Refugee NHIS

FG Commence Registration of Refugees into NHIS

The Federal Government says it has undertaken the registration of refugees into the National Health Insurance Scheme.

The Federal Commissioner of the National Commission for Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons (NCFRMI), Imaan Sulaiman-Ibrahim made this known at an event in Abuja to commemorate the World Refugee Day.

The World Refugee Day is an international day designated annually by the United Nations (UN) to honour refugees around the globe and it is celebrated in June 20.

Read: NHIS DELISTS 10 HMOs, MORE TO FALL UNDER THE HAMMER FOR POOR SERVICE DELIVERY

The day is set aside to celebrate the strength and courage of people who have been forced to flee their home country to escape conflict or persecution and this year is with the theme “the Right to Seek Safety.”

Sulaiman-Ibrahim in her remark said every person has the right to seek safety, whoever they are, wherever they come from and whenever they are forced to flee.

She said living in dignity, safety and peace does not discriminate against race, skin colour, tribe, social status, placement or class adding that it is a fundamental human right.

She assured that the government will continue to give them the assistance, support and protection they need.

She said the commission has also embarked on a massive training of their registration protection staff to do more for refugees and persons of concern.

trachoma

WHO declares Togo Trachoma free as 26 African countries remain endemic

The World Health organization, (WHO) says Togo has eliminated trachoma, an eye disease that can cause permanent blindness, as a public health problem.

A statement from the UN Organisation stated that the West African nation becomes the fourth country on the continent to be validated by World health Organization (WHO) as having reached the elimination milestone after Morocco in 2016, Ghana in 2018 and The Gambia in 2021.

It explained that Trachoma is a neglected tropical disease, caused by bacteria and mainly affects children; in adults, women are up to four times more likely than men to be affected mainly due to the close contact of women with infected children.

“Repeated infection can severely scar the inside of the eyelid, turning it inwards and causing the eyelashes to rub against the eyeball. This results in constant pain and light intolerance. Left untreated it leads to visual impairment or blindness.”

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr Matshidiso Moeti was quoted as saying that “Togo’s achievement is a significant step in the progress towards trachoma elimination. Children across the country and their families can now live without the fear of the severe impacts of this preventable disease thanks to sustained control measures.”

According to the statement, efforts to eliminate trachoma in Togo started in 1989, with its inclusion as one of the priority neglected tropical diseases under the national control programme.

“The major elimination strategy was screening and treatment of people with late trachoma complications. Community participation was central to the success in Togo, with community health workers trained to identify suspected cases and refer them for examination and treatment.

Read: Mozambique declares outbreak of wild poliovirus type 1

“Togo also led series of awareness campaigns focusing on the importance of facial cleanliness and personal hygiene in the fight against trachoma and invested in significant improvements in the provision of safe water and access to better sanitation.

“Validation of trachoma elimination as a public health problem in Togo was based on evidence. Several population-based trachoma surveys were conducted starting from 2006 to 2017.

“The 2017 survey using WHO recommended methodology found that the prevalence of key indicators was below the WHO trachoma elimination threshold. There was also evidence that Togo’s health system is able to identify and treat new cases of late complications of trachoma.”

Meanwhile, Togo has globally joined 12 other countries that have been validated by WHO for having eliminated trachoma as a public health problem – Cambodia, China, Islamic Republic of Iran, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Gambia, Ghana, Mexico, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Oman and Saudi Arabia.

“Trachoma remains a public health problem in 43 countries with an estimated 136 million people living in areas endemic for the disease. Trachoma is found mainly in the poorest and underserved remote rural communities of Africa, Central and South America, Asia, Australia and the Middle East.

“The African Region is disproportionately affected by trachoma with 116 million people living in at-risk areas, which represents 85% of the global trachoma burden.”

The WHO said significant progress has been made over the past few years and the number of people requiring antibiotic treatment for trachoma infection in the African Region fell by 73 million; from 189 million in 2014 to 116 million as of June 2021.

