Monday, 15 December 2008

Child Development Index (CDI) ranks Nigeria amongst the worst countries worldwide in terms of child health & development

Nigeria's Index Score :
1990-1994 49.37
1995-1999 43.06
2000-2006 40.53

Sub-Saharan Africa’s Regional Index Score :
1990-1994 43.4
1995-1999 41.0
2000-2006 34.5

CDI Ranking 126th of 137 countries (in 2000-06)

Save the Children UK has introduced the first ever multi-dimensional tool to monitor and compare the well-being of children around the world. More than 135 developed and developing countries worldwide have been assessed through the following methodology:
Each country has been given a score from 0-100, resulting in its ranking. The score is compiled by adding up each country’s performance in 3 child-specific areas: child mortality, child malnutrition, and primary school enrolment. A low score and ranking are best, representing a low level of child deprivation. Niger has the worse score, at 58, ranking 137th of 137 countries in 2000-06.

Nigeria’s Child Development Index score and its ranking are shown above; they are high, indicating a high level of child deprivation. It scores worse than the most recent Sub-Saharan Africa average score of 34.5, and much worse, predictably, than the world score of 17.5 in 2000-06. Nigeria is categorised as a low income country and its score is also higher than the average low income group score of 29.2.

Nigeria’s overall improvement of 18% is slower than the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) regional rate of improvement of 20.5% over all three periods, which is well below the world average improvement of 34%. Worst still, Nigeria ’s rate of improvement has stalled drastically; from a 12.8% improvement between the first and second period to a meagre 5.8% improvement between the second and last periods. This is in reverse to the SSA performance, which accelerated after the middle period.

Until recently, Nigeria was one of the most highly indebted countries in the world. At the same time, aid was scarce when it is considered that it is Africa ’s most densely populated country with over 140 million people. While Nigeria is one of the world’s largest oil producers, the country’s oil income amounts to just 24p per person per day.Shackled by a long history of military dictatorship, instability and corruption, the country has failed to integrate the commitment and resources necessary to achieve meaningful progress.

Looking at the individual indicators that make up the Index we see that although there does not seem to be a particular indicator driving Nigeria ’s results,the greatest improvements have been made in terms of the nutrition indicator, with a 20% positive change. Their education indicator has improved by 18% overall but as of 2005, only 63.4 % of all primary school-aged children were enrolled. Most worrying is the country’s under-5 mortality rate which remained at 191 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2006. Despite such a disturbingly high rate, Nigeria ’s improvement on this indicator has only improved by 17% overall. A 23% positive change between the first and second periods lost momentum and actually regressed by 9% between the second and last periods.

It is most interesting to compare how each country ranks in CDI Index with how each ranks in the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI). Nigeria comes 117th in a ranking of all 137 countries using the HDI, but 126th in the Child Development Index. This means that there is a significant difference between child well-being and adult well-being. In this case, Nigeria performs worse in terms of the CDI then the HDI.

The comparisons of CDI Index with income ranking and HDI ranking demonstrate that child well-being can often present a very different picture from traditional measures; this is why the Child Development Index should be disseminated throughout the world and used to help hold governments accountable on child well-being.

Friday, 12 December 2008


To join forces in the fight against abysmally high maternal and infant mortality in Nigeria the PARTNERSHIP FOR MATERNAL, NEWBORN AND CHILD HEALTH has been inaugurated in April 2008. The partnership includes not only various departments of the Federal Ministry of Health (such as Family Health, Nutrition, Child Health, Publicity Department), but also involves developmental partners as WHO and UNICEF, national and international non-governmental organizations and representatives of the private sector.

The first meeting introduced a new approach to curb maternal and child morbidity and mortality: The Integrated Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Strategy (IMNCHS). This strategy aims at a multi-sectoral partnership to address Nigeria’s grave problems within the health care delivery system through involvement of all participants: Health workers, nurses, pharmacists, community leaders, politicians, media executives.

The second meeting was held to make sure that the IMNCHS is effectively implemented and the partnership presented their activities in 2008, indentified key activities for 2009 and tried to build a concensus on the way forward. It was stated by the technical working group that Nigeria is still far from making progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals 4 & 5. But they also had good news to announce: The IMNCHS Document has been fully developed and trainings for service providers, midwives and journalists have been conducted so far. Furthermore, the Midwives Service Scheme (MSS) is about to start, a program that will recruite fresh fresh graduates from midwive schools and unemployed midwives to deploy themto underserved areas. WHO presented their NYSC Doctors Initiative which trains doctors to manage Emergency Obstetric Care (OEC).

