INAUGURAL PRESIDENTIAL ADDRESS DELIVERED ON FRIDAY, JANUARY 19, 2024, BY DR EKANEM NSIKAK EKURE AT THE 55TH ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING & SCIENTIFIC CONFERENCE OF THE PAEDIATRIC ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA HOLDING IN LAGOS, NIGERIA.
Dr Ekanem Ekure,
The Chairman, The Immediate past President, The Chairman and members Board of Trustees, Past PAN Presidents here present, current members of PAN Exco, PAN Elders, PAN members, my family and friends, my Pastors, our guests, members of the press, Ladies and gentlemen, good evening.
I congratulate the Eko Akete PANConf 2024 LOC for successfully hosting the 55th Annual General Meeting & Scientific Conference of our Association, the paediatric association of Nigeria. You will all agree with me that they have done a great job.
I am honoured and humbled to be invested tonight as the 21st President of the Paediatric Association of Nigeria for the next 731 days (two years). I give all the glory to Almighty God for making this possible.
I would like to thank my predecessor, Dr. Olufemi Ogunrinde for his smooth and pragmatic leadership and contributions to PAN and its members. I think he deserves a round of applause. I also appreciate all past Presidents who have kept the flag of the Association flying up till now.
One major regret I have tonight is the absence of one of our founding fathers Dr Bolaji Ajenifuja who passed away last year. The last conversation I had with him was immediately after the first LOC meeting for this conference. He called me and said, “I have started putting together a list of sponsors that I will contact for the conference”. At 93years, Baba Ajenifuja was ready to do fund raising for the Association he loved dearly. Baba was one person who strongly believed in me. He did not only want me to become President of PAN, but he also worked towards my standing here today. May his soul rest in perfect peace.
On the other hand, as the 6th Female PAN President, I am blessed to have around me five great female past PAN Presidents who have been my mentors and role models over the years and look forward to their continual guidance. Thank you, Drs Adenike Grange, Kikelomo Osinusi, Ifeoma Egbuonu, Dorothy Esangbedo and Ngozi Ibeziako. I would also like to thank all the members of PAN for your trust and support in electing me as your leader.
I am well aware of the great responsibility that comes with this position. There are two groups of people that our Association caters for – Children and child health workers. Let’s talk about the children. One hundred and two (102) million of them live in Nigeria and that’s 49% of our population. Nearly half of them live below poverty line.
The current state of child health in Nigeria is a complex and challenging issue that requires urgent attention and action from all stakeholders involved in the health sector. The key challenge is that we are topping the class globally in the wrong subjects.
- Under 5 mortality- Globally, Nigeria carries the highest burden of under-five deaths, the second highest rate of newborn deaths and about 11% of the total global burden for neonatal mortality. In Nigeria, every day 2,350 children die from diseases that can easily be treated and cured meaning every second approximately 37 children die across Nigeria.
- low immunization coverage – Nigeria is number one with more than two million zero dose immunization. Only 1 in 3 Nigerian children are vaccinated.
- Hunger and malnutrition- Nigeria has the second highest burden of stunted children in the world with a national prevalence rate of 37 percent of children under five. An estimated 1.4 million children in Nigerian suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM), but only two out of every 10 children affected are currently reached with treatment. Just 34% of babies are exclusively breastfed during their first six months of life.
- Child abuse- Abuse is a daily reality for many Nigerian children: 6 in 10 experience some form of violence before age 18; 50% of children suffer from physical violence, and 25% of girls and 10% of boys experience sexual violence • Nigeria has the largest number of child brides in Africa with more than 23 million girls married as children; by 2030 this is predicted to increase by 1 million.
- Poor access to quality health care- Only one of every two babies are delivered in a health facility. There is inadequate access to affordable healthcare, especially for children.
- Growing population of out of school children- 1 in 4 children in Nigeria are out of school.
In this leadership, I will encourage a shared vision with the new PAN Executive that is focused on seeing PAN become a dynamic organization that can advance its core values and influence leadership for improved child health outcomes in Nigeria. A vision that is in line with the Federal Governments 4-point agenda on Health.
Looking inwards, what are the strengths of our Association?
- High level of professionals in both public and private sector and these are key policy makers.
- Membership of more than 1000
- National spread of membership across Nigeria and the diaspora
- In Nigeria, PAN is the largest reservoir of knowledge of paediatrics and child health.