“Following Togo’s success trachoma remains endemic in 26 countries in the African Region.”

blood donation

FG Set to Build Database to Regulate Supplies of Blood

The Federal government says it is set to build a comprehensive national database of blood establishments across various levels of government in the country in order to regulate, coordinate, and ensure the safe, quality, and affordable supplies of blood and blood products to all who needs it.

The Minister of Health Dr. Osagie Ehanire disclosed this on Thursday at a one day sensitisation to share the mandate of the National Blood Service Commission (NBSC) in Abuja.

The Minister said an efficient health sector requires a national blood system that is fully integrated into the health-care system.

Represented by the Technical Assistant to the Minister, Dr. Chris Isokponwa, he said the import of this initiative is that a nationwide blood supply can be mobilised at any time of critical need speedily, effectively, and efficiently to save the lives of Nigerians.

He said the universal data availability on blood services in Nigeria will aid in the attraction of domestic investment in the safe blood value-chain from vein to vein.

Read: CUCUMBER AND MEN’S SEXUAL HEALTH BENEFITS

He also said enormous opportunities reside for investments in the systems for well-regulated and coordinated blood collection, screening, storage, and distribution processes, and it is this enabling ecosystem that NBSC is strategically positioned to drive.

In addition, he said all critical activities within a national blood system should be coordinated centrally at the national level to promote uniform standards, economies of scale, consistency in the quality and safety of blood and blood products and best transfusion practices.

On his part, the Acting Director General of the NBSC, Dr. Omale Amedu while speaking with newsmen, said there is high deficit of blood in the database at the moment and as such Nigerians needs to be educated on the need to donate blood to save lives.

He said, having a population of over 200 million Nigerians we are expected to as a country have a minimum of 2million units of blood per annum but we however have 25 thousand save units on record.

He reeled out the health benefits of blood donations stating that when Nigerians donate blood they are revitalising their own system because as they donate the old blood, new blood cells are formed.

Dr. Amedu however debunk news of blood being sold noting that what ever money is collected, is for the preservation and sustenance of blood.

The Head Planning/Research and Statistics of the NBSC Dr. Adaeze Oreh in her remark, said every country should put in place policies, a legislative framework, systems, and structures to ensure the safety, quality, accessibility, and timely availability of blood and blood products to meet the needs of all patients who require transfusion.

The National Blood Service Commission Act of 2021 was signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari in July 2021as part of the initiative of the administration towards provision of quality health care for Nigerians.

wild poliovirus

Mozambique declares outbreak of wild poliovirus type 1

Health authorities in Mozambique have declared an outbreak of wild poliovirus type 1 after confirming that a child in the country’s north-eastern Tete province had contracted the disease.

A statement from the World Health Organisation, (WHO), Africa Regional Office in Brazzaville stated that the case marks the second imported case of wild poliovirus in southern Africa this year, following an outbreak in Malawi in mid-February.

“So far, one case in Mozambique – the country’s first since 1992 – has been detected. The virus was found in a child who began experiencing onset of paralysis in late March. Genomic sequencing analysis indicates that the newly confirmed case is linked to a strain that had been circulating in Pakistan in 2019, similar to the case reported in Malawi earlier this year.

Read: Poliovirus: Malawi declares wild poliovirus outbreak

“The case in Mozambique and the earlier one in Malawi do not affect Africa’s wild poliovirus-free certification because the virus strain is not indigenous. Africa was declared free of indigenous wild polio in August 2020 after eliminating all forms of wild polio from the region,” the statement read in part.

World Health Organization Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti was quoted as saying that “The detection of another case of wild polio virus in Africa is greatly concerning, even if it’s unsurprising given the recent outbreak in Malawi. However, it shows how dangerous this virus is and how quickly it can spread

“We are supporting southern African governments to step up the polio fight including carrying out large-scale, effective vaccination campaigns to halt the virus and protect children from its damaging impact.”