But it was stressed that the main impediment towards ensuring quality health care is the lack of human resource. Other barriers are inadequate state data for monitoring progress, inequitable distribution of health workers, poor referral system, poor routine immunization, low level of health literacy and poverty as a cross-cutting issue, especially in terms of user fees.

The advocacy working group presented the engagement of Nigeria’s first ladies (First ladies MNC Initiative), formation of partnership with private sector organizations such as banks and development of advocacy materials. High level advocacy visits have been conducted by members of the advocacy committee and two TV appearances dealt with the PARTNERSHIP FOR MNCH so far.

But it was stressed that more public attention must be drawn to the poor health of mothers and children in the country. As Prof. Ladipo, Chairman of the advocacy and resource mobilization working group put it: “It is essential to improve the health literacy of our population and saturate the public with health information. We need weekly stories on maternal and infant mortality!”

Allocation of appropriate funds proved as a major obstacle, too. In these respect it was decided to shift more focus on advocacy visits to ministries, state governers, and media owners in 2009. In addition to that a database of all present and potential partners is to be developed, and information on activities and events of partners are to be communicated timely and amongst all partners to reach broad participation and mutual attention. Scale up of media trainings on IMNCHS was approved by all partners, and short & easy-to-remember slogans on Safe Motherhood are to be developed and aired frequently, following the example of HIV/AIDS messages.

After hours of fruitful discussions, a communiqué was approved and finally presented to the Permanent Secretary of Health Division, Dr. Abdullahi Salami. Looking at achievements and challenges, informing on possible solutions to the latter and pleading for support in their implementation, the communiqué stressed the importance of the involvement of local governments and interventions at community level. Dr. Salami expressed gratitude on behalf of the ministry for the meeting, which has suceeded in bringing together ideas and strategies of various players and was an important step in forming an effective synergy of actors trying to achieve the MDG’s. He closed the meeting with an appeal stressing the responsibility of everybody:

“Change begins with you and me. It is a shame where Nigeria stands today in terms of maternal and child health, looking at all her natural and human resources.”

*Sofia Krauss

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Nigeria- Off track in reaching MDG 4 & 5

The United Nations national economist, Dr Ayodele Odusola, recently at the United Nations information center, said that Nigeria is one of the countries worse affected by maternal and infant mortality and morbidity. By definition, an infant is child below the age of one year.

He affirmed that Nigeria is yet to make appreciable progress towards achieving the Millennium Goals 4 and 5. Odusola stated that contrary to the Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) of 91 out of 1000 live births recorded in 1990,the reference year for the MDGs, statistics has shown that the value worsened to 110 per 1000 live births in 2005. If the target for the IMR reduction were to be reached by 2015, the country would need to reduce the rate to less than 28 per 1000. It seems unlikely that this target would be achieved, which may further compound the problems relating to the reduction of under-five mortality.

Dr. Odusola stated that under-five mortality rate is another problem that calls for urgent intervention. According to the national average, one out of five children dies before it reaches the age of five. In rural areas it is even higher, with under-five mortality rates up to 25%.
This difference is attributed to neonatal rates, the probability of dying within the first month of life, which is higher in rural areas. This is due to unequal access to health facilities since urban residents are expected to have better access than rural residents.

The major challenges facing the country in its efforts to reduce child mortality include

Poverty, which manifests itself in various ways, including the fact that poor families can not afford appropriate treatment and medical supply at health facilities, especially when it involves referral cases requiring movement from one particular location to the other.

Poor access to health facilities, more pronounced in the rural areas as a result of insufficient health personnel, lack of adequate health care services and distance to the primary health care centers.

The problem of HIV/AIDS posing a threat to under five mortality as many women of childbearing age have the probability of transmitting HIV to their newborn babies. Furthermore, children who become orphans in their early years are at high risk of not reaching their fifth year, even if they are not HIV positive themselves.

He lamented the decline in the proportion of children immunized against measles saying the proportion slows down from 46% in 1990 to 31.4% in 2003 and then rose to 50% in 2004.

According to him, the available data on maternal mortality shows that the rate of deaths among mothers in pregnancy and childbirth remains at abysmally high level with 800 deaths out of 100, 000 live births in 2004 compared to the global target of less than 75.

