It was a bright sunny day as WAVA member – Development & Integrity Intervention Goal Foundation (DIG) – implemented the first in a series of high-level advocacy meetings for sustaining immunization financing (SIF) across south-eastern states in Nigeria. A beneficiary of the inaugural WAVA Small Grants for immunization advocacy, DIG set out to bring together top stakeholders to discuss increased immunization funding by Federal and State governments. Hosted in the peaceful town of Abakaliki, Ebonyi State on April 6, 2017, key officials deliberated on the looming funding gap Nigeria will experience on account of the gradual withdrawal of donor funding from Gavi.
Moderated by the chief press secretary to the wife of the governor, Ebonyi State, Mr. Donatus Owo, the event welcomed goodwill messages from the Chairman, House Committee on Health, Ebonyi State House of Assembly, Hon. Oliver Osi and the Executive Director of DIG, Mr. Aja Chima Oliver. The chair pledged law makers’ commitment to release a state budget in favour of immunization financing, as well as providing oversight function to its utilization. Other speakers include the Executive Secretary of the State Primary Health Care Development Agency (SPHCDA) Dr. Nwali James, who assured participants that the Ebonyi State governor, Engr. Chief David Umahoi was fully committed to health matters, which he demonstrated by providing one billion naira to cater for any health emergency in the state.
Participants listened with rapt attention to presentations from key speakers. The Gavi transition and state of immunization financing in the country was delivered by IVAC/DCL representative for WAVA Secretariat, Dr. Obinna Onuoha; while an overview of the state of immunization in Ebonyi State was presented by the State Immunization Officer, Mr. Felix Okocha.
The presentations generated a lively discussion among participants on finding a way forward for increased funding for vaccines and immunization services. The following recommendations were agreed for sustained action:
- Tracking of immunization financing updates across south-eastern states
- Enabling public and private partnerships during future advocacy meetings for SIF
- Intensifying engagement of lawmakers and the executive for support towards SIF
- Engaging the Governors Forum of the South East for SIF through consultation with the chairperson of the South East Governors Wives Forum
With the increased enthusiasm expressed at the event, the General Manager of Radio Nigeria 101.5, Unity FM Abakaliki, Mr. Gregory Odiakosa provided a 5-minute slot on the day to sensitize listeners about the importance of vaccines and the need for sustainable immunization financing.
Notable participants at the meeting include erstwhile Zonal Coordinator, NPHCDA for South East and now Director, Primary Health Care Systems Development (PHCSD), Dr. Ngozi Nwosu; WHO Coordinator for Ebonyi State, Dr. Nora Eyo; State Technical Advisor, European Union Support to Immunization Governance in Nigeria (EU-SIGN), Mrs. Ugo Uduma; #TalkHealthNaija presenter, Dr. Laz Eze. Others include the Director of Budget, Ministry of Finance; Director of Planning, State Planning Commission; Deputy Director, Ebonyi Broadcast Corporation (EBBC); Traditional Rulers, Town Union Executives, WAVA members in Ebonyi – Destiny Daughters Initiative of Nigeria (DEDAN), Neighbourhood Environmental Watch Foundation (NEW), Immunize Every Child Initiative; other civil society organizations and DIG Board Members.
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