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AU, Africa CDC Chart New Path For Public Health 

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African Union (AU) and the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) yesterday opened the first International Conference on Public Health in Africa (CPHIA 2021).
Mr Nekerwon Gweh, Communication and Media Engagement, Africa CDC, said participants at the conference being held virtually in Ethiopia, would discuss how to accelerate progress against COVID-19 and chart a new path for public health on the continent.
He said the conference, which had over 10,000 participants from 140 countries, would also address the latest COVID-19 research as the world grappled with the emergence of Omicron.
Gweh said the three-day conference, which started Dec. 14 and runs till Dec. 16, would feature presentations from African Heads of State, dignitaries and health experts.
“CPHIA 2021 comes at a critical time for Africa and the world. COVID-19 has strained health systems globally, and with dangerously limited access to vaccines across Africa.
“It has laid bare deep inequities in access to healthcare and scientific innovations.
“Less than 20 African countries met the global goal of vaccinating at least 10 per cent of the adult population by Sept. 30,” he stated.
He said while nearly 90 per cent of high income-countries met this target, as of Dec. 3, only seven per cent of the African population had been fully vaccinated.
He added that many countries faced a surge in new infections and the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern Omicron.
Prof. Senait Fisseha, CPHIA 2021 co-chair and Director of Global Programmes, Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, said CPHIA 2021 created a platform that would allow the continent to usher in a new era for science, partnership and innovation.
“The hope is that this will become the preeminent annual health gathering in Africa, where policymakers, researchers, advocates, community organisations and more come together to learn, address challenges and chart a path forward together.
“There are major changes ahead for health on the continent, and this is just the beginning,” Fisseha said.
CPHIA 2021 Co-Chair/Vice-Chancellor, University of Global Health Equity, Prof. Agnes Binagwaho, said Africa had some of the most sophisticated research institutions and talented scientists in the world, who had monitored COVID-19 and shared their knowledge.
Binagwaho said, “CPHIA 2021 will provide the platform to both highlight their incredible contributions and allow for strengthened collaboration across sectors so we can better respond to current and future health crises and achieve health equity.”
Dr John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa CDC, said while African leadership in addressing COVID-19 had been extraordinary, the pandemic had also underscored what the continent had long known to be true.
“We must urgently re-imagine the approach to public health in Africa.
“The first international conference on public health in Africa will be groundbreaking.
“By bringing together the brightest minds on the continent to share new insights and lessons learned, we will capitalise on this unprecedented momentum and create a new public health order for Africa,” Nkengasong said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that CPHIA 2021 is a virtual event and is free for all participants.

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‘Critical Stakeholders, Family, Key In COVID-19 Vaccination’

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Critical stakeholders such as traditional rulers and the family unit have been identified as persons to target in Rivers State in order for the state to achieve the targeted 50 percent COVID-19 vaccination by the end of January.
This is part of recommendation contained in a communique from a recent roundtable discussion between “Rivers Media for Health” and religious stakeholders.
The roundtable discussion, comprising the Christian and Muslim faiths, stated that traditional rulers can achieve a lot by “engaging town criers in the education and sensitisation efforts in the rural areas”.
They also noted that when the family unit is educated on the need and importance of COVID-19 vaccination, it will change the perception of such families towards the vaccination.
“Efforts targeting the family unit with the right information about COVID-19 was suggested to help dispel the my ths and misconceptions they hold about COVID-19 and the vaccination, as that is the fundamental place where decisions are taken to either accept or reject vaccination”
The discussion, which was held at the RSPHCMB, observed, among others, that for the State to achieve the target of vaccinating 50 percent of the targeted population, there should be “continuous awareness creation to educate and enlighten people about the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic in which Nigeria is in the 4th wave”.
It also commended the State Governor, Nyesom Wike, for showing good leadership in being the first to take concrete steps to fight the spread of COVID-19 at the beginning of the pandemic, by closing the borders of the State even before the federal government and other states took any action.
They prayed him to continue with that zeal in the fight against the pandemic.
The discussion noted that while the State has the target of vaccinating 50 percent of the eligible adults in the estimated population of people in the State, less than 500,000 persons have been vaccinated with either the first, second and/or booster doses of both the Astraseneca and Moderna vaccine since the vaccination exercise started in March 2021.
It further observes that Myths, poor behavioural change by key stakeholders, campaign fatigue and ownership by religious leaders were identified as some major challenges of vaccination up take.
In the same vein, demonstration of COVID-19 vaccine acceptance by religious leaders was observed to be a major catalyst in making members of their various congregations accept taking the vaccine, with a significantly higher vaccine acceptance observed among the Muslim faithfuls in the State.
Consequently, “continuous awareness creation with testimonials from people who have survived COVID-19 would be effective in dispelling doubts that COVID-19 is a scam and build trust in government’s efforts in checking the pandemic”.

