Over 20,000 Babies Born On New Year’s Day

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that approximately 20,210 babies were born in Nigerian on the New Year’s Day. The births, represented third largest population of newborns in the world on Jan. 1, 2018.

UNICEF also said nearly 386,000 babies would be born worldwide on New Year’s Day, representing some 90 per cent in less developed regions.
The agency reported that Kiribati’s Christmas Island in the Pacific would most likely welcome 2018’s first baby while the U.S., its last.

Globally, over half of these births are estimated to take place in nine countries, according to UNICEF. These are: India, 69,070; China, 44,760; Nigeria, 20,210; Pakistan, 14,910; Indonesia, 13,370; United States, 11,280; Democratic Republic of Congo, 9,400; Ethiopia, 9,020; and Bangladesh, 8,370.

While many babies would survive, some would not make it past their first day, UNICEF regretted.

Stefan Peterson, UNICEF’s Chief of Health, said on Monday that the UN children’s agency was challenging nations around the world to make sure more newborns survive their first days of life. “This New Year, UNICEF’s resolution is to help give every child more than an hour, more than a day, more than a month – more than survival,” Peterson said.

In 2016, an estimated 2,600 children died within the first 24 hours every day of the year, according to the UN agency. UNICEF said that for almost two million newborns, their first week was also their last. In all, 2.6 million children died before the end of their first month, the global children’s agency regretted.

Among those children, more than 80 per cent died from preventable and treatable causes such as premature birth, complications during delivery, and infections like sepsis and pneumonia, UNICEF said. Peterson stressed: “We call on governments and partners to join the fight to save millions of children’s lives by providing proven, low-cost solutions”.

Over the past two decades, the world has seen unprecedented progress in child survival, halving the number of children worldwide who die before their fifth birthday to 5.6 million in 2016. But in spite of these advances, there has been slower progress for newborns, UNICEF noted adding, babies dying in the first month account for 46 per cent of all deaths among children under five.

UNICEF Commences Campaigns In 12 Communities

THE United Nations International Children’s Fund commensed a campaign to combat infant mortality, cholera, diarrhoea and other forms of diseases in 12 communities in the Onuimo Imo Local Government Area of Imo State.

To realize desired effectiveness, it will partner with the state chapter of the National Orientation Agency, traditional rulers, community leaders and other volunteers.

During the campaign at Okohia-Umuna, Ezefoke, Ikwuato , Okwelle, Diakuma and Ezelu Okwe communities, UNICEF urged the residents to fight the diseases by stopping open defecation.

It stated that open defecation, according to research, was a major cause of diarrhoea and cholera.

The Director of NOA in the state, Vitus Ekeocha, said it was essential that every household in the communities had toilets for healthy defecation.

Ekeocha noted that indiscriminate defecation in various communities in the state was sabotaging the efforts of UNICEF.

The NOA director said, “UNICEF is determined to stop diseases that affect women and children in developing countries. Here in Imo state, UNICEF has chosen 12 communities in the Onuimo LGA .”

The UNICEF Programme Officer in the state, Chigozie Orjiaku, said the organisation in partnership with individuals would identify households without toilets and ensure that they get one.

New Survey Indicates Drop In Infant Mortality, Increase In Child Malnutrition In Nigeria

The 5th Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey (MICS5) conducted in 2016 and 2017 by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other key partners has indicated a nationwide drop in Infant Mortality, increase in Child Malnutrition in Nigeria.

The Acting Representative for UNICEF in Nigeria, Pernille Ironside said “The use of this new MICS5 data will improve the lives of Nigerians by informing about important gaps that are impacting children and women so that appropriate actions can be taken”

Pernille said the findings of the survey are used for planning, monitoring and decision making on programmes and policies to address issues related to the well-being of children and women in Nigeria.

The result of the survey which was released in Abuja showed that Nigeria made significant improvements in some areas while others areas remain unchanged or have worsened since 2011 by not keeping pace with population growth when the last survey was conducted.

The results of the survey indicated that the infant mortality rate has dropped to 70 per 1000 live births from 97 in 2011. Equally, deaths among children under age five have dropped to 120 per 1000 live births from 158 in 2011.