“The proportion of births attended by trained health personnel worsened from 45% in 1990 to 36.3% in 2003 but improved to 44% in 2005 as against a target of not less than 60% by 2015” Odusola stated during his speech at the UNIC.
The number and timing of antenatal care visits can be a salient factor in preventing adverse pregnancy outcomes, but only about 47% of mothers made at least four antenatal care visits.

According to National Population Census 2000 , only about 37 % of the births were delivered in health facilities. It should be noted that lack of care is most life-threatening during childbirth and the days immediately after delivery, since these are the days when sudden complications ate most likely to arise.

Meanwhile, he urged both state and local governments to give more attention to primary health care services while also stating that Nigeria can only achieve MDG 4 and 5 if more attention is devoted to effective management of resources and improved allocation of resources.

Furtermore, he advocated for policy efforts aimed at promoting reforms in major health sectors. In addition, the National Health Insurance Scheme, Integrated Child Survival Intervention Programmes, and Expanded Programme on immunization should be fully implemented.

-Adesanmi Ayodele & Sofia Krauss

Northern-based journalists embedded in the “warfront”

Kaduna, October 2008. Statistics on maternal, infant and child mortality show the situation in the north is far worse than in the southern parts of Nigeria. The maternal mortality rate in the north east (1549 in 100.000 life births) and the north west (1025 in 100.000) is more than five times as high as in the south west (165 in 100.000) . Hence, it is ever more necessary to raise public awareness on the grim condition of maternal health, the poor situation of many health facilities and the lack of accessibility to appropriate health care across Nigeria.

After the success of the first batch of Immersion Program Fellows, which reached its goal to educate a large number of journalists about maternal, newborn and child health issues, the project has been scaled up to train a new bunch of northern journalists. The approach looks at maternal mortality as a battlefield, in the same way war-reporters are embedded in the warfront, health reporters can be trained to be health experts in order to handle the complicated issues of health knowledgeably.

And who could fulfill this challenging task better than the media?

Seventeen journalists from all over the North were invited to a two-days orientation in the historical setting of Arewa House, Kaduna, and given the opportunity to be tutored by experts on health issues thereby increasing their reporting skills to create stories that directly affect the reader. Unfortunately, two of them had to be expelled due to lack of commitment. The first day was dedicated to information gathering, whereas the second day focused on the translation of the mere information into a grasping story.

The invited presenters, amongst them Dr. Oladapo Shittu from the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology; Iyeme Efem, a health expert who spoke about Vaginal Fistulae; Augusta Akparanta-Emenogu, media specialist with ActionAID, Professor Emmanuel Otolorin from Access Project, Ms. Chinwe Onumonu from Pathfinder International and many other distinguished health professionals delivered informative presentations and never hesitated to engage themselves afterwards in discussions with the journalists. The participants had the opportunity to interview the experts and get exclusives voices for their health broadcasts.
It was pointed out, that the Millennium Development Goals 4 & 5, which focus on maternal and child health, are still out of reach and could only be advanced by huge improvements of the health sector. Participants advocated for the abolition of user fees for pregnant women and children under five; increased number of skilled birth attendants; improved access to health services especially in rural areas; implementation of a national health insurance .

It was noted that one player, be it the government or anybody else, can never reach these targets on its own. What Nigeria needs is a multi-sectoral partnership between a government which is committed to health policy, professional organizations keeping track of the spending of funds, an active civil society demanding their rights to access high-quality health care and last, but not least an investigative media environment, passing on information to every household and as a watchdog to the government of its promise

Budget tracking to ensure that funds allocated to health reach the communities is one more essential aspect of critical journalism.
The aim of this workshop was to train the journalists to live up to the desired change towards establishing a critical and investigative media environment, which can translate medical information and especially medical vocabulary into a language comprehensible to the lay audience. As Iyeme Efem put it in words, stressing the responsibility of the media :

“A responsible media person first learns about the issues, then highlights the issues and thereby generates dialogue between health providers and “consumers”, maintains the issues on the front burner and advocates for the voiceless and marginalized.”

Journalism is not only about reporting daily news, there must be a commitment to follow up with policy makers and continuously reminding them of the unsolved problems.