By: Sogbeba Dokubo

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Ministry Pledges Support To Health-Based Group

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Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Pualinus Nsirim has pledged the ministry’s sreadiness to support any effort geared towards improving the health of Rivers people.
The commissioner said this while playing host to members of Rivers Media for Health in his office.
Represented by the Permanent Secretary, Mrs. Ibiwari Clapton Ogolo, Nisirim said the health of Rivers people was very important, hence the on-going effort to stop the soot. He also called for support of all Rivers people to the group.
Earlier the Chairperson Rivers Media for Health Mrs Jenewari Harry-Utomi, said the aim of the Rivers media for health was to facilitate quality health care development for Rivers people and to create awareness on family planning.
“Rivers Media for Health is a non governmental organisation, we are here to help the government amplify her voice to reach major part of the state. And to ensure we achieved good health care in the state,’’ she said.
In a vote of thanks, the sectary Mrs Tonye Nria-Dappa thanked the commissioner for support as well as the various states-owned and private media houses for collaborating with them to amplify voices for various health interventions in the state

By: Theresa Frederick

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Establish More Psychiatric Facilities, Expert Urges Govt

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The Executive Secretary, Association of Resident Doctors, Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, Dr Michael Osingun, has urged the governments at all levels to establish more psychiatric hospitals in Nigeria.
Osingun made the call in an interview with newsmen yesterday in Lagos.
He also decried “the poor state of the few existing psychiatric hospitals in the country”, saying that most states in the country did not have a functional psychiatric hospital.
He said the establishment of more psychiatric hospitals was necessary due to the increasing cases of mental illness which seemed to overwhelm available mental health facilities.
The psychiatrist attributed the rising cases of mental illness to drug abuse, stress, economic downturn, unemployment, inadequate finances, depression and effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to him, mental health services are barely accessible outside the state capitals, adding that there is also an urgent need to establish mental healthcare facilities at the grassroots level.
He noted that most mental health cases happened in rural communities where there were no mental healthcare facilities/psychiatric hospitals.
“That is why people will resort to taking the victims to prayer houses where the situation will be allowed to get complicated,” he said.
Osingun said there were only about 10 psychiatric hospitals across the country adding that more should be established while existing facilities should be equipped with adequate human and material resources.
“Mental health needs to be given the seriousness it deserves by government, individuals and non-governmental organisations.
“Let the government subsidise the treatment of mental illness, establish more psychiatric hospitals to enable more mental patients to access treatment.
“This will go a long way to increase access to mental healthcare and prevent mental cases from degenerating and making them difficult to treat or manage,” he said.
The psychiatrist said that the devastating effects of insurgent attacks, insecurity, economic hardships and other crises across the country had left several people in need of psychiatric evaluation.
He explained that although victims of those crises were often affected psychologically, little or no attention was given to providing them with health care to serve their needs.
He identified lack of political support, inadequate management, over-burdened health services and resistance from policymakers and health workers as some of the factors affecting the development of a good mental healthcare system in Nigeria.
He, therefore, urged the governments at all levels to prioritise the welfare of the citizens by ensuring that the basic necessities of life were made available and affordable.
“Mental health is as important as physical health. Mental health is the base of all health. For one to have health, he/she must be mentally stable. So, there’s no health without mental health.
“But you find out that agencies of government and international organisations focus more on catering for the physical needs of the people rather than mental needs,” Osingun said.
He also alleged that although Nigeria had a mental health policy the policy was not being implemented adding that such a policy should be reviewed and implemented.

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