“Malnutrition among children under age five has worsened nationwide with the highest concerns in the northern states. Child wasting (children who are too thin for their age) increased from 24.2% to 31.5%, while child stunting (children who are too short for their age) increased from 34.8% to 43.6%.”

The Statistician-General of the Federation, Dr Yemi Kale while unveiling the MICS5 reports noted that verifiable data is extremely important to the development outcome in Nigeria.

MICS5 is a recognised and definitive source of information for assessing the situation of children and women in the areas of Health; Nutrition; Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH); Education; Protection; and HIV & AIDS amongst others.

Since 1995, UNICEF has supported the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), with technical assistance and funding to conduct five rounds of MICS, informing progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and other major national and global commitments.

The data for MICS5 was collected between September 2016 and January 2017 from 33,901 households in 2,239 enumeration areas across the 36 States and Federal Capital Territory.

A total of 34,376 eligible women; 28,085 of mothers/caregivers of children under 5 years; and 15,183 men were interviewed using structured questionnaires aided by Computer Assisted Personal Interview (CAPI) devices.  This is the largest MICS survey conducted in Africa to date.

Kastina Govt. Releases 350m For Malnutrition

Katsina State Government has disbursed N350 million as its commitment to UNICEF for the purchase of Ready-to-Use-Therapeutic-Food ( RUTF ) for treatment of malnourished children in the state.

Alhaji Abdullahi Imam, the Special Adviser to the governor on Budget and Planning on Tuesday in Katsina, disclosed while signing the agreement on behalf of the State Government.

Osun Develops 5-Year Costed Multi-Sectoral Strategic Plan of Action for Nutrition

State Government of Osun has developed a 5-year costed multi-sectoral strategic plan of action for nutrition as part of strategies to address the challenge of malnutrition in the state.

 

Speaking at a 3-day workshop on the state strategic plan on nutrition sponsored by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Director of Community Health Services and Education at the Osun State Primary Health Care Development Board, Mr James Oloyede said there is urgent need to address the problem of malnutrition in the state.

 

Oloyede said the nutritional status of children below the age of five in Osun state has not improved in the last five years according to the report of Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey (MICS) 2016-2017.

 

He said over 23% of under five children in the state are stunted and 8% wasted which means that those children may not fulfil their full potentials in life and they are at a greater risk of diet related non communicable diseases such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension in later years.

 

“The report also showed that more children are likely to die today than they were 5 years ago as Infant mortality rose above the national average of 70/1000 from 40/1000 live births in 2011 to 78/1000 in 2016 and Under 5 mortality rose from 58/1000 to 101/1000 in the same period.”

 

He said the state government was committed to reverse this ugly trend through an integrated multi-sectoral strategic plan of action that will clearly identify priority areas such as nutrition of women of child bearing age, infant and young child feeding.

 

 

Other priority areas include ensuring food security, micro nutrient deficiency control, treatment of severe acute malnutrition, nutrition in education and institutions, poverty reduction and recruitment and deployment of nutritionists to handle nutrition issues in the State. He said the state strategic plan on nutrition clearly outlined activities and assign roles and responsibilities that would ensure its implementation.

 

 

Oloyede expressed delight that efforts at improving the practice of Breastfeeding have yielded positive result in the state as the rate of Exclusive Breastfeeding increased by 35.8% from 40.7% to 55.3% in 2016.

 

 

A Public Health and Nutrition Programme Manager in the Osun State Primary Health Care Development Board, Mr Izuchukwu Michael Offiaeli while taking participants through the objectives and the expected outcomes of the workshop explained that an integrated strategic costed nutrition plan of action was being developed for the state for the period between 2018 and 2023.

 

 

At the workshop attended by top officials of ministries and agencies of Osun State Government, Michael explained that the document would also detail the commitments in financial investments going into nutrition and the roles as well as the responsibilities of all the relevant sectors and stakeholders.

 

 

Michael said “this 5-year costed multi-sectoral strategic plan of action for nutrition is an integration of nutrition investments, as well as nutrition considerations into programs in all sectors in the state and to also increase policy coherence and seamless implementation of nutrition activities in the state.”