It was also explained that further investigations were underway in Mozambique to determine the extent of the risk posed by the new wild poliovirus case and the targeted responses needed; but preliminary analysis of samples collected from three contacts of the newly-detected case were all negative for wild poliovirus type 1.

According to the statement, Mozambique recently carried out two mass vaccination campaigns – in response to the Malawi outbreak – in which 4.2 million children were vaccinated against the disease.

“Efforts are currently underway to help strengthen disease surveillance in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The five countries will continue with mass vaccinations, with plans to reach 23 million children aged five years and below with the polio vaccine in the coming weeks.

“Globally, wild poliovirus is endemic only in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Polio is highly infectious and largely affects children younger than five years. There is no cure for polio, and it can only be prevented by immunization.

“Children across the world remain at risk of wild polio type 1 as long as the virus is not eradicated in the last remaining areas in which it is still circulating.”

Vaccine preventable diseases

WHO raises alarm over surge in vaccine preventable diseases in Africa

The World Health Organisation, (WHO) says Africa is witnessing a surge in outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases in Africa over the past year.

A statement from the United Nations agency, states that almost 17 500 cases of measles were recorded in the African region between January and March 2022, marking a 400% increase compared with the same period in 2021.

It further stated that twenty African countries reported measles outbreaks in the first quarter of this year, eight more than the first three months of 2021.

According to the statement, outbreaks of other vaccine preventable diseases have also become more common; twenty-four countries confirmed outbreaks of a variant of polio in 2021, which is four more than in 2020; in 2021, 13 countries reported new yellow fever outbreaks in the African region, compared to nine in 2020 and three in 2019.

Inequalities in accessing vaccines, disruptions by the COVID-19 pandemic including a huge strain on health system capacities were among factors identified to have impaired routine immunization services in many African countries and forced the suspension of vaccination drives.

The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti was quoted as saying that “The rise in outbreaks of other vaccine preventable diseases is a warning sign. As Africa works hard to defeat COVID-19, we must not forget other health threats. Health systems could be severely strained not only by COVID-19 but by other diseases.

“Vaccines are at the heart of a successful public health response, and as countries restore services, routine immunization must be at the core of revived and resilient health systems.”

It was also stressed that two doses of the measles vaccine provided on schedule results in long lasting protection against the potentially deadly disease and that countries were expected to attain and maintain measles vaccination coverage of 95% with two doses to reach measles elimination.

Reference was also made to 2019 where six countries in the African region attained 95% coverage with first dose measles vaccination, while only three met this target in 2020, according to estimates by WHO and UNICEF.

“To urgently scale up coverage and protect children, WHO and partners are supporting African countries to carry out catch-up routine vaccination campaigns, with more than 90% of the 38 African countries responding to a global survey reporting that they implemented at least one routine catch-up immunization campaign in the second half of 2021.

“Some countries have successfully integrated other critical immunization campaigns with COVID-19 vaccination. For example, Ghana integrated COVID-19 vaccination with yellow fever campaigns in December 2021 to curb an outbreak that erupted a month earlier. Nigeria recently launched a vaccine scale-up strategy which guides the integration of routine immunization with COVID-19 vaccination for mothers and their babies.

Mass vaccination campaigns are also boosting COVID-19 vaccine uptake. Between January and April, the percentage of Africans fully vaccinated against the virus rose to 17.1% from 11.1%.

The Director, Communicable and Noncommunicable Diseases Cluster at WHO Regional Office for Africa, Dr. Benido Impouma said “Routine immunization, a long-established practice in many African countries, has been severely strained by the impact of COVID-19. In the wake of this pandemic, we are committed to supporting countries devise smart approaches to scale up both COVID-19 vaccination and restore and expand routine immunization services.”

Malaria

USAID applauds nurses, midwives others in malaria fight

The United States of America says over the past year, it has in partnership with Nigeria, advanced the fight against malaria, despite immense challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement issued by USAID in Abuja and made available to our correspondent, it was observed that committed and courageous frontline health workers, especially nurses, midwives, and community health workers, across the country went the extra mile to ensure essential malaria services were sustained – their efforts saved lives and supported community resilience.

