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Monday, July 25, 2011

Physician College Pledges to Assist Govt in Training Specialists

DISSATISFIED with the pitiable state of the nation's health sector which is apparently characterized by high disease burden, child and maternal mortality and lack of manpower, West Africa College of Physicians, Nigeria Chapter(WACP), has pledged to assist the government in the training of more physicians and specialists that will help address the problems and other emerging challenges in the sector.

National Chairman/College Vice President, Dr. Ifeoma Egbuonu while speaking at a courtesy call on the Lagos State Commissioner for Health ,Dr.Jide Idris at Alausa Ikeja on the occasion of the 35th Annual General Assembly and Scientific Meeting of the college held in Lagos, also blamed most of the problems confronting the health sector on poor funding by the government.

Commenting on the theme of the conference "Quality healthcare in a developing economy ;Opportunities and challenges: Improving child care in Nigeria " Dr. Egbuonu said that the choice of the theme of the conference was apt as it seeks to address the state of health services in Nigeria.

She remarked that why the problems in the nation's health sector appeared insurmountable ,was because the various governments have failed to do what was right and needed to tackle the challenge head-on especially in the area of funding and manpower development .

She pointed out that the thrust of the conference which was on maternal and child health, was to seek better ways of improving the country's poor health indices.

For the national chairman, the needed training and certification required to overcome some of these problems were available at the sub-region even at a very affordable cost, as Nigeria has over 3000 physician specialists in the college ,hence, the largest among member countries.

To put the health of the nation on the right pedestals, Dr. Egbuonu, urged governments to avail themselves of the services of these highly specialized doctors at various stages of health planning and execution for better services to the people.

Briefing the commissioner on the various activities of the college, she revealed that the major functions of the college which currently has six facilities include; training and certification of physicians in the different specialties, accreditation of suitable institutions in member countries for training of specialists, adding that the Annual General Assembly and Scientific Meeting was one of the unique traditions of the college.

Responding, Dr. Idris who had just been reappointed Commissioner for Health of Lagos State expressed sadness that the health sector in Nigeria was not where it should be.

According to him, the issue of quality and care has remained a major bane of the sector, lamenting that the whole of Lagos state has only 16 paediatricians even when it was obvious that childcare is of very great essence.

He called on the college to make its presence felt in the society by partnering with governments to address the daunting challenges beclouding the sector, which according him was necessary to help achieve the Millennium Development Goals, adding that the Lagos state government was ready to partner with the private sector and other relevant agencies as the government cannot do it all alone.


Ekiti communities’ free health services

By Sulaiman Salawudeen

Inhabitants of Ekiti North Senatorial District Ekiti State, recently had cause to rejoice when the second phase of state government’s Free Health Mission visited ten communities in the area in ten days, bringing relief to many who suffered from one form of ailment or the other. Sulaiman Salawudeen reports on the activities of the Mission.

It may not be wrong to state that among the items on Governor Kayode Fayemi’s 8-Point (Ekiti Development) Agenda, none has received generous and consistent attention as the health component which comes fifth on the Agenda and which has gulped a sizeable amount of the state’s resources.

It is to be recalled that Dr. Kayode Fayemi, as the governorship candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), introduced the Free Health Mission which visited localities and communities in the state to offer free health to the teeming locals. Given the scale of success of the programme at the time, Dr. Fayemi promised to continue with the mission after assuming office.

He has done just this. Now, as part of the 8-Point Agenda of his administration, health care services continue to attract primal attention in state government’s efforts to ensure stronger and healthier population with continuous and sustained free medical services for children, pregnant women, the physically challenged, the poor and senior citizens above 65 years. Also, there was increased immunisation for children of all ages and resuscitation of health centres in all localities.

Recently, state government’s periodic Free Health Mission in conjunction with the Development Support Initiative (DSI), a non-government organisation, visited ten communities in Ekiti North Senatorial District.

The Mission offers Primary Health care, which include free diagnosis and treament to people with common ailments like malaria, typhoid, cough, measles, and so on. While identified special cases requiring more specific professional treatment were referred to secondary health care centres. All of these are for people living at the grassroot communities.

It equally gave opportunities for propagation of public health enlightenment to the communities in reducing infant, child and maternal mortality as well as incidences of lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, among others.

The Health Mission further revived the long-neglected community health centres as they were made to serve as venues for the Health Mission exercise and an avenue to positively, if more meaningfully, engage local health workers.

It is to be recalled that the first phase of the administration’s Free Health Mission was taken to communities across the three senatorial districts of Ekiti North, Ekiti Central and Ekiti South between 3rd and 20th January, benefitting a total of 123,427 people, while 5,500 pairs of glasses were distributed to various categories of patients with visual impairments.

A surprising discovery, particularly in respect of those with eye problems was that about 90 per cent of them had never undergone any eye examination prior to the time of government’s intervention through the Mission.