 

 

A lecturer at the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, College of Food Science and Human Ecology, University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Dr Wasiu Akinloye Afolabi said it has become imperative to make case for nutrition in national development agenda. 

 

 

He noted that the consequences of malnutrition are far reaching and that necessary steps must be taken to address it. “Malnutrition impairs growth and health of children, reduces learning and education of children, increases health care cost of families and nation due to treatment of illness and reduces national productivity”, he said.

 

According to him, “Investment in nutrition will boost gross national product by 11%, prevent child deaths by more than one third per year, improve school attainment by at least one year, increase wages by 5-50%, reduce poverty as well-nourished children are 33% more likely to escape poverty and also empower women to be 10% more likely to run their own business and break the inter-generational cycle of poverty.”

 

He added that nutrition was being recognized as both an input and output into development and cost benefit analysis has shown that every $1 spent on nutrition can yield $16 in return for a country and maintained that government and all stakeholders must act on time to tackle malnutrition.

 

The President of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria, Dr Bartholomew Brai, explained that the National Food and Nutrition Policy is a document that provides the framework for addressing the problems of food and nutrition insecurity in Nigeria and hailed Osun State government for its efforts in curtailing malnutrition.

 

 

Brai said the “it is good development that Osun is developing this 5-year costed multi-sectoral strategic plan of action for nutrition in line with the National Food and Nutrition Policy.”

 

 

“The policy recognizes nutrition as a multi-sectoral and multidisciplinary issue relevant to national development. It was first developed in 2001 and reviewed in 2013 to include emerging issues such as nutrition in the first 1000days of every child, nutrition in emergencies and increase in prevalence of diet-related non-communicable diseases amongst others.”

 

 

“The policy contains six thematic areas including food and nutrition security, enhancing provision of quality health services, enhancing care-giving capacity, raising awareness and understanding of the problem of malnutrition in Nigeria and resource allocation for food and nutrition security at all levels and the six strategies are aimed at achieving the policy objectives”, Brai added.

UNICEF Urges Bayelsa, Delta To Fast Track Process Of Establishing RUWASSA By Law In Their States

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has urged the Government of Bayelsa and Delta states to fast track the process of establishing the Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency (RUWASSA) by law in their respective states to aid the attainment of the rural component of Niger Delta Support Programme (NDSP) championed by UNICEF and the European Union (EU).

UNICEF Specialist on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Ms Martha Hokonya who said this at a media dialogue in Uyo, Akwa-Ibom state also urged the government of the two states to upgrade the WASH units in the local government Areas in the states into departments for effectiveness and efficiency.

Hokonya explained that the overall objectives of the NDSP by EU and UNICEF was to mitigate the conflict in the Niger Delta by addressing the main causes of the unrest and violence,unemployment and poor delivery of basic services through the WASH intervention programmes.

She noted the objectives of NDSP were designed to contribute to strengthening social bonding and peace building among communities in the project states through local capacity building and provision of access to improved sources of safe drinking water and basic sanitation in ten self-selected Local Government Areas in the Project states.

According to her, “there are five key objectives under the project which include upgrading the Local Government Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Units to Departments and strengthen the capacity of Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Institutions in the five Niger Delta states to drive and implement sustainable WASH projects.”

“The objective is to increase access to safe and sustainable water supply services in the rural communities of the selected Local Government Areas, increase access to improved sanitation and proper hygiene practice in rural communities and schools, institutionalize dialogue among stakeholders, strengthening social bonding and contributing to resolution of conflict situations and to establish a state and national monitoring and evaluation system,” Hokonya explained.

Speaking on the keys achievements of Niger Delta Support Programme (NDSP) which is jointly funded by EU, UNICEF and three tiers of Government, she explained that a total of 206,954 people have been able to gained access to safe water and that 224 Water Safety Plans were developed in 224communities.

Also, on the keys achievement in the area of sanitation, Hokonya said a total of 508 communities have been triggered and mobilised to engage in Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS), 143 communities stopped open defecation and that 146,364 people have gained access to improved latrines.

