By Sola Ogundipe
Towards improving access to medical oxygen and reducing the number of children dying from pneumonia and other illnesses, GlaxoSmithKline, GSK, and Save the Children, SCI, recently donated crucial medical devices valued at N20 million to Rasheed Shekoni Specialist Hospital, Dutse, Jigawa State.
The gesture, it was gathered, is to accelerate the achievement of the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhea and the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs.
According to Mercy Gichuhi, Country Director, SCI Nigeria, the target is to attain less than 3 child pneumonia deaths per 1,000 births and less than 25 child deaths per 1,000 births by 2030.
Gichuhi who announced the donation of a piped oxygen system, oxygen concentrators, and pulse oximeters, said it was to support efforts geared at ensuring hospitals and appropriate health facilities in Jigawa State are equipped with functional oxygen delivery systems readily accessible at the point of use.
During the presentation and handover of the ceremony, she explained that equipping the hospital with medical oxygen was the critical step in addressing hypoxemia, (a clinical condition of inadequate oxygen concentration in the blood) a common sign of pneumonia – the leading infectious killer of children under-5.
“The donation will enhance the hospital’s capacity in providing lifesaving oxygen therapy, thus strengthening Jigawa State’s oxygen delivery system.
“As Rasheed Shekoni Specialist Hospital is getting ready to become a Teaching Hospital, we believe this donation will empower the hospital to perform its role as a topmost referral, teaching, and research hospital in Jigawa State.
“In Nigeria, effective oxygen treatment is seldom available in the clinics and hospitals that serve poor families. That helps to explain why death rates from pneumonia are three times higher for children in the poorest households than they are for children in the richest households.
“It is our responsibility to support efforts to roll back pneumonia deaths and health inequity, thus protecting vulnerable children.
“The donation of the oxygen system was made possible through the partnership of GSK and was realised through the Integrated Sustainable Childhood Pneumonia and Infectious Diseases Reduction in Nigeria (INSPIRING) Project.
Gichuhi said the goal of the partnership in Nigeria is to catalyse change and contribute to an accelerated reduction in child deaths from pneumonia and other preventable infectious diseases.
The Representative of GSK in Nigeria, Ehighebolo Omongiade, who is also Regional Communication and Government Affairs Director, said: “It is a GSK priority to help Nigeria address childhood morbidity and mortality. This donation represents one-way GSK and Save the Children are bringing together our unique skills and resources, to break new ground and find new ways to bring down the number of children dying from preventable diseases.”
On his own part, Dr. Isah Adamu, Chief of Party INSPIRING Project, SCI Nigeria said scaling up oxygen delivery across all health facilities can save countless lives because it is feasible and cost-effective.
“Decision-makers should take action today to ensure reliable and equitable access to effective oxygen therapy for all patients. A strong commitment is also needed to improve local oxygen systems and ensure equal access to this essential therapy long-term,” Adamu remarked.
Since the inception of the INSPIRING Project in Jigawa and Lagos, Save the Children is working with the respective state governments to increase the quality of existing preventive and curative services provided to newborns and girls and boys under five at health facilities, influencing governments to adequately fund and support the implementation of existing policies critical for the quality delivery on health services related to childhood pneumonia, and is promoting preventive home care and care-seeking practices for sick children under 5 years.
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