The Kogi State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Saka Haruna, says the concentration of resources to fight the COVID-19 pandemic is making the nation neglect other important health conditions.
According to Dr. Haruna, Nigeria has already lost ground in its fight against child mortality, alleging that the country now has more under-five mortality cases than any other country in the world.
Speaking on a live TV interview on Tuesday, Haruna said while he acknowledges the need to fight the viral pandemic, Nigeria should not neglect other important health issues because of COVID-19.
“Before 2020, Nigeria was classified as the second-highest contributor to under-five mortality in the world. We were second to India.
“Currently, we have overtaken India. We are now the world capital for under-five mortality. This is because of the neglect of other aspects of our healthcare and concentrating attention on only COVID-19.
“India with 1.3bn population recorded 824,000 under-five mortality, while Nigeria, based on our 2019 population estimate of 201m, recorded a whopping 858,000 under-five mortality,” he said.
Haruna also refuted allegations that Kogi State did not believe in the existence of COVID-19, noting that what the governor has been fighting against was the commercialisation of the viral disease.
Recall that the Presidential Task Force at a media briefing on February 1 listed Kogi among high-risk states that should be avoided by travellers because of the nonchalant attitude of the state government to COVID-19 pandemic.
The PTF had noted that the state was high-risk because it had no isolation centre for treatment of COVID-19 cases and was not testing people for the virus.
The commissioner, however, said the state was fighting the viral pandemic.
“I want to correct the impression that the governor does not believe in the existence of COVID-19. That is not true.
“He has never for once implied the non-existence of the disease. He has been very scientific in his utterances about COVID-19.
“What he does not like is the way and manner COVID-19 is being managed in the country. So, most of what has been attributed to the governor about COVID-19 are lies.
“What the governor was saying was that the strategy of fighting the disease should not result in more harm than the disease itself.
“He was against disease mongering and the commercialisation of the pandemic. That is what is happening in the nation at the moment. He is not happy about that because it has not only crippled our economy, it has led to the neglect of other aspects of our health sector and concentration of attention on only COVID-19,” Haruna said.
On how Kogi State was fighting the pandemic, the commissioner said the state started early to curb the spread of the disease.
“We have been very proactive in Kogi State in our response to COVID-19. We started putting strategies in place to fight the pandemic, even before February 27, 2020, when the first case was discovered in Nigeria.
“We leveraged our Lassa fever control platform to sensitise our people about COVID-19. By March 23, we had instituted our squadron against COVID-19.
“Kogi was the first state to procure and distribute face masks free to citizens. We also procured and distributed handwashing devices and materials to the people.
“We focused on those in areas we felt were more vulnerable to infection outbreak and people who were more at risk of the infection.
“So, if we are disputing the existence of COVID-19, how come we had spent so much on the control of the disease in our state?” he asked.
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