She added that 35 Primary Schools were provided with safe water and sanitation facilities while 28 schools in Delta got Hand Pump Boreholes. She also said that 14 schools got 2 VIP latrines each and that 10,520 pupils gained access to safe and gender sensitive WASH facilities. The UNICEF WASH specialist also disclosed that 12 Primary Health Care facilities were provided with 12 solar motorized borehole water facilities.

Hokonya commended the Federal, state and local government in the Niger Delta for their willing to ensure the wellbeing of the people in the region. She charged the three tears of government to put necessary mechanisms in place for the prompt payment of their counterpart funds at commencement of projects to enable early procurement of supplies and avoid delay during construction.

Boko Haram: 75% Of Sanitation Infrastructure Destroyed In Northeast – UNICEF

Mr Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF’s Global Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, stated at the beginning of the World Water Week, said 3.6 million people lacked water in northeast that Boko Haram terrorists have destroyed 75 per cent of the water infrastructure in Northeast Nigeria.

Wijesekera said: “in conflict-affected areas in northeast Nigeria, 75 per cent of water and sanitation infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, leaving 3.6 million people without even basic water services.

“In far too many cases, water and sanitation systems have been attacked, damaged or left in disrepair to the point of collapse.

“When children have no safe water to drink, and when health systems are left in ruins, malnutrition and potentially fatal diseases like cholera will inevitably follow.

“In famine-threatened north-east Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, nearly 30 million people, including 14.6 million children, are in urgent need of safe water.

“More than five million children are estimated to be malnourished this year, with 1.4 million severely so.”

He said in countries beset by violence, displacement, conflict and instability, children’s most basic means of survival, water must be a priority.

Wijesekera warned that children living in fragile situations were four times more likely to lack access to drinking water.

“Children’s access to safe water and sanitation, especially in conflicts and emergencies, is a right, not a privilege” Wijesekera said.

According to the UNICEF official, more than 180 million people in crisis-torn countries have no access to drinking water.

 

Improve Reportage On Water Sanitation, UNICEF Urges Media

United Nations Children’s Fund has admonished media to improve reportage on water sanitation to enhance healthy living.
The UNICEF Communication Specialist, Mr. Geoffrey Njoku speaking in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state on Tuesday at a two-days media dialogue on Water, Sanitation and Hygiene.

Njoku said, the spirit of investigative journalism must be reawakened to advocate for water, sanitation and hygiene in the country.
He explained that the media dialogue on WASH was organised by UNICEF with supports from European Union to boost the understanding of the journalists on issues that concerned water, sanitation and hygiene as they affect child survival.
He said “this media dialogue is aimed at promoting advocacy for water and sanitation, understanding of the link between water and
child survival and the roles of UNICEF and EU as well as their efforts in water, sanitation and hygiene in Nigeria.”
“We urge journalists to generate and publish human interest stories so as to create visibility for Water situation and interventions in Nigeria, particularly in the Niger Delta in order to encourage more
investments in water supply in the region. Such stories should be shared on social media with #WASHDialogue ”.
He reiterated that “Increased reportage of water, sanitation and hygiene in terms of in-depth, incisive and analytical features would assist in achieving the SDGs and benefit the citizenry, particularly the downtrodden.”
“Specifically, there is need to tell the public about the interventions of the EU in water and sanitation project in the Niger Delta which include Delta, Akwa Ibom, Edo, Bayelsa and Rivers states,” Geoffrey said.
The Akwa Ibom state governor, Mr Udom Emmanuel who was represented at the media dialogue by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Political, Legislative Affairs and Water Resources, Mr Nse Edem disclosed that the state government is providing new strategic policies that would ensure provision of potable water across the state.
UNICEF WASH Specialist, Mr Moustapha Niang in his presentation highlighted facts and figures depicting the current situation on provision of water and environmental sanitation in Nigeria.
The acting General Manager of Akwa-Ibom State Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Agency, Mr Idongesit Ido said with the release of the
counterpart funds the Akwa Ibom state governor, 30 solar power mini water schemes and 24 sanitation facilities have been awarded to contractors and some of the have already been delivered.