Read: NIGERIA CAN BE MALARIA FREE

“The U.S. President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) has partnered with Nigeria to fight malaria since 2011, contributing $768 million to date and $74 million in FY 2021. PMI’s Annual Report, released today, showcases how the strong partnership between the United States and Nigeria enabled robust and effective malaria services to continue in FY 2021, even as COVID-19 caused enormous strain on the health system.

“Through PMI funding and programs, 58 million bed nets, 130 million fast acting medicines, and 82 million malaria test kits have been delivered to clinics and communities since 2011. In addition, 24 million preventive treatment doses were delivered to pregnant women and 13 million doses to children during the rainy season.

“In the past year, more than 3,666 health workers received training that amplified their ability to detect and treat malaria, while strengthening the health system overall and providing key skills to fight COVID-19 and future pandemics,” the statement read in part.

USAID Mission Director, Anne Patterson was quoted as saying “I think what Nigeria is doing to advance more effective malaria prevention, treatment, and control is so important, especially the introduction of innovative tools to make better use of the data in real-time, and also to enhance quality of care via community-based health workers.”

It was noted that following assistance by PMI investments, Nigeria is progressing its fight against malaria using proven and cost-effective methods that save lives and promise a more healthy and prosperous future for families and communities.

Acting U.S. Global Malaria Coordinator, Julie Wallace was also quoted thus, “With perseverance and strong global commitment we can end malaria in our lifetime. The United States is proud of our work with Nigeria in combating this deadly, yet entirely preventable, disease.”

Read: The Gates Foundation Support Nigeria To Fight Malaria

the United States as part of commitment to the reduction of the malaria burden and saving lives, the U.S Army Medical Research Directorate-Africa/Nigeria (USAMRD-A/N), also with support from the PMI, has been able to increase and strengthen the capacities of medical laboratory scientists in malaria microscopy, rapid testing, quality assurance, and laboratory supervision.

“USAMRD-A/N is also joining the State Ministries of Health in Akwa-Ibom and Benue, the National Malaria Elimination Programme, and the Nigerian Ministry of Defense in launching the National Malaria Slide Bank (NMSB) Project.

“The project will produce Nigeria’s first bank of validated, domestically developed slides for malaria microscopy training, external quality assurance, and future research purposes,” the statement further read.

NHIS DELISTS TEN HMOs, SAYS MORE TO GO_

NHIS DELISTS 10 HMOs, MORE TO FALL UNDER THE HAMMER FOR POOR SERVICE DELIVERY

THE EXECUTIVE SECRETARY OF NIGERIA’S NATIONAL HEALTH INSURANCE SCHEME (NHIS), PROFESSOR MOHAMMED SAMBO SAYS THE ORGANIZATION HAS DELISTED TEN HEALTH MANAGEMENT ORGANIZATIONS, FOR FAILING TO DELIVER PROPER HEALTH INSURANCE SERVICES TO CLIENTS.

SPEAKING AT A NEWS CONFERENCE IN ABUJA, PROFESSOR SAMBO WARNS THAT SEVERAL OTHER HEALTH MANAGEMENT ORGANIZATIONS MAY ALSO BE DELISTED IF THEY ARE FOUND WANTING DURING THE NEXT ACCREDITATION BY THE REGULATOR.

Read: FMC Decries High Rate of Indebtedness by NHIS

HE NOTES THAT THE RECENT MOVE IS PART OF DELIBERATE EFFORTS TO CLEAN UP THE MESS IN THE SYSTEM, WHICH HAS MADE IT ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO HAVE EFFECTIVE HEALTH INSURANCE COVERAGE

THE AGENCY ALSO SAYS IT HAS DISBURSED OVER FOURTEEN BILLION NAIRA TO BENEFITING STATES UNDER THE UNIVERSAL BASIC HEALTH FUND.