To ensure effectiveness of the scheme and allow more people in the grassroots have access to the benefits of the Mission, especially as a fallout of and based on the experience of the initial Missions, its execution on senatorial basis started late June with Ekiti North Senatorial District being the first among the three in the state to benefit from a repackaged senatorial district- based scheme.

Virtually all the 16 local government areas in the state were touched during the first phase of the Mission. It was discovered that more of the people in the hinterland needed assistance in the area of health.

There are five local government areas in Ekiti North including Ido/Osi, Ikole, Ilejemeje, Moba and Oye, with ten communities selected as treatment points for the people.

Between June 20 and June 30, the Free Health Mission was in the selected towns in the five local governments to accommodate surging crowd of needy rural inhabitants who streamed into designated towns in Ikole-Ekiti, Ayedun-Ekiti, Isan-Ekiti, Oye-Ekiti, Ilupeju-Ekiti, Ayetoro-Ekiti, Ifaki-Ekiti, Iye-Ekiti, Otun-Ekiti and Igogo-Ekiti.

Drugs, facilities and personnel were generously deployed into care of patients who took seats and waited patiently to be attended to while the DSI medical team led by Dr. Dolapo Fasawe, adopted an arrangement which gave all that came for treatment equal opportunity while assuring effectiveness.

The health challenges that received the attention of the medical personnel include common ailments like malaria, typhoid, dysentery, constipation and others, while special cases like hypertension, diabetes, eye and dental problems, antenatal care, HIV counselling were a few that received on-the-spot attention and consequent referral.

Most of the beneficiaries in the rural communities where the scheme was taken to saw the Free Health Mission as unprecedented and a signal that the government in Ado-Ekiti cares for those hitherto forgotten in far-flung communities.

Among those who benefited were the Olusin of Usin-Ekiti in Ikole Local Government Area of the state, Oba Oluyemi Adedeji, who was among the eye patients that received free eyeglasses at Odo-Ayedun.

Also, 70-year-old Mrs. Rachel Falope who was treated by doctors at Ikole said bringing quality doctors and drugs to the local communities had never in whatever manner or form happened in the history of the state. To Mrs. Victoria Adeleye, another 70-year-old woman from Ijesa-Isu who suffered general body pain, expressed surprise that she was treated and given drugs without any money collected from her and other patients.

The Iye-Ekiti outing was lit up by the presence of the wife of the governor, Mrs. Bisi Fayemi, who reiterated the commitment of the state government to health care delivery in the state.

The governor’s wife who was on hand used the opportunity to address women on the importance of family planning and reduction of maternal mortality rate in Nigeria which is the second highest rate in the whole world.

The state governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who flagged off the second phase of the Free Health Mission in Odo-Ayedun unfolded the intent of his administration to commence free treatment of some segment of the state population very soon.
Other patients like Mr. Clement Amadi, a beneficiary in Iye-Ekiti, who received drugs, and his wife, Mrs. Janet Amadi, an eye patient described the Free Health Mission as a channel through which the grassroots are feeling the impact of the state government, urging state government to ensure that the scheme is sustained as, according to them, many people in rural communities lack the resources to procure drugs for ailments like hypertension and diabetes.

“I have seen the doctor and I have been given eyeglasses and no money was collected from me and other people who were treated. We are grateful to the governor for his efforts in the health sector and our prayer is that may God continue to help him”, Mrs Amadi said.

The Iye-Ekiti outing was lit up by the presence of the wife of the governor, Mrs. Bisi Fayemi, who reiterated the commitment of the state government to health care delivery in the state.

The governor’s wife who was on hand used the opportunity to address women on the importance of family planning and reduction of maternal mortality rate in Nigeria which is the second highest rate in the whole world.

The state governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, who flagged off the second phase of the Free Health Mission in Odo-Ayedun unfolded the intent of his administration to commence free treatment of some segment of the state population very soon.

Those to benefit from the new health initiative are children from age zero to six, people aged 65 years and over, pregnant women and the physically challenged.

Describing health care as very crucial in the implementation of his administration’s eight-point, Fayemi said all the health policies being implemented by his government are intended to benefit all the citizens of the state irrespective of affiliations, politics, religion, tribe.

“Although I belong to the ACN and I am a Catholic by faith, this scheme is meant for all people in the state not minding the party or the faith you belong to because our government is a government for all

the people of the state”, Fayemi said.

Reviewing the second phase of the Free Health Mission, the Commissioner for Health, Dr. ‘Wole Olugboji, described the second phase of the scheme held in Ekiti North Senatorial District as a huge success. and the state Government remains even more committed to carry the Mission further into more communities in the next phase of the programme.

Given the place and ranking of health in the life of man, there is no doubting the success of the coming Free Health Missions in the state, particularly considered against its largely agrarian set-up and the reach of poverty in the populace. There cannot also be doubting the seriousness of govenment in the area of improving the health of the populace given the fact that so far, the programme has gulped about N180, million according to the state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Olugboji.