The aims and objectives of our Association speak to our core values which are to:
(a) promote and advance the practice and study of paediatrics and child health.
(b) actively seek the well-being and protect the interest of children
(c) safeguard the interest of all the workers in the field of paediatrics and child health
(d) encourage research and dissemination of knowledge in all aspects of paediatrics and child health
(e) foster friendship and co-operation among workers in the field of paediatrics and child health and allied disciplines.
(f) collaborate with Government at all levels as well as Associations, Multilateral Development Agencies, Companies, and Organizations in the advancement of childcare and development in Nigeria, Africa and globally.
- On the study and practice of paediatrics, – PAN is doing well and we now have subspecialty societies.
- On the well-being and interest of the child, our goal should be making our voice stronger, more relevant and heard in the right places.
- On health care workers- we need to work closely with relevant authorities to safeguard the interest of all the workers in the field of paediatrics and child health.
- We have done well in disseminating knowledge to ourselves with our conference and journal. PANConf continues to improve every year. Do permit me to congratulate PANConf 2024 LOC once more for mounting this great conference for our Association in these challenging times. We have made our journal NJP to become a regular publication thanks to Dr Clement Ezechukwu our immediate past Editor in Chief. Our collective goal is now to work on repackaging knowledge to the current challenges of our children for consumption of policy makers and the public. Our journal needs to step up in its indexing.
- On partnership, we have merely been acquaintances with our Partners. We want more profound productive partnerships. Our collective goal should be to facilitate the process that will enable us to access them directly and not through 3rd parties.
- We need to continue keeping emphasis on fundamentals –such as nutrition, immunization, screening, and prevention of common childhood illnesses in addition to ramping up focus on emergency and critical care.
- We need to redefine our borders, focusing more on community Paediatrics. Going sub-National. Getting tertiary institutions to adopt PHCs as a starting point.
- Monitor more closely Government policies that affect children and demand accountability at sub-National levels. Nudge our policy makers to hold health workers accountable.
- Become responsive to secular trends that influence children’s health and healthcare.
- Encourage the younger paediatricians to be more involved in activities of the Association.
These are daunting tasks. On my part, I promise to do my best to serve you with dedication, integrity, and professionalism. The earlier outlined challenges however require coordinated efforts from within us as an Association and various other actors such as Government Agencies; Professional bodies; Civil Society Organizations; Donors; the Media; etc. Together, we can make a positive difference in the lives of the 102 million children living in Nigeria who deserve our care and attention.
I close with the quote of Mattie Stepanek a young poet and peace activist.
- “Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.”
To encourage us in this audacious journey, let’s see who Mathew Stepanek was. He was born on July 17, 1990. Stepanek’s parents divorced when he was a child. He was raised in Maryland, USA. His hero was former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who described Stepanek as “the most extraordinary person whom I have ever known”.
Stepanek had a rare genetic disorder, dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy. His three older siblings died from the same illness. The condition was unknown until his mother was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease in 1992, after all four of the children had been born.
Stepanek was a poet and speaker, penning six volumes of bestselling Heartsongs poetry books, and a collection of peace essays that also became a bestseller.
He was the lyricist for Music Through Heartsongs. The album was produced by Sony, was released in 2003 and performed by Billy Gilman, and which debuted at number 109 on the Billboard 200 and at number 15 on Hot Country Songs.
Stepanek died at age 13 at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., on June 22, 2004. In 2011, Oprah Winfrey named Stepanek as one of her All-Time Most Memorable Guests in the 25-year history of her show.
So, if Mattie could despite his challenges make an extraordinary impact within the 13 short years of his life, we have no excuse.
Once again, I am grateful to God for the privilege to serve, I appreciate you all for the attention, thanks to all my colleagues who made personal sacrifices to see that I stand here today. My sincere thanks to my friends and family. My church family- Pastor and Pastor Mrs. Netufo, Pastor & Pastor Mrs. Awolu, thank you. Last but not the least my special thanks go to my nuclear family here represented by my son and my husband. I am greatly indebted to my husband Bar Nsikak Ekure – a proud paediatric husband and my life coach. Without his love, support, and huge sacrifices over the years, I would not be standing here today. God bless you.
I wish you all journey mercies back home.
God bless you.
God bless Paediatric Association of Nigeria,
God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.