EU gives UNICEF Nigeria €54m to promote health care in 3 states

In a determined efforts to improve healthcare delivery service particularly on maternal and child health, UNICEF received funding to the tune of 54m Euros from the European Union (EU) in 2017 to support Bauchi State implement health care services under the project titled, Strengthening Primary Health Care and Community Resilience for Improved Maternal, New-born, Child Health & Nutrition (MNCHN) Outcomes in three Northern States of Nigeria.

The 54-million-euro multi-sectoral health and nutrition project being implemented across the three states of Adamawa, Bauchi and Kebbi by EU-UNICEF, is aimed at supporting the benefiting States to strengthen Primary Health Care (PHC) and Community Resilience for Improved Maternal, New-born, Child Health and Nutrition (MNCHN) Outcomes in the 3 States.

The goal according to the Communication Officer of UNICEF, Bauchi Field Office, Sam Kaalu is to significantly contribute to the reduction of maternal, new-born and child mortality and morbidity in the 3 States towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 3, with overall objective of improving the nutrition and health status of women and children through a sustainable primary health care delivery system and improved community resilience.

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In Bauchi state, several interventions are being carried out to meet the objective, with many achievements recorded including, Supply of standard equipment to all 323 main PHCs in the state (1 PHC/ward), Health workers trained to improve their capacities in delivering quality of care services in the PHCs, including Modified Life Saving Skills (MLSS), Quality of Care, Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT), Integrated Management of Common Childhood illnesses (IMCI), Integrated PHC services, Health Management Information Systems

Also achieved is, Free commodities supplied to the main PHCs to ensure free treatment for all under 5-year-old children; free Ante-natal Care (ANC), hospital deliveries and post-natal care (PNC), including screening of every pregnant woman for HIV; and providing the ones confirmed positive with Antiretroviral drugs to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

The intervention also recorded Engagement of volunteer health workers (Nurses/midwives, Community Health Extension Workers, CHEWs; Junior Community Health Extension Workers, JCHEWs) and record officers to visit hard-to-reach (HTR) communities that find it difficult to access standard health care services in the PHCs in 9 LGAs (Alkaleri, Bauchi, Toro, Ningi, Ganjuwa, Misau, Katagum, Zaki and Gamawa).

Several integrated services including ANC, PNC, management of labour and deliveries of pregnant women, immunization, nutritional screening, screening and treatment of common childhood illnesses (Malaria, Pneumonia, and Diarrhoea diseases), and treatment of common ailments, are provided at the community level. The 9 teams in these LGAs have attended to over 90,900 under 5 children and over 8,500 pregnant women who all benefitted from one or more of the integrated services being provided.

Also, a total of 1,200 Volunteer Community Oriented Resource Persons (CORPs) were trained on Integrated Community Case Management (ICCM) of common childhood illnesses (Malaria, Pneumonia, and Diarrhoea disease) with guidelines/protocols to follow to continually deliver treatment of these illnesses in their various HTR communities.

According to him, all These volunteers who cover 1,200 settlements, are from the settlements they cover and reside in these settlements. They are kitted with tools and commodities necessary for easy diagnosis and treatment of children aged 2 months to under-5 years (59 months). They were also trained to refer conditions with danger signs that are beyond what they were assigned to treat. Health workers from the main PHC in each ward where the CORPs operate were also trained and empowered to supervise the CORPs monthly.

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It is also a strategy to bridge the gap of easy access to PHCs by those HTR communities. All treatment is free. So far, the CORPs have seen and attended to over 93,000 under 5-year children and treated over 68,000 for malaria, diarrhoea, and pneumonia in those HTR settlements.

Furthermore, Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) was one of the interventions of UNICEF in the state before the coming EU-UNICEF MNCHN project. However, the project scaled up the intervention, previously in only 3 LGAs (Kirfi, Katagum and Dambam), with additional 6 LGAs (Bauchi, Darazo, Gamawa, Itas Gadau, Tafawa Balewa, and Warji) to 9 LGAs. This has led to screening, admission, and successful treatment of 91.4% of over 24,000 severely malnourished children in the 6 EU-UNICEF funded CMAM sites. EU-UNICEF also provides micronutrient powder (MNP) to 6-23 months old children in the state, especially through the CMAM sites to prevent malnutrition; and has since commencement in the second quarter of 2018, reached 84,482 children aged 6-23 months with MNP covering 168% of the project target.

The project also engaged the services of Clinical Mentors (Doctors and Midwives from General Hospitals, and the LGA MCH Coordinator) in all LGAs to visit all main PHCs in each LGA to continually mentor the health workers to ensure quality of care just as 212 Motorcycles have been supplied to selected main PHCs to help the health workers carry out outreach integrated services to distant settlements.

Also, Renovation of selected PHCs (108) to improve infrastructure ongoing, with 32 already completed just as Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT), a Social Protection Program (SPP) in 3 LGAs (Bauchi, Katagum and Misau) where a pregnant woman is enrolled into ANC and given transport fare of N1,000 in each of her recommended 4 ANC visits; N4,000 when she delivers in the health facility and child receives first immunization vaccines, and N1,000 in each of the next 4 immunization schedules for the child.

These amount to a total of N12,000 for one woman from pregnancy stage, through delivery, to fully immunized stage of the infant. This strategy is designed to bridge the gap of financial barriers hindering pregnant women in remote communities from attending ANC; delivering in the hospital or fully immunizing their children against preventable diseases. Over 3,500 women have benefitted from the scheme in the 3 supported PHCs.

The project has also supported the state through National Population Commission (NPopC) and State Primary Health Care Development Agency (SPHCDA) to conduct Birth Registration (BR) of children through mass campaigns and through routine BR at the PHC levels; and so far, over 1,420,000 under 5-year children have been registered and received BR certificates.

He concluded that These, amongst several other interventions, are the strategies employed by UNICEF to meet the objectives of the European Union (EU) funded MNCHN project.

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