Omicron

Botswana and South Africa scientists detect new sub-lineages of Omicron COVID-19 – WHO

A statement from the World Health Organisation’s Regional Office for Africa in Brazzaville has revealed that researchers in Botswana and South Africa have detected new sub-lineages of the Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV-2 and are carrying out further investigations to fully understand crucial traits such as infectivity and virulence.

The statement said the identified sub-lineages variant are BA.4 and BA.5.

“World Health Organization (WHO) experts are working with scientists and researchers in the two countries to deepen analysis of the sub-lineages which have so far been identified in four people in Botswana and 23 in South Africa.

“Outside Africa, the BA.4 and BA.5 have been confirmed in Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom. Currently there is no significant epidemiological difference observed between the new sub-lineages and known sub-lineages of the Omicron variant which include BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3 sub-lineages,” the statement read in part.

WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said “There is no cause for alarm with the emergence of the new sub-variants. We are not yet observing a major spike in cases, hospitalizations or deaths.

We are working with scientists in Botswana and South Africa to gain complete behavioural knowledge of these Omicron sub-lineages and supporting African countries enhance genomic surveillance to detect potentially dangerous variants and stay ahead of the virus.”

WHO called on countries to enhance genomic surveillance to better understand circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants, submit complete genome sequences and associated metadata to a publicly available database and report initial cases or clusters of cases linked with a variant of concern to infection to WHO.

Read: COVID-19: Africa’s fourth wave flattening after six-week’s surge by Omicron says WHO

“Additionally, countries should undertake field investigations and laboratory assessments to improve understanding of the potential impacts of variants of concern on COVID-19 epidemiology such as severity, effectiveness of public health and social measures, diagnostic methods, immune responses, antibody neutralization or other relevant characteristics.

“The Organization also recommends that countries sequence at least 5% of all positive samples. With support from WHO and other partners, Africa has made strides in ramping up sequencing capacity, having sequenced six times as many samples in the first quarter of 2022 compared with the same period in 2021”, the statement further stated.

COVID-19

No African country is experiencing COVID-19 resurgence says WHO

Africa is experiencing its longest-running decline in COVID-19 infections since the onset of the pandemic, the World Health Organisation, (WHO) has revealed.

Read: Africa Experience Decline in COVID-19 Cases – WHO

A statement from the WHO showed that recorded weekly cases have fallen for the past 16 weeks, while deaths have dropped over the last eight weeks.

“Infections—largely due to the Omicron-driven fourth pandemic wave—have tanked from a peak of over 308 000 cases weekly at the start of the year to less than 20 000 in the week ending on 10 April 2022.

“Over the past week, around 18 000 cases and 239 deaths were recorded, a decline of 29% and 37% respectively compared with the week before. This low level of infection has not been seen since April 2020 in the early stages of the pandemic in Africa,” the statement read in part.

Read: WHO says scarcity, high cost, major impediments in accessing other COVID-19 treatment by African countries.

It was further explained that Africa’s previous longest decline in COVID-19 infections was between 1 August and 10 October 2021; and currently, no country is witnessing COVID-19 resurgence.

WHO considers that a country is in resurgence when it records a 20% increase in cases in at least two consecutive weeks and that the recorded week-on-week rise is 30% or higher than the highest weekly infection peak previously reached.

WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti said “Despite the decreasing infections, it is crucial that countries remain vigilant and maintain surveillance measures, including genomic surveillance to swiftly detect circulating COVID-19 variants, enhance testing and scale up vaccination.

“With the virus still circulating, the risk of new and potentially more deadly variants emerging remains, and the pandemic control measures are pivotal to effective response to a surge in infections.”

The statement however, warned that with the cold season approaching in the southern hemisphere in June through August, there is a high risk of another wave of new infections; as Africa’s previous pandemic waves have often coincided with lower temperatures when people mostly stay indoors and often in poorly ventilated spaces.