Boko Haram Used 83 Children As Human Bomb – UNICEF

Boko Haram militants in northeast Nigeria have sent out 83 child bombers against Nigerian targets this year, according to a tally by United Nations Children’s Fund.

This is four times as many child suicide bombers used in all of 2016, the UNICEF said.

The UN agency said out of the 83 children deployed by the atrocious insurgents, 55 were girls, mostly under 15 years old and 27 were boys. One was a baby strapped to a girl. Nineteen children were used last year, UNICEF said.

The Boko Haram insurgency, now in its eighth year, has claimed over 20,000 lives and forced more than two million people to flee their homes over eight years.

The frequency of suicide bomb attacks in northeastern Nigeria has increased in the past few weeks, killing at least 170 people since June 1, according to a Reuters tally.

UNICEF, in a statement released on Tuesday, said it was “extremely concerned about an appalling increase in the cruel and calculated use of children, especially girls, as ‘human bombs’ in northeast Nigeria. The use of children in this way is an atrocity”.

Boko Haram is trying to create an Islamic state in the Lake Chad region, which spans parts of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon and Chad. It gained notoriety by abducting more than 200 girls from the northeast Nigerian town of Chibok in April 2014. Aid groups say it has kidnapped thousands more adults and children.

Children who escape are often held by authorities or ostracized by their communities and families. Nigerian aid worker Rebecca Dali, who runs an agency that offers to counsel for those who were abducted, said children as young as four were among the 209 escapees her organization had helped since 2015.

“They (former abductees) are highly traumatized,” Dali told Reuters on Monday at the United Nations in Geneva, where she received an award from the Sergio Vieira de Mello Foundation for her humanitarian work.

Her team, which includes former police officers, identified some returnees as having been trained as suicide bombers.

“There were two girls taught by Boko Haram to be suicide bombers … The girls confirmed that they were taught that their life was not worth living, that if they die detonating the bomb and killing a lot of people, then their lives will be profitable,” Dali said.

Some 450,000 children are also at risk of life-threatening malnutrition in 2017 by the end of the year in northeast Nigeria, UNICEF said.

President Muhammadu Buhari said on Monday the country would “reinforce and reinvigorate” its fight against the group following the latest wave of attacks.

*UNICEF Press statement

Abuja, Geneva, 22 August 2017 – UNICEF is extremely concerned about an appalling increase in the cruel and calculated use of children, especially girls, as ‘human bombs’ in northeast Nigeria. Children have been used repeatedly in this way over the last few years and so far this year, the number of children used is already four times higher than it was for all of last year.

Since 1 January 2017, 83 children have been used as ‘human bombs’; 55 were girls, most often under 15 years old; 27 were boys, and one was a baby strapped to a girl. The sex of the baby used in the explosion was impossible to determine.

The use of children in this way is an atrocity.Children used as ‘human bombs’ are, above all, victims, not perpetrators.The armed group commonly known as Boko Haram has sometimes, but not always, claimed responsibility for these attacks, which target the civilian population.

The use of children in such attacks has had a further impact of creating suspicion and fear of children who have been released, rescued or escaped from Boko Haram. As a result, many children who have managed to get away from captivity face rejection when they try to reintegrate into their communities, compounding their suffering.

All of this is taking place in the context of a massive displacement and malnutrition crisis – a combination that is also deadly for children.

There are 1.7 million people displaced by the insurgency in the northeast, 85 per cent of them in Borno State, where most of these attacks take place.

Northeast Nigeria is one of four countries and regions facing the spectre of famine, with up to 450,000 children at risk of severe acute malnutrition this year.

UNICEF is providing psychosocial support for children who have been held by Boko Haram and is also working with families and communities to foster the acceptance of children when they return. This includes providing social and economic reintegration support to the children and their families.

UNICEF also supports reconciliation activities in northeast Nigeria, led by respected community and religious leaders, including influential women, to help promote tolerance, acceptance, and reintegration.