Only after the issue is resolved, the journalist’s job is done.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

“Broken Promises”: Accounting for high maternal mortality in Nigeria

“Broken Promises”: Accounting for high maternal mortality in Nigeria

Maternal mortality in Nigeria is second only to that of India. Every ten minutes we lose a mother in the process of giving life or childbirth-related diseases. The Nigerian government identified maternal mortality as a pressing problem and developed laws and policies in order to respond to it, but all these actions have not led to a significant improvement in maternal health throughout the country yet.
In spite of the actions taken so far, especially those in developing new policies and signing international treaties, the annual number of women dying during pregnancy, labor and shortly afterwards is shockingly high (approximately 59.000) and has shown no decrease at all. If you break that number down, it means that a woman in Nigeria has a 1-in-18 risk of dying from pregnancy-related causes during her lifetime.
To attract more attention to this unacceptable high number of needless deaths, The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and the Women Advocates Resource and Documentation Centre (WARDC) launched a new report on the condition of maternal health in Nigeria. Its main objective is targeted at unmasking the role of the government in every single maternal death and stressing its responsibility to guarantee the implementation of international health standards and human rights.
“Broken Promises-Human Rights, Accountability, and Maternal Death in Nigeria‘’ connotes that, despite the undeniable high rate of maternal mortality in the country and the promises made by the political establishment to address it, the results of the government’s initiatives are almost invisible. Blamed for that poor outcome are failures in health-care financing, leadership and governance. Some of them are obvious, for example systemic corruption which swallows huge amounts of money meant to improve health care facilities. Others are often over-looked as for example the lack of political will to address maternal mortality or the absence of gender-responsive budgeting. Furthermore, lack of implementation of laws and policies, inadequacy of counteractions, weak infrastructure, ineffective health services and lack of access to skilled health-care providers are highlighted.
The separation of responsibilities between the federal-, state- and local authorities is liable for the missing control over the cost and effectiveness of health services. As a conclusion : The government failed to fulfill its duties.
The book presents a focused analysis of the mistakes that have been made in the past and the financial and institutional barriers which prevent a better maternal health care in Nigeria. The financial aspects contain user fees in health facilities ( In Nigeria, there is evidence that maternal deaths increased by 56% and hospital deliveries fell by 46% after user fees were introduced) and lack of capacity to sustain free services, especially in terms of medication and inadequate staffing.
The infrastructural barriers concentrate on the locations of the health-care centers which are often very hard to reach for women in rural areas, long waiting periods and negative attitudes of overworked and underpaid medical staff. Some health facilities are even closed on weekends and only 18.5% of all health facilities in Nigeria meet the international standards for emergency obstetric care.
Another issue drawn up by the report is the low rate of contraceptive use in Nigeria: Only 11.6% of sexually active adults use modern contraceptive methods. The lack of availability, affordability and information discourages the average Nigerian from utilizing birth control, which manifests in a high occurrence of unplanned pregnancies. About half of these unwanted pregnancies are terminated which leads to one more crucial contributor to maternal mortality: Unsafe abortion. An estimated number of 456.000 unsafe abortions are executed every year in this country and about 34.000 women die from the consequences. The sixth periodic Report of Nigeria to the CEDAW Committee states: “Of the main causes of maternal mortality, unsafe abortion is the single most preventable cause of death”.
In the end some possible strategies to help overcoming the dire present situation are drawn up: It is essential to strengthen the framework of human rights, develop accountability mechanisms to prevent corruption, improve access to family planning services, remove financial barriers and establish a better infrastructural system if Nigeria really want to reduce the maternal mortality rate.
The report is based on field research undertaken between October 2007 and May 2008 by the Center of Reproductive Rights, as well as desk research by means of literature review of research publications (like WHO reports, journals and documentary analysis) and national demographic and health surveys. Over sixty persons were interviewed in order to get as much opinions on the condition of maternal health care as possible. All the statistics and numbers in the report are highly up to date, thus it provides greatly useful material for every journalist reporting on health care and everybody concerned with health issues in general.

--Sofia Krautz

Friday, 5 September 2008

Time to turn donors' words on aid effectiveness into action

Tortuous negotiations end with some important steps on predictability, use of country systems and aid transparency, but much remains to be done.

After tortuous negotiations at the just concluded 3rd high level forum on aid effectiveness in Africa taking place in Accra, ministers from developed and developing countries have greed on some important steps to improve aid effectiveness.

"There is a growing consensus about what we need to do to make aid more effective. The task is to do it," said Oliver Buston from ONE. "Each donor country should produce a plan to implement this agenda immediately."

For developing countries, the Accra Agenda for Action on aid effectiveness (AAA) should provide more opportunity to hold donors accountable at country level, although lack of clear delivery dates for many reforms leaves much work to be done.