The Health Missions have remained a beacon of hope to many who have suffered some critical ailments ages and were possibly bidding time to pack-up. It reached the commonly unreached people in the local communities and gave them the care free of charge.

However, it is contended that while the programme offers immediate palliatives for the people located both in the rural areas and the urban centres, it will equally be good to channel some of the resources into providing more enduring structures in the communities to sustain consistency of care to the people.

It is reasoned that it may be possible to meet immediate care needs and vacate the scenes, but some of the patients would require follow up attention that might be difficult for them to access being tucked in the hinterland.

Despite, the State Government has done well by taking free health to the teeming inhabitants of the indigenes, particularly those in the rural areas, who have suffered one form of illness or another for a long time without immediate succor as they lack the financial muscle and were distant from city centres.


Protecting Pregnant Women - the 'Health Rangers' of Ifedore

press release

Washington — Justinah Chukwudi is from Idule village in the rural Ifedore area of Nigeria's southwestern Ondo State. She is married to Godwin, a trader from the southeast. The couple was expecting their fourth baby last year, and had registered with Ifedore's recently overhauled maternal and child health program.

A government 'Health Ranger' visited their home to check on Justinah. Finding she had very swollen ankles and other signs of a complicated pregnancy, the 'Health Ranger' asked Justinah to get a scan done quickly.

At the hospital, Justinah was surprised to find that she was carrying three babies, not one. When her time came to deliver, she was taken in an ambulance to Akure hospital, where her triplets were delivered by C-section by a qualified doctor. She recovered well and was able to return home with her babies.

This is a story with a happy ending, but if the difficult pregnancy had gone undetected and arrangements had not been made for medical care during the delivery, Justinah might not be alive now to tell it.

"If not for my 'Health Ranger' and the doctor, I would have died," said Justinah, who is also grateful to the Governor of Ondo state for the health care she received thanks to the work of these government-funded healthcare providers. "They saved my life and (that) of my children."

Abiye: A new model of care

When Dr. Olusegun Mimiko, Ondo State Governor, was told by the World Bank that women in Ondo were dying of pregnancy-related causes in higher numbers than in nearby states, he was appalled, because lush, oil-rich Ondo also produces more professors per capita than any other Nigerian state.

He swung into vigorous action to keep mothers and babies alive through the Abiye (Safe Motherhood) program, and in 15 months, has demonstrated a locally designed model of care that can potentially save millions of lives across Nigeria.

The program, piloted in Ifedore in late 2009 with World Bank support, aims to get past the obstacles that prevent expectant mothers from low-income families from seeking help during pregnancy.

To begin with, the government conducted a mass registration of pregnant women like Justinah, sensitizing communities about the importance of staying healthy during pregnancy, but also raising awareness among them about the services available to them.

Then, fifty trained 'Health Rangers' were each assigned 25 pregnant women, whom they visited in their homes, giving advice and tips on nutrition and checking for possible complications.

Flesh and blood, not statistics

"The pregnant women of Ifedore have become real human beings to us," said Dr. Mimiko, speaking at the World Bank in June 2011, "They are flesh and blood now, not just statistics."

Registered women were given cell phones with toll-free access to 'Health Rangers', health facilities, or even the Governor himself, who has received many a call from a woman surrounded by an excited household.

With all this attention from the government, their cause is much more visible in their communities.

Once in a health facility or at the hospital, women are seen by trained, incentivized, and well-equipped nurses or midwives, or by doctors who can conduct C-sections. Patients are discharged quickly, reducing wait times for others. And-another hurdle cleared-they do not have to pay.

Homegrown and cost-efficient: A challenge to other states

Women have been traveling to Ifedore even from the distant North as news of Abiye has spread.

"When registration of pregnant women goes up seven-fold, and skilled attendance of births rises fifteen-fold in as many months, I call these 'results' in a country that has a tenth of global maternal and child mortality," said Obiageli Ezekwesili, World Bank Vice-President for Africa, herself a former Nigerian cabinet minister.

"What Ondo State has done is to pose a challenge to the other states of Nigeria."

World Bank Country Director for Nigeria, Onno Ruhl, applauds Abiye's sustainability.

"The Mother and Child referral Hospital might look like Grey's Anatomy when you walk in," he said, "But this is not a boutique hospital; the model is homegrown and very cost-efficient."

The cost of care per patient (whatever the mode of delivery) is a mere $40, excluding staff salaries. And the referral hospital is more efficient than many other public hospitals. It has only eight doctors, but has done nearly 4,000 deliveries in one year.

"All we need to scale Abiye up from Ifedore to all 18 local government areas in Ondo State is $7.1 million," Dr. Mimiko said.

The program must evolve to further reduce maternal deaths and to save costs by measures such as distributing SIM cards rather than phones, which women tend to want to keep.

And it may need to attract more doctors like the private-sector chief medical officer from Lagos who moved to work for much less in the Akure hospital, and has set up its medical protocols.

According to Dr. Mimiko he came because "Abiye could give him something that money can't buy."


