The Federal Ministry of Health through the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA) has unveiled the Zero Dose Learning Hub(ZDLH) to improve immunization equity and coverage in Nigeria.
ZDLH is being implemented by the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET), working as a consortium with the Africa Health Budget Network (AHBN ), with support from Gavi through the NPHCDA.
The Executive Director, of NPHCDA Dr Faisal Shuaib, who launched the hub on Monday in Abuja, stated that the Zero Dose Learning Hub is a critical initiative that will identify and reach millions of children who have not yet received a single routine immunization.
He added that the hub would provide a framework for Nigeria to promptly generate evident strategies.
” We will leverage this to measure, monitor and reach zero dose children and missed communities where they live”, Shuaib added.
He said that the Zero Dose Learning Hub was not just a platform but a beacon of possibility testament of dedication to reaffirm unwavering belief in the power of vaccination.
“It represents a promise that no child will be left behind, no matter their circumstances or where they are born. The government aim to enhance the capabilities of individuals engaged in the administration of immunization services at both national and subnational levels through the learning hub.
“We aim to empower them to play an active role in diminishing the number of zero-dose children in Nigeria.
The launch of the Zero Dose Learning Hub is a milestone moment in the global fight against preventable diseases”, he said.
Shuaib further acknowledged the leadership provided by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu in prioritising health through the renewed hope agenda.
“In July 2017, Nigeria declared an emergency concerning routine immunization in response to the alarming findings of the 2016/2017 MICS/NICS report. This revealed a distressing Penta 3 coverage rate of only 33 per cent.
“The government established the National Emergency Routine Immunization Coordination Centre (NERICC) to address the issue. Since the inception of NERICC, immunization coverage has substantially improved throughout the country, with the 2021 NICS report, indicating a notable increase, with Penta 3 coverage standing at an encouraging 57 per cent,” he said.
He, however, noted that the government acknowledged that it has not attained its designated goal in immunization coverage.
“The government has implemented a range of strategic interventions to address the multitude of challenges and obstacles that have hindered their efforts to establish an effective routine immunization system. These initiatives include Optimized Outreach Sessions (OOS), Optimised Integrated Routine Immunization Sessions (OIRIS), Routine Immunization Intensification, Quarterly Lot Quality Assurance Survey (LQAS) to access their progress, and other strategies that are gradually yielding positive outcomes,” he explained.
Shuaib disclosed that the COVID-19 pandemic caused disruptions in routine immunization efforts, resulting in suboptimal coverage rates.
He, however, said that the government has emerged from this crisis with renewed determination and innovative approaches to fortify its immunization system.
“Our goal remains unwavering: to reach every eligible child and ensure that no child is left vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases,” he said.
Dr Faisal urged everyone to remember that the project is not just about data and statistics.
“It is about lives saved, futures protected, and communities being strengthened.
It is about a parent’s relief, a healthcare worker’s dedication, and a child’s smile,” he said.
The NPHCDA boss also expressed its deepest gratitude to all partners, healthcare workers, advocates, and communities they serve.
While urging everyone to continue working together to ensure that every child is protected through vaccination.
The Regional Technical Coordinator, AFENET, Dr Patrick Nguku, disclosed that Nigeria is leading the pack of countries with the highest number of zero-dose children globally.
Nguku said that the learning hub is an innovative approach to advance the uptake of research and evidence to improve immunization policies and programming in the country.
“Nigeria so far is the fourth country to implement the zero dose hub joining the likes of Mali, Uganda and Bangladesh.
The hub will be implemented in two phases. Bauchi Borno Kano and Sokoto as priority states, based on certain criteria, bothering on insecurity, and presence of IDP camps amongst other factors,” he said.
The UNICEF country representative in Nigeria, the Chief of Health, Dr Edwardo Celades, said the zero dose learning hub is a critical initiative to improve immunization coverage and equity in the country.