Progress made in Accra includes:
• Predictability: Donors have agreed, from now, to provide regular and timely information on 3-5 year expenditure and implementation plans that developing countries can integrate in their medium term planning and macroeconomic frameworks.
• Use of Country Systems: Donors have made specific commitments to use developing countries' own systems for delivering aid. Donors have also agreed to align their monitoring of aid flows and results with country information systems to make it much easier to compare and evaluate results.
• Aid transparency: Donors have agreed to make aid more transparent, reinforced by the launch of the International Aid Transparency Initiative.

In addition to these measures, donors have acknowledged the problem of donor 'orphans' and 'darlings'. Recipient countries will also be included in existing donor review mechanisms.

In the USA, the presidential election provides an exciting window of opportunity to make the delivery of American aid as effective as possible. There is already a rich debate both inside and outside the government about this issue and ONE intends to play its part.

About ONE

ONE is a global advocacy and campaigning organization dedicated to ending extreme poverty around the globe, with a special focus on Africa. ONE is backed by 2.4 million people from all around the world.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

How Abacha family stalled bid to recover looted funds ---- Swiss envoy

Swiss Ambassador to Ghana Mr. Nicolas Lang yesterday narrated how the family of the late Head of State, General Sani Abacha, stalled moves by the Swiss government to repatriate looted funds found in some Swiss’ bank accounts to Nigeria.

The late Abacha was reputed to have filched from the public treasury about $3 billion stashed in foreign accounts.

Lang said during a media roundtable forum in Accra, which was facilitated by Media21, a global network of journalists based in Geneva, that the family of the late Abacha employed lawyers to stonewall efforts to repatriate the looted funds.

"It was a serious case because the Abacha family used the Swiss legal system. They used every single means to prevent the Swiss from repatriating the money but at the end, the state tribunal had to put its foot down. The money has been repatriated completely," he added.

Lang said the Swiss government, in collaboration with the World Bank and the Ministry of Finance in Nigeria set out modalities to determine how the recovered loot would be spent.

On the chances of foreigners using Swiss’ banks to hide looted funds, he expressed confidence that the government had put up a regulatory framework to stop illicit money from getting into its system.

Earlier, Swiss Minister of Finance,Mr. Martin Dahinde, said the government was supporting developing countries by providing counterpart funding to assist in building capacity at various levels.

Although Nigeria is not among the beneficiaries of its programme, other countries, such as Mali, Tanzania, Burkina Faso and South Africa have received over 40 percent of total grant to developing countries.

* By Ibrahim Apekhade Yusuf, Accra

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Devcoms Network, Nigeria wins prestigious ONE Africa Award 2008 for outstanding contributions towards achieving the MDGs

L-R Immersion Fellows: Alex Abutu, Yusuf Ibrahim, Akin Jimoh (Program Director,Devcoms Network Nigeria) and Onche Odeh at the Award Ceremony in Accra Ghana

The ONE Campaign is delighted to announce that Development Communications (Devcoms)Network is the winner of the 2008 ONE Africa Award.

Devcoms Network was awarded the prize of $100,000 for their work with the media in Nigeria, training and sensitizing journalists and editors to public health care issues, especially for women and children.

This is the first annual ONE Africa Award, which has been created to honour outstanding contributions by Africans towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

Reducing child and maternal mortality are the fourth and fifth Millennium Development Goals, but are the ones where least progress has been made,especially in Africa.

Devcoms’ work, sensitising and immersing reporters in public health issues has seen a 15% rise in media coverage of maternal and child health in Nigeria. They also provide media support to advocacy efforts for free maternal and child health care across the country.

“This was a very difficult decision”, said Oliver Buston from ONE. “Devcoms was selected because they are innovative, have demonstrated a strong positive effect in working towards improved health care for women and children, and also to ensure MDG funding in Nigeria is properly monitored. We were also impressed by their plans to scale up their programmes.”

The award was announced at the CSO Parallel Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Accra, where transparency has been a recurring theme.

“There are very strong links between transparency, good information, and development,” said Buston. “Greater transparency is the first step to more effective aid. Transparency allows donors to coordinate, it allows African governments to plan properly and it empowers citizens to hold their governments to account. Devcoms’ work with the media is making impressive headway in this critical part of the development picture. We are delighted that they are the first winners of the ONE Africa Award.”

Devcoms Network Programme Director Akin Jimoh received the award in Accra. “This is a great opportunity to expand our scope of service to the women and children of Africa,” said Jimoh. “We believe the silent sighs of our women and children have to stop. We will equip our media to track the huge resources budgeted for MDGs 4 and 5, as well as other issues, from allocation to implementation.”