'Corruption Threatens Health-Related MDG'

Serious challenges face Nigeria's efforts to achieve its Millennium Development Goals in health through multi-sector collaboration under the aegis of West African Health Organisation, health minister Christian Chukwu has said.

Speaking at events marking 24th WAHO Day in Abuja, Chukwu said achieving MDGs suffered from "lack of effective mechanisms for integrating multisectoral actions at all tiers of government on health, lack of monitoring and evaluation of actions aimed at achieving the MDGs."

Chukwu, represented by health permanent secretary Linus Awute, also said implementation of MDGs has been characterised by "deeply entrenched corruption, gross inefficiency and wastefulness" as well as unhealthy competition leading to duplication of effort.

Along with the health ministry, at least others make up the intersector collaboration team whose work will impact goals to reduce infant mortality, improve maternal healthcare and combat HIV/AIDS. They include the ministries of education, power, water resources, works, environment as well as information and communication.

According to the health minister, collaboration with agriculture ministry helped reduce the proportion of underweight children from 35.7% in 1990 to 23.1%, while collaboration with water and environment ministries helped cut deaths in children under age five from 201 deaths per 100,000 in 2003 to 157 per 100,000.

Former health minister Eyitayo Lambo, who spoke at the event, said a multisector effort involving all sectors of society, all levels of government, business and civil society organisations and communities was indispensable.

He said even though Nigeria was on the right track to attaining MDGs by 2015, the country was still far off.


Film ‘The Edge of Joy’ reveals urgency of maternal mortality in Nigeria

by Worldview

We live in a day and age where very few women should die in childbirth. In spite of spending more on health care than any other country, some 40 countries usually do better than the U.S. on maternal mortality rankings. One oil-rich African nation does a lot worse: Nigeria. They have the second worst rate in the world.

The new documentary film The Edge of Joy looks at maternal mortality in Nigeria and how, every day, its medical workers race against time with little technology to save women. We talk about the film with Chicago-based filmmaker Dawn Sinclair Shapiro.

Facets Multimedia will screen The Edge of Joy Monday, July 25, at 7PM.


Maternal Newborn Child Health: Toyin Saraki Musters Private Sector Support

Founder of The WellBeing Foundation, Her Excellency, Mrs Toyin Saraki has called for the commitment of the Organised Private Sector in Nigeria for the improvement of the conditions of women and children in Nigeria

Speaking at the formal presentation of the United Nation’s Every Woman, Every Child Initiative in Nigeria at a breakfast meeting with partners and stakeholders in Lagos on Monday, Mrs Saraki, who has been appointed by the United Nations Foundation to lead the Initiative in Nigeria and Africa noted that private and public sector-partnerships remains the only option to produce a Nigerian-led, Nigerian-managed, Africa-focused, Africa-impact, Private sector-driven grant fund and impact investment profile to deliver on the Millennium Development Goals to our citizenry.

Mrs Saraki described the Every Woman Every Child Initiative as the bridge between private and public sectors efforts at fulfilling the United Nations aspirations for women and children of the world. According to her: “The private sector must revise its role in the development of the country, applying the already established foundations of information, efficiency and timeliness. It is only with your support that we can make this happen, and develop the vision into something larger than ourselves”.

She pointed out that she gladly agreed to champion this call to action for Every Woman, Every Child after her meeting with the UN Secretary General, Mr Ban ki-moon during his recent visit to Nigeria where he spoke passionately about the UN’s Global Strategy for Women’S and Children’s Health and his own personal target and goals.
Mrs Saraki said that having worked for the improved health of women and children through The Wellbeing Foundation in the decade, during which she has been privileged to raise a national alarm on the situation of women and children and the need for an integrated approach to the issues, she has identified the need for all stakeholders to come together and harness all their resources for greater impact.

She said: “we started as charity which was wholly self endowed, operating to the traditional form of making an impact- the “give as the need arises” approach. However I have seen clearly that while charitable giving is passion-driven, a well meaning and essential feature that saves lives, it is not enough to deliver lasting, sustainable change in preventing mortality from occurring in the first place and ensuring the wellbeing of our women.

“The Wellbeing Foundation is one of the very few organisations worldwide and perhaps the only one in Nigeria that takes an integrated approach to women’s and children’s health. We pursue programmes and solutions to the challenges of maternal, newborn and child health by addressing the different elements of health interventions.

“We have taken this integrated approach, with participatory development being the key factor determining success and sustainability of all our existing programmes. We have built a formidable network of individual community volunteers and partner organisations, cooperatives and community development associations, an effective army that is over 3000 people strong. We have taken this same approach in our social policy advocacy drives in working with Federal and State governments.
She thanked other partners like Friends of Africa (Africa Friends of the Global Fund), the TY Danjuma Foundation, and the Tony Elemelu Foundation for their active participation and support in moving Nigeria forward from local to global health.

