Providing care for children remains a significant part of government programme in Osun State, writes Adeola Akinremi
Osun State may have prided itself in culture, a state on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation's (UNESCO) diary of global cultural heritage, it is expected. But, there is something more. For its culture to be preserved, providing care for children becomes much more significant. And that has become a rallying point for Mr. Rauf Aregbesola's administration in the state in the last two years. "We are committed to giving the children and our pupils, the right support for their ages," he says.
According to the National Demographic Survey, Osun State has the lowest maternal mortality in Nigeria.
Olanike Yussuf, a resident of Ikirun, whose children had died many times told THISDAY, "I have almost given up, when the current government came in, and the reform in the health sector has completely wiped off my tears. I lost three children to ailment and childbirth, but in the last two years I have been full of joy for this one. He was born naturally, healthy and growing rapidly. The medical officers at the hospitals are treating us like angels."
According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), an estimated 19 000 children died every day in 2011, and 40% in the first month of life, most from preventable causes. The gains in child survival, although significant, are still insufficient to achieve Millennium Development Goal 4 of reducing the global under-five mortality rate by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015. Only six of the world's 10 regions according to UNICEF are on track to reach the target. Unicef said that some of the reduction was due to poorer countries getting richer. But some was also due to well-targeted aid such as encouraging breastfeeding or immunising against common diseases.
Across the planet, the five leading causes of deaths among children under five include pneumonia (18%); pre-term birth complications (14%); diarrhoea (11%); birth-related complications (9%) and malaria (7%).
But, the Osun State government is trying to change all that. By the end of last year, the state government had reduced the record of malaria from 500,000 in 2009 to about 200,000 in an intervention to safe both mother and child.
According to the Commissioner for Health in the state, Dr. Temitope Ilori, there has been a boost in the attendance of outpatients care in the state-owned hospitals.
"For expectant mothers coming for ante-natal care and delivery, a significant boost has been recorded all over the state," she said. "In our data collection as well, some ailments like malaria are dropping. In 2009, we had over 500,000 reported cases of malaria, but by the end of 2011, it had dropped to less than 200,000 in the state. This reduction can be connected to the totality of governance in the state, especially the efforts of the governor in the fight against filth and dirt. Through environmental sanitation, the government has been able to take care of broken bottles, old tyres, waste containers that store stagnant water where mosquitoes, which are the carriers of malaria breed."
"Besides, the dredging of waterways also helped tremendously. As a result of these efforts, Osun is the only state, especially in the Southwest that did not have any incident of flood last year, and we all know the health hazards that come with flood, but God spared us in this, just as it also helped in reducing malaria.
"Apart from this, we have distributed treated mosquito nets to pregnant women, the young and the aged in a bid to reduce the infection of malaria. Also on malaria, we have gone all over the state and selected three local governments where we can carry out a pilot study on what we call insecticide residual spraying, through which we spray walls, house corners, roofs, among others. The Commissioner said that several water-borne diseases like cholera, diarrheoa and dysentery have been curbed through the dredging of waterways by the state government. There has also been infrastructural upgrade in the state's health sector. In the School of Nursing and Midwifery in Osogbo, the state capital, the Aregbesola administration has built a male hostel, while a library complex is in the process of completion.
Last year, the governor employed over 20 nurse tutors to boost the ones in the school. In the same year, 26 tutors were employed for the School of Health Technology to improve the teaching staff of the institution.
And to ensure that death on the highways are minimised. The government had commenced the street ambulance program. On the major highways, well-equipped ambulances at different points on the highway will soon be stationed to take care of emergencies. This, THISDAY gathered will be backed up by health workers, doctors and paramedics that were sourced from the OYES [the state youth empowerment scheme] cadets who have been further trained to be on ground to handle such emergencies.
Aregbesola reiterated his commitment to providing quality health care delivery to the people, while overhauling the entire health care delivery system of the state.
He stressed that the government had spent N220 million on the procurement of drugs for the free health programme.
"Several other steps have been taken to uplift our health care delivery system from the deplorable state in which we met it; these include the renovation of nine hospitals.
"Others are the purchase of additional 19 ambulances, procurement of medical equipment, furniture and electrical appliances."
In its two years, several of the biggest projects undertaken by Aregbesola's administration to transform the state he says were aimed at building a good future for the children.
"We are talking about the future of Nigeria. It is these children that will sustain the any nation and if we refuse to care for them today, then we may be putting that future in jeaopardy."
The state government is currently constructing scores of new schools across the state, including 100 elementary schools, 50 middle schools and 21 high schools. Pupils in primary one to four are being fed daily, while the tablets of knowledge, tagged opon-imo, would soon be made available for final year high schools students.
The administration also initiated a schools uniform project. The governor explains that several thousands of new jobs would be created, and about N3bn would go into the pockets of the ordinary citizens.
But for all these, the man who claimed he is on a rescue mission in Osun seems to know more is needed to take the State to an enviable height, so, he says, "We are not there yet, but we are well on the way."
In recognition of his developmental strides and good governance in Osun, the NEPAD Business Group, Nigeria (NBGN) has honoured the governor with an award of Excellence and Good Governance.
According to Mr. Goodie Ibru, the Chairman of NBGN, ten governors were chosen after a rigorous screening exercise undertaken by a six man group of experts gathering and analysing information about the activities of the governors in their respective state.
The group considered the performance of the governors in the context of poverty reduction programmes and policies, infrastructural renewal and development, youth empowerment projects, health development programmes, sustainable environmental projects and policies and lastly public/private partnership initiative.
In arriving at its judgment ratified by the NBGN Board, Mr. Ibru says, 'the group was never unmindful that the awardees still have a lot of work at hand in spite of the realities and peculiarities of their respective states'.
NBGN Award of Excellence and Good Governance was instituted to appreciate and motivate the governors so that they can further deliver democracy dividends and consequently achieve the elusive Millennium Development Goals (MDG).