Flag Off Event For The Integrated Medical Outreach Programme (I-MOP) In Nigeria On 16/03/2020

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REMARKS BY HIS EXCELLENCY PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, AT THE FLAG OFF EVENT FOR THE INTEGRATED MEDICAL OUTREACH PROGRAMME (I-MOP) IN NIGERIA ON THE 16TH OF MARCH, 2020.

It is a special pleasure to be here today, to represent Mr. President at this watershed event marking a major milestone in our public healthcare delivery system. I bring you the President’s very warm greetings and his commendations to the Hon. Minister of Health, and his team and all of our collaborating development partners.

In a few months, Nigeria and indeed the African continent will be formally declared polio-free by the World Health Organisation. Our routine immunization programme has also improved from 33% in 2016 to 50% as measured in the 2018 National Demographic Health Survey. Mr. President has also repeatedly asserted that his vision of taking ten million Nigerians out of poverty every year for the next ten years depends so clearly on the quantum leap that we must make in our human capacity development attainments, especially healthcare.

This is why this integrated Medical Outreach Programme is a crucial feature of our overall human capacity development effort. But, despite our best efforts, there is a significant gap in bringing public health services to vulnerable populations, especially in the rural, mountainous, riverine, peri-urban and other difficult to reach areas in the country.

So this attempt to take basic healthcare services, health education, basic surgeries and screening for diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, tuberculosis, HIV – AIDS and cancer to these under-served and difficult to reach areas, is an eminently sensible and practical plan. Not only does it provide free health services to communities that had never in the past enjoyed these sorts of services, but it also provides our public health institutions with invaluable disease identification opportunities and outreach lessons.

So today, here in Bwari, we will flag-off the conduct of the first round of the Integrated Medical Outreach Programme (I-MOP) for the unreached, under-served and vulnerable communities in 409 selected LGAs in the 36 States of the Federation, including the Federal Capital Territory. The I-MOP intervention is aimed at strengthening and scaling up access to routine Immunization, and other primary healthcare (PHC) services in selected low performing LGAs. The first round of the I-MOP implementation is planned for between the 23rd to 27th March in the selected 409 LGAs in the 36 states and FCT. The second round is planned for 20th – 24th April 2020; and the third round for 1st – 5th June 2020.

Nigerians and all other nationals residing within the country are really encouraged to take their children, especially those under two years to the nearest health facilities for screening, and administration of all due antigens. The Federal Government of Nigeria maintains a policy of providing immunization services free to all against all vaccine preventable diseases (VPDs). All others age groups are also encouraged to visit designated medical outreach centers, and we have one per senatorial district during the five (5) days of the I-MOP implementation for basic general medical and even surgical consultations/operations.

The Federal Government is fully responsible for providing the required immunization vaccines in collaboration with our global partners, to ensure consistent and sustainable availability of life-saving vaccines for all eligible children in Nigeria. We would ensure in the next couple of months, that Rotavirus and Human Papillomavirus vaccines are introduced into the national immunization schedule, to prevent childhood diarrhoea diseases and reduce the incidence of cervical cancer in women. It is the firm commitment of the Federal Government that no child or individual should be without access to life-saving vaccines and primary health care services.

Public healthcare in a populous developing country will always have its peculiar challenges, but therein also lies the immense opportunities. The challenge of providing services on Scale both in terms of cost and Human Resources is one. But it is a surmountable challenge. We must and we are determined to take advantage of all that innovation and technology will provide us. There is no way, ladies and gentlemen that one can speak today about healthcare without a mention of the Coronavirus threat. Our robust proactive preventive efforts have been widely praised, and we must commend again the Minister of Health and his team and all the public health services for their diligence and commitment to fighting and ensuring that we do not have the kinds of experiences that other nations are having concerning the pandemic.

But the threat is not over and as you know, only a few days ago Mr President directed that a readiness review be undertaken covering both the economy and healthcare services and that report has been submitted to him. We are also examining the readiness of our healthcare facilities for whatever eventualities may arise. Meanwhile, just as the Hon. Minister of Health has advised, we urge all Nigerians to continue to observe the hygiene advisories offered by the Hon. Minister of Health and W.H.O, including frequent hand washing and social distancing as much as possible. I think it is the Hon. Minister of Health who advised that we should be elbowing ourselves and the namaste instead of handshakes.

Let me in closing again congratulate the Hon. Minister of Health, the Hon Minister of State for Health and your team for your farsightedness and hard work on this programme. Our appreciation also goes to the immunization stakeholders (W.H.O, UNICEF, C.D.C, AFENET/NSTOP, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Aliko Dangote Foundation, Gavi, SOLINA Health, CHAI and IVAC); and also the professional bodies (Nigeria Medical Association, National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria and the Community Health Practitioners Association of Nigeria) for all of their technical support and for all the efforts they made towards improving the planning and implementation of this intervention.

So on behalf of Mr President, His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, it is my very special pleasure and privilege to formally launch the conduct of the first round of the Integrated Medical Outreach Programme (I-MOP) in Nigeria.

Thank you.