Former Governor of Kwara State, Senator Bukola Saraki congratulated his wife and Founder of the Wellbeing Foundation for this initiative. He noted that with the considering the various challenges faced by government at different levels in Nigeria, the only chance for the Every Woman, Every Child initiative to succeed remained with the collaboration of the private sector and encouraged more people in the private sector to invest in women and children.
In his address, founder of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, Mr Tony Elumelu, praised Mrs Saraki and the Wellbeing Foundation for agreeing to champion the Every Woman, Every Child initiative. He charged other African entrepreneurs to support this initiative insisting that Africa needs more than aid and that Africans need to take initiatives to turn around the continent. He promised the constant support of his organisation.

Ms Thelma Ekiyor, Cheif Executive Officer and Executive Director of the TY Danjuma Foundation lauded the promotion of synergy between public and private sectors and promised the readiness of her organisation to partner others in tacking challenges of health, education and empowerment faced by Nigerians.

Yomi Owope
Director of Communications
WellBeing Foundation


Friday, July 22, 2011

Nigeria, UK sign agreement on trade, security

By Elizabeth Archibong

Anyone in doubt why Africa matters to Britain should take a look at Nigeria, British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has said.

The Prime Minister, who spoke at a press briefing at the State House, Marina, Lagos, after a bilateral talk with Nigeria's President, Goodluck Jonathan, also pledged the support of the British government in Nigeria's anti-corruption effort.

The talks involved key ministers from both sides and the business community. On the Nigerian side were the Ministers of Trade and Investments, Olusegun Aganga; Foreign Affairs, Olugbenga Ashiru; Communications Technology, Omobolaji Johnson; Information, Labaran Maku; Health, Onyebuchi Chukwu; National Planning, Shamsudeen Usman; Power, Barth Nnaji; and the National Security Adviser, Owoye Azazi. Also present were businessmen Oba Otudeko, Femi Otedola, and Wale Babalakin.

Mr Cameron described Nigeria as a country with massive potentials and huge challenges that has to be tackled.

"Anyone in doubt why Africa matters to Britain should just look at Nigeria. A country with massive potentials growing by 8 per cent a year and said to be the largest in Africa. The economy of Lagos alone is the size of 32 African countries added together. A country with security issues, terrorism, crime, illegal immigration. And a country which includes a tenth of the world children out of school, a tenth of women dying in child birth, Nigeria presents a development challenge that must be met if we are ever to meet the Millennium Development Goals," Mr Cameron said.

He said the talks held with Mr Jonathan was to open a new era between the two countries, adding that trade between both countries, security, and the millennium development goals, were discussed during the talks.

"We now open a new era between Britain and Nigeria, and it is very good to make such progress today," he said.

"First on trade, we agreed to double trade between our two countries by 2014 to £8 billion. We agreed to double Nigeria's power supply by 2015 to address one of the biggest obstacles to Nigeria's growth. I welcome the President's leadership role to liberalise trade in West Africa. On my part, I agreed we will support this ultimate goal of free trade," Mr Cameron further said.

Speaking on the security threat to the state, he said both countries have agreed on "a significant new partnership on counter-terrorism".

"I am very pleased that the Nigeria Parliament has reintroduced a law on the exchange of foreign national prisoners. The 650 Nigerians in British jails have cost many pounds a year and I agreed on President Jonathan's efforts to resolve this problem and I am very grateful for your help," he said.

He also said the British government will support Nigeria to get 800,000 children into schools, including 600,000 girls, and four million women and children access to good health care to stop the current maternal mortality.

Partnership against crime

Mr Jonathan, also speaking at the press briefing, said both countries would now join hands to fight terrorism and the theft of Nigeria's crude oil.

"We are going to work together to make sure that this terrorist attacks we are having and other related issues are dealt with," he said.

"A number of areas that we have discussed that the government of the United Kingdom will be quite helpful to us is even in stealing of our crude oil. Those of us who are Nigerians know that the greatest problem we have in the Niger Delta is not just youth agitating for better things for their communities. But those who steal crude oil, though they described it as bunkering, make the area ungovernable. They use money from those illicit business, just like the drug cartel all over the world, to buy arms and ammunitions and give it to non-state actors to protect that illegal trade. These are the areas we discussed," he said.

Mr Jonathan said the British government has a programme for a specialised resource work with the NNPC to finger print the Nigerian crude so that wherever it is sold, government will be able to link up to those refineries that are refining.


Nigeria: Alarming Rate of Maternal Mortality Among Local Women

NIGERIA as a nation is blessed with both human and natural resources, yet women die everyday from the scourge of maternal mortality.

Nigeria has the second highest rate of maternal death in the world: One in every eight women die while giving birth. Most of these deaths are avoidable as compared to the United States of America where only one in 4,800 obtains.

However, one of the millennium development goals is to improve maternal health care. This was adopted by the international community at the United Nations Millennium Summit im 2000 with the aim of achieving 75 per cent drop from the level of maternal mortality in the year 2015.

