ABUJA, 31 July 2009 - UNICEF Executive Director, Ann M. Veneman and the Nigerian Health Minister, Professor Babatunde Osotimehin, launched the first ever National Health Week in Nigeria which will take place 1 to 8 August, 2009.
"Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa with 149 million people, including 75 million children," said Veneman. "Sadly, more children die in Nigeria than any other country in Africa, largely from preventable diseases. Child Health Weeks have proven to be a highly effective strategy to save lives and prevent illness."
Child Health Weeks enable the delivery of a package of high-impact, low-cost child survival interventions. Over the course of the week, children, especially those in rural areas, will receive immunizations, deworming medicines, insecticide treated mosquito nets. Mothers will be counseled on key household practices like breast-feeding and basic hygiene.
In close cooperation with the Government, National Child Health Weeks in Nigeria will be held twice a year.
"During this Child Health Week, 30 million children will receive immunizations, including for polio," said Veneman. "Nigeria is one of the four remaining polio endemic countries in the world and accounted for 85 per cent of all cases in Africa."
The head of the UN Children's Agency also announced the allocation of over $5 million to help educate people in the country about the importance of polio immunizations.
Veneman's four day visit to Nigeria, will include the northern states of Sokoto and Kebbi to highlight life-saving health services for women and children.
Despite being a resource-rich country, over half of the population lives in poverty. The country also faces vast regional disparities in human development with more progress being made in the south than in the north. Nutritional insecurity is also a serious concern.
"Malnutrition is a silent emergency in Nigeria," said Veneman. "Among children under age five, 29 percent are underweight. Nearly three million children are suffering from chronic malnutrition and more than one million from stunting. This is simply unacceptable."
UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world's largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, safe water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
For further information, please contact:
Paula Fedeski, UNICEF Nigeria,
Tel + 234 803 402 0879,
Geoffrey Njoku, UNICEF Nigeria,
Tel + 234 803 525 0288,
Kate Donovan, UNICEF Media NY,
Tel + 1 212 326-7452,