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:Christmas, the annual festive season ended but most children affected by the north-east conflict celebrating it amidst the outbreak of measles, which may affect their future reports REMMY NWEKE.
Yearly, especially by end of the serial 12-month period, there follows Christmas festival which is largely celebrated across the world, culminating into the New Year. This period is usually marked with holidays and occasions with some going out on the 26th known as Box Day to exchange gifts with friends, family and the less privileged in the society. In Nigeria, this celebration was not different, only but for measles.
Defined as also called rubeola, Measle is a highly contagious respiratory infection condition that's caused by a virus. It causes a total-body skin rash and flu-like symptoms, including a fever, cough, and runny nose, according to experts at KidsHealth.org.
And talking of less privileged in our Nigerian society includes those cut-up in the conflicts ongoing in the north east, but mostly affected are the children in their early stages, otherwise known as childhood.
What is childhood:
An open source online encyclopedia, Wikipedia described childhood as “the age span ranging from birth to adolescence,” which according to Piaget's theory of cognitive development, childhood consists of two stages: preoperational stage and concrete operational stage.
Although in developmental psychology, childhood is divided up into the developmental stages of toddlerhood, which entails learning to walk; early childhood which means the playing age; the middle childhood which encompasses the age when the child starts school; and adolescence also known as puberty through post-puberty. It is agreed widely that various childhood factors could affect a person's attitude formation, including conflict, war and lack of infant medicare to name a few.
Worthy of note is that the concept of childhood emerged during the 17th and 18th centuries, through the educational theories of the philosopher John Locke and the growth of books for and about children.
Thus, during the just concluded end of year festivity known as Christmas, many at Internally Displaced Camps (IDC), may have witnessed a beehive of activities with some spirited individuals and religious organisations in commemoration of the season visiting such camps to donate various food items including medical materials as well as offering medical treatments.
4.7m vaccinated against measles:
Therefore, it was not surprising that as the year 2017 begins, an estimated 4.7m children have been earmarked to benefit from vaccination campaign against measles in northeastern Nigeria, following a major vaccination campaign concluded in the first month of this year by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and partners.
According to UNICEF and development partners, some 4.7 million children were vaccinated in response to a measles outbreak in northeast Nigeria via a campaign which covered the three states mostly affected by the Boko Haram conflict, namely Adamawa, Borno and Yobe; where insecurity has limited vaccination efforts.
In 2016, for instance, UNICEF said, there were approximately 25,000 cases of measles among children in Nigeria; 97 per cent of the cases were in children under the age of 10 and at least a hundred children died.
The UNICEF Representative in Nigeria, Mr. Mohamed Fall, said security has improved in some areas which encouraged the workforce act quickly to access places they could not previously reach and protect children from the spread of a very dangerous disease, even as he declared “We are still extremely concerned about children living in large areas of Borno state that are not yet accessible.”
Measle, a silent threat to childhood:
Measles infections, he explained, tend to increase during the first half of the year because of higher temperatures, especially in the north. Measles vaccination coverage across Nigeria hence, remained low, with a little over 50 per cent of children reached, but in areas affected by conflict, children are particularly vulnerable. As said by Mr. Fall, the risks for malnourished children who have weakened immunity are further heightened. The conflict and resulting displacement have left over 4.4 million children in Nigeria in need of humanitarian assistance, with an estimated 450,000 children likely to suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in 2017.
He further said that the vaccination campaign, conducted in partnership with the Nigerian government, World Health Organisation (WHO), and several non-governmental organizations, also includes a vitamin A supplement for children under five to boost their immunity as well as de-worming tablets, even as most of the funding for the campaign was provided by the Measles and Rubella Initiative.