Over 103,742 Children Die In Nigeria Annually For Inadequate Breastfeeding

At least 103,742 children die in Nigeria annually as a result of inadequate breastfeeding, according to the United Nation Children Fund (UNICEF).

UNICEF Nutrition Specialist, Mrs Ada Ezeogu disclosed this at a 2-day Media Dialogue on Breastfeeding and Global Breastfeeding Collective which held in Ibadan, Oyo State, as part of activities marking the World Breastfeeding Week.

The media dialogue was organised by the Child Rights Information Bureau (CRIB) of the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture in collaboration with UNICEF and sponsored by the Department of International Development.

Ezeogu said, “the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding in children below the age of six months is only 17 per cent, which means that at least 5.4 million children each year do not get the powerful health and immunological benefits of breastfeeding.”

She explained that when cognitive losses and health costs are added, inadequate breastfeeding is estimated to cost the Nigerian economy $21 billion per year, or 4.1 per cent of its Gross National Index (GNI).

According to her, in a country with a high under-five mortality rate and high birth rate, inadequate breastfeeding leads to 103,742 child deaths each year which in turn translates into almost $12 billion in future economic losses for the country.

Ezeogu enumerated the necessary actions and steps required to enhance successful breastfeeding and charged health care providers to give adequate attention to issues of breastfeeding via adequate awareness of its benefits for not only the children, but also the mother.

In his remarks at the media dialogue, The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed charged the media to step-up public enlightenment on optimal breastfeeding of babies to prevent infant mortality and produce healthy and intelligent children.

The Information Minister who was represented by the Assistant Director, Child Rights Information Bureau, Mr Olumide Osanyinpeju urged journalists to assist in educating and sensitising the public on the need to ensure optimal breastfeeding of infants.

The Minister said it has become very necessary to propagate optimal breastfeeding in the country and that government and all stakeholders must take necessary actions to propagate optimal breastfeeding.

According to him, “there is need for all to rise up for the propagation, as early breastfeeding can make the difference between life and death. Government alone cannot fight this cause, hence, the need for collaboration with agencies, NGOs and other partners and organisations to advocate on how best to address the issue.”

In his remarks, the UNICEF Chief of Akure Field office said this year’s edition of the annual world breastfeeding week with the theme, “Sustaining Breastfeeding Together” was a significant event to promote breastfeeding.

Tejinder said breastfeeding helps provide children with the healthiest start to life, explaining that it also acts as the child’s first vaccine by providing antibodies that will help fight the diseases.

In his words, “Breastfed children have at least 6 times greater chance of survival in the early months than non-breastfed children. An exclusively breastfed child is 14 times less likely to die in the first six months than a non-breastfed child.”

UNICEF Communication Officer, Mrs Blessing Ejiofor said the dialogue was aimed at creating opportunities to inform the media to advocate for breastfeeding and issues of children’s well-being and survival in Nigeria.

Osun, UNICEF And Social Protection

By Abiodun Komolafe

Conscious of the State of Osun’s leading roles in the enhancement of livelihoods and a life of dignity among Nigerians, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) recently led Lagos, Delta, Zamfara and twelve other states to Osun to understudy how its policies and programmes, anchored on the administration’s Six-point Integral Action Plan, had positive impact on the lives of its residents.

To start with, Osun’s hitherto sordid as a result of the ineptitude of its past leaders and elders who preferred failure to bestowing a legacy worthy of remembrance on their words and deeds is no longer news. Also unhelpful was the global oil glut and the protracted currency collapse, which have forced many countries around the world to adopt painstaking measures to fill gaps in their public finances. That Governor Rauf Aregbesola was able to force a hole in a stone, in spite of its hardness, is a feat that must be commended by all.

In Osun, there are varieties of activities on Social Protection that have galvanised and driven the administration more rigorously. Prominent among them is Osun Youth Empowerment Scheme

(OYES), which is a radical, robust, market-development and character-building programme put in place by the government to tackle the annoying scourge of unemployment among our youths. Apolitical in concept and all-embracing in process, the Omoluabi ethos-inclined scheme succeeded in mopping up more than 40,000 youths off our streets for productive engagement.

