoh, Chairman of Amuwo Odofin Local Government in Lagos State has urged residents in the community to adopt healthier life styles to avert contracting non communicable diseases.

Buraimoh made the call on Monday at an event to mark his administration’s second year anniversary celebrations at Amuwo Odofin, Lagos.

According to him, many people ignore certain diseases such as high blood pressure and sugar levels that could kill them faster than HIV.

“We must take our health issues seriously; prevention is cheap but to cure is very expensive.

“Take preventive measures seriously so that if any ailment has been diagnosed, you can be aware of it, advised and guided on how to live a healthy life,” he said.

The council boss urged the people to take advantage of the health care services provided by the Primary Health Centre (PHC) in the LGA “where it is free to check blood pressure and sugar level.”

Buraimoh said that the council had initiated plans to construct a two-storey ultramodern PHC to provide more space for laboratories and other services that would cater for the healthcare needs of the community.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that the council also organised a medical mission in collaboration with Benjamin Olowojebutu Foundation (BOF), an NGO, as part of the activities to mark the anniversary.

The programme, which will hold from Aug. 19 to Aug. 24, is aimed at providing healthcare services to about 10,000 people, not limited to Amuwo Odofin community alone.

The services include; free consultations, dental, eye, blood sugar and blood pressure checks, cervical screenings and free fibroid surgeries.

The medical checks will be done at the council complex while the fibroid surgeries will be carried out by a medical team from BOF, at the Amuwo Odofin Maternal and Child Centre (AOMCC).

Earlier, the Chairman donated an ultramodern surgical bed to the AOMCC, to aid the surgeries of about 50 Caesarean sections, done on an average, monthly at the hospital.

He also pledged to purchase a pickup truck for the PHC to help ease the movement of medications.

Buraimoh said that his administration had not abandoned the riverine communities in the council area, but was prioritising its projects to meet the socioeconomic needs of the populace.

“It’s not that we’re neglecting the other roads but we must function with the available resources at our disposal.

“We have to also consider the magnitude of users and the socioeconomic impact it has; you’ll start seeing government presence in the riverine communities.

NAN also reports that only 15 out of the 30 patients booked will have their surgeries done this week because of some observations made

Dr Benjamin Olowojebutu, an obstetrician and gynecologist, and Founder of BOF, commended the Local Government for the initiative to help lessen the pains of the society.

“Fibroid surgery is very expensive, it’s about half a million Naira on the mainland and one million Naira on the Island. It’s the first time we’re having a LGA tell us they want it for their people.

“We registered 300 cases and we’re able to do only 30 but the Chairman has agreed to make it a continuous thing,” he said.

NAN reports that six official vehicles were presented to some management staff of the council during the event.

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FG approves Labotary evaluation of HIV with rapid test kits



The National Coordinator, National AIDS, Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) and Hepatitis Control Programme (NASCP) Dr Araoye Segilola, said this at the dissemination of the antibody rapid test kits in Abuja.

He said that the test kit was therefore, recommended as a first line kit in the National HIV testing algorithm.

He said that Nigeria did an evaluation of HIV rapid test kits using the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines and got appropriate evaluation of HIV Testing Techniques in Africa, where three phases of evaluation were recommended.

“These phases are: phase, I Labotary based, phase II, Field based and phase III, continuous monitoring of the algorithm performance.

“National HIV testing algorithms were developed from these rounds of evaluation conducted and all the test kits are antibody based kits,” he said.

He disclosed that more than 1.9 million Nigerians were infected with HIV with about 1.1 million on Anti-retroviral Therapy (ART).

He noted that in order to meet the target for the first 90, Nigeria must have at least 1. 71 million people who know their status.

“Which means we need to test and identify up to 600, 000 HIV positive persons by Dec. 2020, 16 months from now.

“Obviously, the need for appropriate laboratory diagnostics and laboratory support for clinical decision and monitoring the effectiveness and safety of the regimens remain very important,’’ he stressed.

He noted that in Nigeria, like in many countries, detection of specific antibodies in the blood or other body fluids was the main method and standard procedure for diagnosing HIV infection.

“At one time in this country, several uncontrolled HIV test kits, especially rapid test kits, were used without any regard to quality or following any appropriate testing strategy, which increased the possibility of misdiagnosis of HIV infection,” he said.

Segilola said the Federal Government considered these practices unacceptable and thus embarked on appropriate evaluation of HIV through rapid test kits.

Earlier in his remarks, the Director General of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) Dr Sani Aliyu, said that HIV testing was often undermined by lack of confidentiality, stigma, shortage of counselors and proximity to testing centers.

Aliyu, who was represented by Dr Daniel Ndukwe, his Special Adviser on National Development Division of the Agency, said the test kits had the potential to circumvent these constraints.

He said the agency would continue to advocate ending mother to child transmission of HIV in Nigeria.

Aliyu said that the agency would also continue to mobilise government commitment at the highest level and champion the inclusion of services for the benefit of women and children.

Earlier, in her keynote address, Dr Deborah Odoh, the Deputy Director Treatment, Care and Support, said that HIV testing was the fulcrum of any HIV programme as it established the individual’s status.

Odoh, who was also represented by the Head of Prevention, Dr Akpan Nsebong, said the status would determine the subsequent package of prevention or treatment services that would benefit an individual.