He pointed out that the campaign was part of UNICEF’s wider emergency health response in the three northeast Nigerian states, emphasizing that in partnership with Nigerian authorities, UNICEF has provided primary health care services for both internally displaced persons and the vulnerable host communities within which they have sought shelter. Health clinics have been rehabilitated, damage from the fighting has been repaired and temporary clinics have been set up, equipped and stocked in camps for the displaced, reaching more than 4.2 million people with services that include routine vaccination, ante-natal care and midwifery support, and treatment for common illnesses such as malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia, as well as measles.
In addition, NaijaAgroNet gathered, UNICEF has trained over 1,000 health workers on emergency primary health care services; in areas that have become accessible more recently to humanitarian workers, and recruited 60 nurse-midwives and deployed six doctors to strengthen health services.
Conflict displaces 1.6m people:
NaijaAgroNet further gathered that the predicament in northeast Nigeria remains acute with over 1.6 million people displaced because of the conflict. Although UNICEF has made significant progress in reaching children and their families with healthcare, treatment for malnutrition, safe water, sanitation and hygiene services, education and child protection, a persistent lack of funding continues to hamper the response effort.
Just as out of the US$115 million called for in 2016, only US$51 million was received; in 2017, UNICEF is seeking 150 million to respond to the urgent humanitarian needs in northeast Nigeria.
Malnutrition, silent threat to children:
All things being equal, an estimated 48 million children living through some of the world’s worst conflicts and other humanitarian emergencies will benefit from UNICEF’s 2017 appeal, which was launched on January 31, reports NaijaAgroNet.
Chief of Communication, UNICEF, Doune Porter, said that from Syria to Yemen and Iraq, from South Sudan to Nigeria, children are under direct attack, their homes, schools and communities in ruins, their hopes and futures hanging in the balance; Paving the way to declare that “In total, almost one in four of the world’s children lives in a country affected by conflict or disaster.”
For UNICEF Director of Emergency Programmes, Manuel Fontaine, “In country after country, war, natural disaster and climate change are driving ever more children from their homes, exposing them to violence, disease and exploitation.”
This position was corroborated by the UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children, which he pointed out had set out the agency’s 2017 appeal totaling $3.3 billion, and its goals in providing children with access to safe water, nutrition, education, health and protection in 48 countries across the globe. He stressed that an estimated 7.5 million children will face severe acute malnutrition across the majority of appeal countries, including almost half a million each in northeast Nigeria and Yemen.
“Malnutrition is a silent threat to millions of children. The damage it does can be irreversible, robbing children of their mental and physical potential. In its worst form, severe malnutrition can be deadly,” Fontaine said.
UNICEF pointed out that the largest single component of the appeal is for children and families caught up in the Syria conflict, soon to enter its seventh year. UNICEF is seeking a total of $1.4 billion to support Syrian children inside Syria and those living as refugees in neighbouring countries.
Breakdown of priorities, accomplishments:
NaijaAgroNet gathered from UNICEF that in total, working alongside its partners, their priorities in 2017 involve providing over 19 million people with access to safe water; reaching 9.2 million children with formal or non-formal basic education; immunizing 8.3 million children against measles; providing psychosocial support to over two million children; and treating 3.1 million children with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM).
Noteworthy, NaijaAgroNet reports that UNICEF and partners’ support in the first 10 months of 2016 showed that some 13.6 million people had access to safe water; 9.4 million children were vaccinated against measles; 6.4 million children accessed some form of education; 2.2 million children were treated for severe acute malnutrition.
Only time will tell if the dream for 2017 to help garner support for children in the Internally Displaced Camps (IDCs) could have a new song, or shall we let the future, our future die due to lack of medicare, whilst some politicians and their families spread dollars at public social functions?
It is convincingly a fact that those children who may have benefited from this aids either through medicare or supplement in form of food in the battle against malnutrition, or yet those who have to return to the class room, they will never forget to build a better society in order to add their quotas in making the society and our Nigeria, a better society and country.
Pix:A small child is vaccinated against measles at the Malakachalla clinic in Maiduguri, during the vaccination campaign in northeast Nigeria recently.