By Vincess Okushi

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in collaboration with the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) has donated six ambulance boats to the Government of Bayelsa State to improve healthcare and emergency response services to communities living in far-flung areas otherwise known as in riverine terrine. 

The ambulance boats which were sparely funded by Global GAVI were fully equipped with medical amenities, and staffed with healthcare personnel trained to provide swift and effective emergency medical assistance, and transport patients including pregnant women in labor and newborns to medical facilities to facilitate immunization outreach programs.

A statement by Cristian Munduate, UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative, 17th April 2024 revealed that there are nearly 100 out of every 1000 children not surviving to see their fifth birthday, as infant mortality stood at 70 per 1000 births, with 32 percent of pregnant women not receiving antenatal care and only about 40 percent babies are delivered in health facilities, stressing that the ambulance boats are timely to improve survival rates for women and children in riverine communities.

The provision of these ambulance boats represents a critical step towards ensuring that even the most remote communities have access to lifesaving healthcare services.

These boats will not only serve as a means of transportation for patients but also function as platforms for delivering essential healthcare interventions, such as immunizations, antenatal care, and health education, directly to those in need.

Responding, the Bayelsa State Deputy Governor Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo commended the gesture adding that it will ensure timely medical interventions in the state.

We are deeply grateful for the donation of these six ambulance boats, which bring hope to our riverine communities. This initiative is an important step in our ongoing efforts to safeguard the lives of our mothers, children, and vulnerable populations across Bayelsa.

These boats will not only ensure timely medical interventions but also fortify our resolve to provide equitable healthcare services, irrespective of geographical barriers. Together, we are navigating towards a brighter, healthier future for every citizen.

This initiative builds on the priorities of the Federal Ministry of Health as expressed in the Nigeria Health Renewal Investment Initiative, to make the health system more equitable and efficient, reduce the number of children who have not received any vaccine, and improve immunization coverage.

The delivery of the ambulance boats makes up part of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in 2022 between the Bayelsa State Government, the Federal Ministry of Health, the Nigeria Governors Forum, GAVI, and UNICEF to improve routine immunization and primary healthcare systems and reduce loss of life, particularly among women and children.

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