“In addition, new variants can impact the evolution of the pandemic. In Botswana and South Africa, researchers are conducting further analysis into new sub-lineages of the Omicron variant recently detected there to determine whether they are more infectious or virulent. The BA.4 and BA.5 identified in the two southern African countries have also been confirmed in Belgium, Denmark, Germany and the United Kingdom.

“Currently there is no significant epidemiological difference observed between the new sub-lineages and known sub-lineages of the Omicron variant, which include BA.1, BA.2 and BA.3 sub-lineages”, the statement further read.

Read: COVID-19: Africa’s fourth wave flattening after six-week’s surge by Omicron says WHO

While observing the recent decisions by some African countries to ease off some protocols earlier put in place to check the spread of COVID-19, the WHO called for strategic risk assessment before embarking on easing of COVID-19 protocols by countries.

“With the receding infections, several African countries are easing key COVID-19 measures such as surveillance and quarantine as well as public health measures including mask-wearing and band on mass gatherings.

“Based on current WHO technical guidelines, the Organization urges countries to weigh the risks and benefits as they relax COVID-19 measures, taking into account the capacity of their health systems, population immunity to COVID-19 and national socioeconomic priorities. Systems should be in place to quickly reinstate the measures if the epidemiological situation worsens.”

COVID-19

U.S reassures Imo State of support in fight against COVID-19

The United States Government has reassured the Imo State government of its support in the fight against COVID-19.

The Chargé d’Affaires (CDA) of the U.S. Mission in Nigeria, Kathleen FitzGibbon, gave reassurance when she visited the State to observe the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination exercise supported by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (CDC), through its implementing partner, the Catholic Caritas Foundation of Nigeria, (CCFN).

A statement from the Embassy made available to our correspondent, the CDA FitzGibbon reiterated the need for all eligible persons to come out and receive their vaccinations which are being offered free of charge at the Headquarters of Owerri Municipal Council, the venue of the vaccination exercise.

She said doing so will not only keep the individuals safe but also protect their families and communities, as she encouraged the people of Imo State not to be complacent despite the seeming relaxation of COVID-19 prevention protocols around the world, especially in the face of several variants circulating and potentially new and emerging variants.

The Chargé applauded those who presented themselves to get vaccinated and urged them to encourage members of their families and communities to do the same, stressing that the sooner a significant percentage of the population is vaccinated against COVID-19, the sooner we can end the pandemic and return to normal.

Read: COVID-19: USAID, Global VAX Reveals Plans To Provide Additional $33.3 million Support for Nigeria

CDA FitzGibbon noted that the consistent and straightforward messaging in Imo State concerning COVID-19 vaccines is an excellent example of encouraging people to associate taking the vaccines with their personal and family wellbeing.

“A stakeholder meeting with Imo State Government officials, traditional rulers, religious leaders, development partners, and media executives, took place on the final day of the visit.

“During the meeting, the Chargé and Governor Hope Uzodinma appealed to traditional and religious leaders to lead by example by taking the vaccines and spreading the message that the vaccines are safe, effective, and available, so members of congregations and communities who were hesitant before can now come out and take the vaccines as well.

“During a question-and-answer interactive session, the State Commissioner of Health, Dr. Prosper Success, and the US-CDC Country Director, Dr. Mary Boyd, responded to issues around COVID-19 vaccines efficacy, safety, availability, and access in Imo State.

“They encouraged people with underlying conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, immunocompromised states, and respiratory illnesses to get vaccinated against COVID-19 because they are more vulnerable to getting a severe illness or even death from Coronavirus.”

The statement further emphasised that the U.S. government is at the forefront of supporting the Government of Nigeria’s COVID-19 vaccination campaigns, with approximately 25 million vaccine doses donated to date.

And in addition, US Government agencies and implementing partners are working with national and state governments to ensure access and uptake of the vaccines through advocacy, messaging, and technical and logistical support.