Private Health Alliance of Nigeria (PHN), a public-private institution aimed at leveraging private sector capabilities to improve Nigeria’s health outcomes Thursday held a meeting with the Minister of Communications Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, on how telecommunications companies (Telcos) could leverage its capabilities to address last-mile cold chain infrastructure challenges for vaccines.
The Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of PHN, Muntaqa Umar-Sadiq, while speaking at the meeting, disclosed that the initiative was such that excess energy capacity from selected mobile phone masts and towers in high disease burden jurisdictions (which have the full complement of 24 hour power supply and security among others) could be used to power the refrigeration of viable vaccines at selected mobile phone masts situated in close proximity to Primary Healthcare Centres (PHC).
This intervention, which comes barely a month after PHN’s launch, is targeted towards decreasing vaccine-preventable deaths by improving efficiency of vaccine storage through support from mobile phone masts’ excess power supply, as well as reduce wastage and stock-out of vaccines to better serve beneficiaries and save lives.
Umar-Sadiq noted that PHN in collaboration with its financial institutions members and National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA) was expected to leverage the multi-faceted interaction points that financial institutions have with beneficiaries to optimise the impact of the Maternal Neonatal Child Health weeks (MNCHW) and other notable weeks.
He also revealed that PHN had secured collaborations with NPHCDA, Ministry of Communications Technology as well as PHN’s private sector members to develop and execute innovative interventions that can potentially revolutionise healthcare in the country.
“PHN will work with its pharmaceutical and Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) members, who have extensive supply chain, transportation and logistics capabilities, to collectively harness their supply chain and logistics infrastructure to address existing supply chain challenges in the heath sector and improve stock out rates of selected life saving drugs and commodities in health service delivery points.
“Our journey is just starting and the road is far. Working together, this coalition of the willing that we are building, will create a movement that history will judge as having contributed to saving at least one million lives of women and children in Nigeria,” Umar-Sadiq added.
Responding, Johnson agreed to work towards providing an enabling environment for Telcos that participate in the project to realise their objectives.
She stated that her ministry was keen to support advanced plans by the PHN to create the Nigeria Health Innovation Marketplace and other tech-related primary healthcare innovative interventions.
Johnson, however, endorsed the Private Sector Health Alliance of Nigeria (PSHAN) as champions of innovation in health and pledged her commitment towards creating the enabling environment for telecommunications companies to participate in the innovative interventions.
Similarly, Executive Director of NPHCDA, Ado Mohammed, said about one million women and children are killed every year in Nigeria from largely preventable causes.
He added that these innovative approaches outlined by PHN will form the basis of the private sector’s contributions to the saving one million lives movement that will advance Nigeria’s progress in meeting Millennium Development Goals (MDG) 4, 5 and 6.
On his part, the Chairman of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, called on more private sector companies and partners to join the health alliance to improve health outcomes by forging synergies and accelerating impact through innovation.
Cold supply chain, which is well established in many parts of the world, has strengthened immunisation of children from vaccine-preventable diseases (Hepatitis A and B, Measles, Pertussis, Polio, Rotavirus, Diptheria, among others), a situation whereby an unacceptable portion of vaccines perish at the last mile due to inadequate power supply and transport infrastructure in the country.
Vaccine preventable diseases are a major contributor to child morbidity and mortality especially in the sub-Saharan Africa and Nigeria, accounting for 17 per cent of global total under five mortality annually and 22 per cent of child mortality in Nigeria, according to Paediatric Association of Nigeria (PAN).
This implies that appropriate deployment of relevant vaccines would significantly reduce mortality and speed up the achievement of Millennium Development Goal 4 (MDG 4).
Currently, MNCHWs are held twice a year (May and November) and have been approved by the National Council on Health (NCH) as a priority action needed to reduce child mortality and improve maternal health.
It was gathered that its goal was to promote an integrated, high impact and low-cost package of maternal and child health services, through family and community–level mobilisation campaigns, schedulable population-oriented and clinical oriented services.
Such actions include designating a weeklong event to mobilise the populace for increased uptake of routine services at health facilities – including immunisation, Vitamin A supplementation, use of low osmolarity ORS with zinc for diarrhoea treatment and the use of long lasting insecticide nets (LLINs) for malaria amongst others.