Next is the Osun School Feeding and Health Programme, O’MEAL. Formerly known as Home Grown School Feeding and Health Programme (HGSFP), OMEAL’s capacity has been strengthened under this administration to accommodate more beneficiaries. And, as at December 2016, the state government has spent more than N10billion to provide over-200 million plates of highly nutritious meals to pupils in its Elementary Schools across the state.

One major achievement of the scheme is the eradication of avoidable diseases among the school pupils. For instance, before this administration came to power, it was discovered that eight out of every 10 students had scurvy, but that has disappeared with the advent of OMEAL.  Also, the scheme has never recorded any incidence of contamination or food poisoning since inception. Added to this is the reduction in unemployment through the absorption and empowerment of over 3,000 community caterers.

Followed is the ‘Agba Osun’, the Elderly Persons Welfare Scheme’, which was proactively designed to cater for the needs of the elderly, as well as enhance the socio-economic status of the critically vulnerable senior citizens in the state.

Through Osun Destitute Rehabilitation Programme (O’REHAB), mentally-challenged individuals are identified, rehabilitated and reunited with their families and the society. Under the programme, the already rehabilitated mentally-challenged persons are taken through skills acquisition training in addition to moral and financial support, all geared towards ensuring proper reintegration into the society. O’REHAB also undertakes public enlightenment campaigns on the causes and treatment of mental disorder.

State of Osun’s Free Medical Programme is also worthy of mention. Government’s intervention in this sector is geared towards alleviating the burden of ill-health as well as reducing the indirect costs of diseases and disabilities such as lost years in income, care of family members and lower productivity, to mention but a few.

What of Osun Ambulance Services (O’AMBULANCE)? With one ambulance in each of the then 30 Local Government Areas, plus one Administrative Office, and 19 sophisticated ambulance buses in strategic locations in the state at inception, it is sure that those with the faith of Thomas concerning government’s commitment to reducing accident rates and saving lives in the state will have a rethink.

Here comes Osun Microcredit Agency, an agency established to aid the economic expansion of the state through the provision and disbursement of credit facilities, primarily, to cooperative groups of artisans, traders and medium-scale agro-allied enterprises, amongst others. For instance, more than N3 billion has so far been injected into the state’s economy through its activities, even as very low interest and interest-free loans have been made available, compared with interventions before its establishment. This intervention has also led to better utilisation of borrowed funds among the beneficiaries and an improvement in the capital of the participating Micro-Finance Banks (MFBs).

Also worthy of mention are ‘Walk-to-live’, an embodiment of team work, mental alertness and physical exercise that richly adds value to the health of the citizens; and Osun Calisthenics Programme which has been preparing Osun students for the future through ”a variety of movements often performed rhythmically and usually conducted in concerts with stretches to depict symbols.” It is interesting to note that, apart from the introduction of Calisthenics into Osun schools’ curriculum, other states like Lagos have identified with this laudable initiative.

Lest I forget, one of the important contributions by the state government to the Agriculture sector, which is now famously described as the prospective backbone of Nigeria’s economy, is the establishment of Osun Rural Access and Mobility Project (O’RAMP). It is an agency which sees to the construction of rural access roads in our farm settlements. The overall intention of this initiative is to enhance massive production of food crops in the state.

The O’UNIFORM, a regime of uniform identity for all the students in the state’s public schools, has also done a lot in eradicating discriminations among the students, in addition to maximizing economies of scale on the part of the local suppliers of the uniforms to the buyers. Other advantages abound!

So far, so commendable! But beyond eloquent comments that have accompanied these interventions, where lies the hope for continuity and sustainability, taking into consideration that the lifespan of this administration expires in about five hundred days? Well, one sure way of ensuring that the message doesn’t die with the messenger is by facilitating the Social Protection Bill into law. Others lie in documenting the state’s development plans, constant monitoring by reputable organizations like UNICEF as well as encouraging other states to emulate Osun’s giant strides in Social Protection initiatives. Over and above all, since globalization has made competition very hard; and, with the economy painfully menstruating as a result of the global economic miasma, there’s no better time to proactively respond to vulnerabilities than now.