The Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, has raised concerns about the hindered access to immunization for children in northern regions due to security issues and other contributing factors.
Recently, in Kaduna, the Sultan chaired a strategic meeting alongside traditional leaders and development partners to devise a path forward. Organized by the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) in collaboration with the Sultan Foundation for Peace and Development, the meeting addressed the obstacles preventing immunization services for northern children.
The attendees included representatives from the United Children Trust Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), Kaduna State Deputy Governor Hadiza Sabuwa Balarabe, and other stakeholders.
The Sultan reaffirmed the traditional institution’s dedication to ensuring that communities benefit from routine immunization. He emphasized that the purpose of the meeting was to engage with traditional leaders on ways to reach out to previously inaccessible and displaced communities in Kaduna, Niger, and Katsina states. The goal is to guarantee immunization for every child in the northern regions, as this responsibility falls within the domain of traditional leaders.
“The support from our people is not lacking; it is the implementation that is lacking, and this is why the north lags behind in immunization,” stated the Sultan.
The Emir of Argungu, Alhaji Sama’ila Muhammad Mere, who chairs the Northern Traditional Leaders Committee on Primary Health Care, highlighted the need for the meeting based on a report received during the first quarter NTLC review meeting from Zamfara.
According to the Emir, the Zamfara State NTLC representative reported that the severe security situation in the state has made access to many communities and children extremely challenging or impossible. This situation poses a risk of Vaccine-Preventable Diseases outbreak, particularly the mutated vaccine-derived polio virus.
Zamfara currently bears the highest burden of the disease in Nigeria, and the virus strain from the state has spread to 28 states within Nigeria and 29 countries across Africa. The meeting recognized similar security challenges in Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Kaduna, and Niger states.
The meeting plans to gather situation reports and recommendations from 48 districts in 34 local government areas of Kaduna, Niger, and Katsina states. The district leaders are urged to provide candid insights into their administrative areas and suggest effective ways for the government and development partners to collaborate in ensuring that each child and mother receives necessary vaccines and medical support.
Faisal Shuaib, the Executive Director of NPHCDA, expressed appreciation for the traditional rulers’ vital support in eradicating the circulating variant polio virus (cVPV2) from their communities. He recognized their influential role in shaping the destiny of communities and sought their collaboration in securing a healthier and brighter future for northern children.
Dr. Walter Kazadi Mulombo, the WHO Country Representative to Nigeria, reported that between January and August 13, 2023, Nigeria recorded 51 polio cases in 15 LGAs. These cases were predominantly concentrated in the North West region, specifically in Kaduna state, with 19 LGAs comprising 111 wards housing insecure settlements, thus posing a threat to progress. He noted a 63% reduction in circulating variant polio virus type 2 (cVPV2) cases compared to 2022.