But come to think of it, would this really be possible in this country where women die from a wide range of complications in pregnancy, child birth or postpartum period which in most cases are caused by poor health at conception and lack of adequate care needed for the healthy outcome of the pregnancy for themselves and their babies.

Nigeria is still battling to achieve regular power supply in the 21st century, a time where virtually every activity of man has gone digital and most hospitals are not excluded from this reign of darkness. Some women are operated upon using candles or kerosene lamps in the theatre.

Pregnancy which ordinarily should be a thing of joy is now seen as a death warrant for most women due to the weak and poor primary health care system and less qualified staff in most rural communities. In the urban areas where some good health services are available they are too expensive or reaching them is too costly.

Every year, more than 133 million babies are born, 90 per cent in low and middle income countries. When their mother die, the chance of their survival is slim. Lack of maternal care is a major cause of babies death and disability among infants.

Every year, three million babies are stillborn. Almost one quarter of these babies die during birth. The causes of these deaths are similar to the cause of maternal death: obstructed or prolonged labour, eclampsia and infection such as syphilis.

Poor maternal health and disease that have not been adequately treated before or during pregnancy contribute to intrapartum death as well as to many babies born preterm and with low birth weight. Among the 133 million babies who are born alive each year, 2.8 million die in the first week of life and slightly less than one million in the following three weeks.

Therefore, for Nigeria to achieve an accelerated success in improving maternal health, quality health system and barriers to access health services must be identified and tackled at all levels, even down to the grassroots. Proper education should be adequately given to pregnant women on how to take care of themselves during pregnancy.

Adequate enlightenment campaign should be carried out in the rural areas using the local chiefs and clergies in collaboration with the local media on the importance of ante-natal care during pregnancy just the way the campaign against polio is being done. During ante-natal care, women are examined for possible complications and also drugs are administered to cater for the health of the mother as well as the foetus in her womb.

In the Northern part of the country, VVF is very common mostly due to lack of the care needed during pregnancy. And when this occurs their system becomes damaged; carrying out their daily activities becomes difficult. Worst of all is that most husbands leave their wives to suffer the pain alone without providing the care they need.

Most maternal deaths are avoidable, as the health care solutions to prevent or manage the complications are well known. Since complications are not predictable, all women need care from skilled health professionals, especially at birth, when rapid treatment can make a difference between life and death.

The Nigerian government should try and put smiles on the faces of women, especially the rural dwellers by putting different measures in place to cater for their health. Money should not be a deterrence in procuring a good health in Nigeria.

Ms. HAWWA MUHAMMAD, a student , wrote from Bayero University, Kano.


Boosting maternal, child healthcare via midwives’ retention

Submitted by peterakpochafo

One of the challenges being faced by the health sector in Nigeria is the high rate of maternal and infant mortality. IJEOMA POPOOLA writes that, the roles of midwives are critical to the solution on the issue.

The significant reduction of child mortality and the boosting of maternal health by as much as 75 per cent, are some key objectives of the Millennium Developments Goals, MDGs, conceived by the UN in 2000.
Nigeria, like many other nations of the world embraced the MDGs with zeal, since it sought to address some fundamental problems in the nation’s life. However, the degree of success so far attained in the implementation of the programme, remains a matter for debate, especially as it approaches a wind down in 2015.

Nonetheless, analysts believe that efforts need to be maximised locally, so as to reap bountifully from aspects of the initiative, which is central to the health of the citizen.
At various fora, the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, UNFPA, had prompted health authorities in Nigeria to prioritise the recruitment and retention of midwives, as a strategy to achieving the goal of improved child and maternal health.

Such promptings were predicated on the belief that shortage of midwives was a major challenge to efficient Maternal, Newborn and Child Healthcare, MNCH, delivery in Nigeria.
Only recently, when the International Day of Midwives was marked at the Sheraton Hotel, Lagos, UNFPA’s programme adviser (Reproductive Health and Rights Unit), Dr Salma Anas-Kolo, commended Nigeria’s Midwives Service Scheme, MSS, which was flagged off in October 2009 by the then First Lady, Mrs Turai Yar A’Adua.

He pleaded with the federal government to strive to improve MNCH’s delivery. The MSS is a collaborative programme involving all three tiers of government, which is aimed at ensuring effective maternal and child healthcare delivery.

Under the scheme, the government engages retired midwives and others on contract basis, to complement the services those still in the public service. The overall aim is to make available more midwives, in order to reduce maternal and child deaths associated with non-accessibility to skilled birth attendants.
Anas-Kolo assured that the UNFPA, along with 20 of its partners, will scale up their joint investment in midwives programme in the country this year.

Mr Tonte Ibraye, National Co-coordinator of the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood, a non-governmental organisation, underscored the necessity for the nation to show good commitment to the health objectives of the MDGs.

According to Ibraye, the federal government should develop and implement national MNCH plans to strengthen health workforce and improve routine data collection on it.“These plans should set goals for education and training, legislation and regulation, recruitment and retention of midwives and other health workers,’’ he said.

