By Tobias Lengnan Dapam

GlaxoSmithKline and Save the Children have donated N20 million worth of medical oxygen system and devices to Rasheed Shekoni Specialist Hospital, Jigawa State.

A statement issued yesterday by Kunle Olawoyin, Information and Communications Specialist, Save the Children International Nigeria, said the donation will improve access to medical oxygen and thus reduce the number of children dying from pneumonia and other illnesses due to lack of access to medical oxygen.

“Importantly, we consider equipping the hospital with medical oxygen as the critical step in addressing Hypoxemia, (a clinical condition of inadequate oxygen concentration in the blood) a common sign of Pneumonia, which is the leading infectious killer of children under-5.

“The donation will enhance the hospital’s capacity in providing lifesaving oxygen therapy, thus strengthen the 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 topmost referral, teaching and research hospital in Jigawa State. Last year a similar oxygen systems intervention was made by Save the Children to Dutse General Hospital.

“The ultimate aim is to accelerate achievement of the Global Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Pneumonia and Diarrhea and Sustainable Development Goal targets of less than 3 child pneumonia deaths per 1,000 births and less than 25 child deaths per 1,000 births by 2030.”

The statement recalled that NDHS 2018 reported that Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) is among the leading causes of childhood morbidity and mortality in Nigeria.

“Pneumonia is the most serious outcome of ARI in children under 5. The UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation show that children under 5 in Nigeria made up the highest number of those who died, with an estimated 162,000 deaths in 2018.

“A recent study (Graham et al. 2020) of 12 Nigerian hospitals found that only five had oxygen available in pediatric wards, and just one used pulse oximetry for pediatric care.”

Meanwhile, “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,” said Mercy Gichuhi, Country Director, Save the Children International Nigeria. “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 GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and was realized through the Integrated Sustainable Childhood Pneumonia and Infectious Diseases Reduction in Nigeria (INSPIRING) Project.

The goal of this partnership in Nigeria is to catalyze 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, Regional Communication and Government Affairs Director has said on this occasion: “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.”

Dr. Isah Adamu, Chief of Party INSPIRING Project, Save the Children International Nigeria said, “Scaling up oxygen delivery across all health facilities can save countless lives; 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. Strong commitment is also needed to improve local oxygen systems and ensure equal access to this essential therapy long-term.”

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