A project dubbed: "Immunization Advocacy Initiative" to advocate for improved immunization financing through sustained increased budgetary allocation and full disbursement of such funds to undertake immunization activities in the country has been launched.
The three-year project is being implemented by SEND GHANA in partnership with the African Population and Health Research Centre as part of efforts to ensure that government took charge in financing immunization activities in the country in the face of dwindling donor support to the sector.
It is being implemented in eight districts including the Ga West, Shai Osudoku, Kassena-Nankana Municipal, Bawku West, Lawra, Lambussie, Saboba, and Tatale/Sanguli, which are located in four regions - Greater Accra, Northern, Upper East and Upper West.
To ensure effective implementation, a regional Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) roundtable discussion on immunization financing was held in Tamale to engage partners, who are in the immunization sector to gather evidence on immunization financing, related challenges and strategies for adoption.
The event, which was also to solicit the buy-in of partners for the intended outcomes of the Immunization Advocacy Initiative, was attended by CSOs that worked in the area of child health.
In 2017, the country achieved about 80 per cent universal access to immunization; five new vaccines introduced into the system since 2011 (Rotavirus, Measles Second Dose, Pneumococcal, IPV, Meningitis A), declining child mortality rate, eradication of polio in 2000, and measles rubella yet to be eliminated.
This feat was achieved largely with donor funds. However, the country is currently in default on its 2018 co-financing payment under the GAVI arrangement, and her new economic status as a lower middle income economy has also led to a reduction in donor support she receives for immunization activities.
This requires the government to ensure sustained increased immunization financing to maintain the gains made in the sector, hence, the Immunization Advocacy Initiative.
Mr Mumuni Mohammed, Regional Programmes Manager of SEND GHANA, said education and sensitization sessions on immunization using community radios and durbars would be organised as well as engage traditional and religious authorities to champion immunization financing at the grassroots level.
Mr Mohammed said regional level policy cafés would be organised to collate citizens' priorities on immunization into the national budgets, compile and submit citizens priorities on immunization into the 2020/2021 national budgets and conduct desk analysis of immunization in 2019 mid-year report as part of efforts to advocate increased financing of the sector.
Participants called for a percentage of District Assemblies Common Fund to be set aside to support immunization activities in the country, and the establishment of an immunization fund to ensure availability of funds for such activities.
Mr Emmanuel Kwashie Fugah, Executive Director of Community Youth Development Foundation, spoke about the importance of immunization to national development and lauded the project, saying, it would ensure a healthy population.