He called for the removal of all forms of barriers to healthcare delivery for women and children, including hospital fees.
On her part, Mrs Margaret Akinsola, Deputy President, Nurses and Midwives Association of Nigeria, described maternal and child health in Nigeria as “tragic”, while urging that employment of midwives at the grassroots should be intensified.

Akinsola described the MSS as a major intervention in MNCH delivery but noted that there were still some gaps to be filled.
Many health analysts variously canvassed the view that a midwife, at least, should be accessible to 175 pregnant women and that such midwives should be well trained, equipped and adequately remunerated to ensure efficiency.

Sharing his perspective on maternal and child health, Dr Ada Erinne, a WHO official for Child and Adolescent Health, said that there was inequity in the distribution of midwives in many countries of the world, especially developing countries.

Erinne assured that WHO would continue to provide technical support for midwives’ capacity building in Nigeria, as part of its commitment to promoting sustainable healthcare.
Dr Olayinka Oladimeji, the south-west Zonal Coordinator, National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), hailed the MSS, noting that it had ensured a significant reduction in maternal, child mortality and morbidity.

Oladimeji disclosed that an estimated 4,000 midwives had been recruited since 2009, to serve in 1,000 primary healthcare centres and 250 general hospitals nationwide under the MSS.
He expatiated that under the MSS, four primary health centres were attached to a general hospital, which served as a referral facility for maternal and child health cases.

Oladimeji bemoaned that the North-East and North-West geopolitical zones of country were worst hit by maternal and child mortality but that measures were being taken to redress the situation.
He, however, tasked state and local governments to ensure that they fulfilled the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding on MSS, which they had signed.

Oladimeji said that as part of efforts to expand the scheme’s scope, the federal government would train 10,000 community workers outside the MSS, to cope with emerging challenges.
He described as very worrisome, the finding from a nationwide survey of 652 health facilities, that skilled birth attendants were acutely lacking, resulting in deliveries being carried out by community health workers.
A journalist, Mr Umunna Isiulo, expressed worry at the survey report, insisting that the use of community health workers as birth attendants was unacceptable.

“Only midwives and doctors are legally qualified to attend to births. Let us not create more harm by involving non-midwives,’’ he urged.
Dr Garba Safiyanu, an official with the Partnership for Transforming Health System (Phase Two), also bemoaned the inadequacy of midwives in the country.

He described the situation in Jigawa as particularly pathetic as it had now assumed a “crisis” proportion. He asked the Federal Government to do something urgent about the situation.
He said that outside the MSS, only 21 trained midwives and 70 doctors were working in public hospitals in Jigawa State.

“When I was in the medical school about 20 years ago, the country was said to be having a bad maternal and child mortality indices. Why should we still be having the same record 20 years after,’’ he asked rhetorically.
Dr Femi Olugbile, the Permanent Secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Health, also expressed worries that in spite of interventions, the situation of maternal and child health in the country was not cherry.

He said that the most recent national assessment conducted by the National Demographic Health Survey put maternal mortality rate at 545 per 100,000 live births in the country. This, he said, was unacceptable; hence all stakeholders must poll resources to redress the trend through adequate preventive measures and care, as well as availability of trained and well equipped midwives.
Many analysts agree with such viewpoint, which could significantly raise the health circumstances of the people for the better. (NAN)


Africa: World Bank Seeks Adoption of Ondo State's Abiye Project

THE World Bank is seeking to adopt Ondo State's Safe Motherhood Programme tagged the "Abiye Initiative" as a model for achieving the targets of the Millennium Development Goals on maternal health within the African continent.

Abiye, brainchild of the Governor Olusegun Mimiko administration recieved accolades from the global health body recently in Washington DC, in the United States of America aftera presentation of a comprehensive report on the project.

For the health of mother and child: Ondo State's Abiye Programme, has MDG Goal 5 in its sights.

World Bank African Region Vice President, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili remarked that "Ondo State had provided a role model and benchmark for the African continent in tackling infant and maternal mortality rate" even as the World Bank recommended the Abiye Programme be adopted as a model for achieving MDG-5 throughout Africa.

Goal 5 of the MDGs adopted in 1990 by Nigeria and all member bodies of the United nations, sets two targets - one, to "reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio", and two, to "achieve, by 2015, universal access to reproductive health".

Nigeria currently accounts for more than 10 percent of the world's maternal and infant deaths, but through the Abiye Programme, Ondo State is recording significant progress in maternal and infant health.

Urging other States of the Federation to adopt the Abiye strategy and the Federal government in particular to replicate same throughout Nigeria as "a sure and fast means of combating infant and maternal mortality challenge," the global body admonished other African countries to learn from the experience even as it expressed commitment towards providing assistance to helping expand the initiatives in tackling global infant and maternal mortality.