“A person who tests negative is counseled on how to stay negative, while a person that tests positive is immediately linked to ART services.

`So the importance of providing accurate and reliable diagnosis, devoid of false negatives or false positive results, cannot be overemphasized,” Odoh said.

She, however, called on Nigerians to come together and support government in the fight against the scourge.


Edited by Nyisom Fiyigon Dore

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World Humanitarian Day: Group wants NASS to increase resources for humanitarian assistance



Women in Humanitarian Response in Nigeria Initiative (WiHRiN) has called on the National Assembly and its State counterparts to increase resources for humanitarian aids assistance.

The National Coordinator of the group, Mrs Mimidoo Achakpa Udongwo made the call in a statement to commemorate the World Humanitarian Day in Abuja.

The theme of the Day, ‘Women Humanitarian,’ is to honour women.

She said that the theme was long due, as women were always the first to respond during humanitarian crisis, saying that they risk their lives to assist children, the elderly, neighbours and other vulnerable groups.

“WiHRiN frowns at the continued infrastructural deficits in the country that has made more Nigerians vulnerable to natural disasters thereby requiring humanitarian assistance.

“We call on the National Assembly to increase the infrastructure budget for the benefit of ordinary Nigerian citizens.

“We lend our voice to the national call on the Nigerian security apparatus including the army, Air force, Navy, the Police and Civil Defence to ensure synergy and share ideas, programmes and projects to avoid working at cross purposes for the good of Nigeria and Nigerians.

She, however, said that government agencies should be accountable for their roles, so that advocacy plans could be deliberated and easier for national actors including women led CSOs to be involved in delivering humanitarian services with the relevant agencies.

Achakpa said that women humanitarians have dedicated their lives to helping people affected by crisis, adding that women make up a large number of those who risk their lives to save others.

” They are often the first to respond and the last to leave. These women deserve to be celebrated. They are needed today as much as ever to strengthen the global humanitarian response.

“WiHRiN, therefore, remembers and honours women in crises in Nigeria and throughout the world, with focus on the unsung heroines, who have long been working on the frontlines in their own communities in some of the most difficult terrains of the world,” she said.

Achakpa commended the efforts of women in humanitarian actors in Nigeria, who had toiled tirelessly behind the scenes to bring succour and humanitarian assistance to crisis affected populations.

“We remember today with sorrow, the humanitarian workers who have paid the ultimate price with their lives in the line of duty, especially the 37 Aid workers who lost their lives in the Northeast Nigeria.

“We also remember the courageous members of the Nigerian Armed forces, who have lost their lives while protecting conflict affected populations and keeping the environment accessible for humanitarian assistance,” she said.

Achakpa said about 35,000 Nigerians had lost their lives between 2009 and 2019 in the ongoing Northeast crisis as a result of conflicts, natural disasters and other humanitarian crisis in the country.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that WiHRiN is a platform for Women headed/women led civil society organisations (CSOs), providing humanitarian assistance in Nigeria.


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Economy: NGO advocates more investment in maternity sector



March Health Care Initiative (MHI), an NGO, on Monday said investing in Nigeria’s maternity protection would produce a healthier and productive workforce as well as a stronger economy.

Mrs Olubunmi Aiyedun, the President, Maternal Adolescent and Reproductive Child Healthcare Initiative (MARCH Healthcare Initiative), disclosed this in an interview with the Nigeria News Agency in Abuja.

She explained that breastfeeding was essential as it saves lives, improves women and children health, and boosts their intelligence and lifelong productivity, hence the need to invest in maternal and child healthcare.

“Most women are part of labour force and some in the formal workforce, thus improving maternity protection such as extending paid maternity leave and workplace support for breastfeeding would boost the low rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the country.

“Also mothers will provide their infants with the very best start to life leading to improved health, social and economy outcomes for Nigeria,’’ she explained.

Aiyedun said according to a recent report by the National Maternity Entitlement Survey “only nine per cent of organisations had a workplace breastfeeding policy.

“1.5 Per cent of public sector and 23 per cent of private sector organisations provide crèches or day care.

“While 72 per cent of women are in favour of extending national maternity leave policy.

“However, only 30 per cent of women take their entire maternity leave currently granted by legislation or employers,’’ she said.

Aiyedun listed factors that encourage mothers to continue breastfeeding after returning to work to include availability of breastfeeding room, provision of crèches, and breastfeeding breaks supported by the work place.

Others include reduction in hours while breastfeeding, nursing facilities and availability of nearby crèches to workplace.

She noted that policy makers, government entities and employers have a role to play in supporting and improving Nigeria’s maternity entitlements.

She said it was crucial that policy makers advocated for and support legislation that enable women to take advantage of sufficient and paid maternity leave.

Aiyedun maintained that it would also promote policies that support mothers and fathers after they return to work.

She said government entities should develop monitoring and enforcement mechanisms to ensure organisations offer consistent benefits and engage informal sector to create supportive environment for women.

She added that government entities should require organisations to educate and inform employees about all policies and benefits.

Aiyedun further mentioned that employees must also ensure consistency with national and states policies to offer private breastfeeding rooms, flexible hours and breastfeeding breaks within official policies.

She said if such polices were fully implemented, it would lead to reduction in child mortality, better mental and physical health for mothers, absenteeism would reduce while productivity increased with job satisfaction.

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