In his presentation, Mimiko stressed the uniqueness of the Abiye Programme's tripartite structure involving pregnant mothers and young children up to age 5; health centres or clinics near them and the Mother and Child Hospital (MCH) initiatives, all linked via the Health Rangers, communication tools, and various types of transportation. There is also a high degree of professionalism and comprehensiveness in project design and execution.

In a an overview, Prof Niyi Akinnaso, a lecturer of Anthropology and Linguistics at Temple University, Philadelphia, USA, the Abiye programme was summed up as essentially focusing on four major factors which predispose pregnant mothers and infants to death.

"These include the three delays (in seeking care when complications arise, reaching care when decisions are taken to seek care, accessing care on arrival at a healthcare facility; and in referring care from where it is initiated to where it can be completed."

According to Akinniyi, the Abiye Programme was designed to combat these factors, with specific strategies developed to ameliorate or even block particular delays, through establishment of Health Rangers, specially trained community health extension workers, equipped to take care of pregnant mothers and infants up to age 5.

"As of June 12, 2011, barely 15 months into its operation, 26,150 patients had been treated and 5,879 babies had been safely delivered, 905 by Caesarian Sections.

A comparison of maternal mortality rates with major medical facilities in four different states indicated that the Abiye Programme had the lowest maternal mortality ratio during its first year of operation."


Amaechi to partner Gates on health investment

By Daniel Abia Snr Correspondent, Port Harcourt

Rivers State Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, is to meet with the computer expert, Bill Gates in September, 2011 to discuss possibilities of investment in the health sector in the state.

Leader of the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), Violaine Mitchell, gave the hint during a courtesy visit to the governor at Government House, Port Harcourt.

Mitchell, who briefed Governor Amaechi on the mission of the Global Alliance to the state, said the President of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mr. Bill Gate was waiting to hold talks with the Rivers State governor on strategic issues in the health and development sector.

She lauded the Rivers State government for its interest in the education and health sectors as they remain paramount indices in assessing development in any society.

Mitchell explained that eradication of polio in Nigeria rests in the hands of governors and what happens in the country also determines the issues in the world, adding that the key to polio eradication is sustaining immunization programme.

Responding, Governor Rotimi Amaechi said the governors in Nigeria have agreed to take a date for all of them to lead their people out on polio immunization campaign that would take place simultaneously throughout the country.

According to the governor, “our target is that by the end of this year, we should have some positive result on the elimination of polio in Nigeria,” assuring that he still looks forward to meeting with Bill Gates in September, 2011.

“The state government wants to build a biolavicide manufacturing company valued at $22 million and we would be glad if the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation can invest in this project,” he said.

The governor said the state government is building a total of 160 health centres, out of which 100 of them are functional while the remaining 60 would be completed soon.

Amaechi also disclosed the state government employed 200 doctors and posted them to the various health centres to enable them attend to patients in all parts of the state as part of moves to reduce child maternal mortality rate.

He explained that except Degema Local Government Area, all the other councils have between five and seven health centres while Port Harcourt and Obio/Akpor have more because of the dense population.

The governor said the state government is spraying biolavicides to eradicate the spread of mosquitoes and reduce malaria related sicknesses in the state.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Every woman, Every Child

Report and Picture Story brought to you by: Akinboye Tolulope

UN Foundation launches the global Every Woman Every Child initiative in Nigeria with Toyin Saraki's Wellbeing Foundation.
On Monday 18th July, the UN Foundation in conjunction with the Wellbeing Foundation hosted the launch of the Every woman, Every Child private sector initiative in Nigeria.
The event aimed at the private sector was scheduled for 11:00am but finally kicked off by 11:30am at the Southern Sun Ikoyi Hotel in Lagos and hosted by the Former First Lady of Kwara State Toyin Saraki and supported by The Tony Elumelu Foundation.
The global Every Woman Every Child initiative, invited private sector leaders in Nigeria to develop a unique private sector strategy to help Africa achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5.
These Goals address child mortality and maternal health and are recognized by the global community as targets that are not on track to meet the 20155 deadline.
Private sector attendees had the opportunity to speak directly with the UN Foundation representative (Mr. Stephen sobhani) about opportunities for direct engagement in this unique global effort for women’s and children’s health.
Journalists and broadcasters were also invited to this wonderful occasion.
Luckily, I was there to capture the colourful event from start to finish.
About UN Foundation, Every Woman, Every Child
Every Woman, Every Child is a global effort bringing together governments, philanthropic institutions and other funders. The United Nations and Multilateral organizations, civil society and non-governmental organizations, the business community, healthcare workers and professionals, and academic and research institutions around the world that support the global strategy for Women and children’s health, which was launched during the United Nations Millennium Development goal’s Summit. The Global Strategy for women and children’s health provides a new opportunity to improve the health of hundreds of millions of women and children around the world and in so doing, to improve the lives of all people. For more information, visit: www.everywomaneverychild.org

Mr Stephen Sobhani Director UN Foundation with Mr Yinka Ojora MD/CEO Stronghold Support Services Ltd.