We particularly appreciate the recognition given to media work by our NGO partners, especially the Core Technical Committee and the Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Nigeria.”

ONE is a global advocacy and campaigning organization dedicated to ending extreme poverty around the globe, with a special focus on Africa. ONE is backed by 2.4 million people from all around the world.

ONE contacts in Accra

Katy Cronin, Media Manager
UK mobile + 44 7788 710 789
Ghana mobile 0240 249593

Oliver Buston, Europe Director
UK mobile +44 7963 288 446

Akin Jimoh, Development Communications Network
Ghana Mobile 0240261474
Nigeria Mobile +234 803 3053 713

Monday, 1 September 2008

No effective aid comes in Sierra Leone…says Action Aid Director

The Country Director of Action Aid in Sierra Leone, Mr. Tennyson Williams, has said that more than half of the developmental aid coming to the West African states of Sierra Leone is fake and is an illusion made up to address poverty.

Mr. Williams exposed this development aid issue at a seminar held in the capital Freetown recently, adding that development priorities have changed as people are no longer talking about good roads, water and sanitation in the country.

“We should now be thinking of fighting poverty by creating wealth and not fighting poverty by creating poverty,” he pointed out.

In his address on the Paris Declaration which Sierra Leone and many other countries signed so as to improve on how aid was being spent to reduce poverty, Mr. Williams observed that one of the problems affecting the Paris Declaration was that 40 percent of donor funds are spent on administration costs.

He continued that another problem with the Paris Declaration was that donors should follow the country’s agenda; this he said should be in alignment with the priority of the country, not what the donor wants.

Mr. Williams further stated that partners were mutually accountable and that it should be a two way process, and that developing nations should be in the lead. He stressed that donors always plan the giant, as there is no harmonization between partners.

“We are putting pressure on our donors, we the people also need to do something because we don’t have anything to offer to their donor,” Mr. Williams said.

As the donors are preparing for the Third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Accra, Ghana, the country director urged the country’s delegation to be ready to push effectiveness of aid, and that they should not hide behind Ghana, “as aid should not be given for the sake of aid but it should be effective.”

In his presentation on aid effectiveness, a consultant at Action aid Sierra Leone 5 unit Bagree, said that aid was in support of the social and economic development of poor countries to eradicate poverty.

“The effectiveness of aid should lead the people out of poverty and suffering but not to plunge the receipting into more constraints,” he disclosed.

In his contribution, the chairman of the Civil Society Movement of Sierra Leone (CSMSL), Mr. Festus Minah, said that the seminar was a step in the right direction as it has not only helped to illustrate the parameters of aid effectiveness, but will also assist in preparing the country delegation to the third high level forum in the Ghanaian capital Accra.

* By Bai-Bai SESAY
Freetown-Sierra Leone

Culled from

Aids fails to reduce poverty and inequality in Africa

The third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness opened today Accra with civil society organizations (CSOs) saying that aid to developing countries has failed to reduce poverty and inequality.

In an opening remark, Ms Cecilla Alemany, Manager, Influencing Development Actors and Practice for Women Rights said that aid had continued to meet donor’s own foreign and economic policy interest.

``Aid can help to lift people out of poverty and help them to realize their human rights but this is not the case with donors,’’ she said.

Alemany said that aid, however, was not working for poor people as it was used to serve the interest of the rich and powerful.

``We know why much aid does not work for poor people. But action by both donors and recipients to change their policies and practice is shamefully slow,’’ she said.

She also said that donor governments and agencies have failed to recognize the role of civil society organizations (CSOs) in aid effectiveness. ``The roles assumed by CSOs are not substitutes for government obligations to meet their responsibilities for their citizens.

``CSOs are development actors in their own rights, rooted in organization of citizens to claim rights and hold governments and donors to account,’’ she added.

She said that CSOs must be giving full play to hold donors and government to account for implementing aid effectiveness principles.

* By Alex Abutu
Immersion Fellow

Tracking the effectiveness of aid in Africa

Immersion fellow; Ibrahim Apekhade Yusuf, spotlights the agenda of the conference on aid effectiveness in Africa, which opened today in Accra, Ghana

With few exceptions, many countries in the continent of Africa pine under the yoke of poverty such that they relish the handouts from donor-nations and other institutions who are magnanimous enough to part with a penny here, a nickle there.

The situation is so pathetic that most of these affected countries cannot imagine surviving a day if the donors fail to honour their pledges to them as and when due.
On the other hand however, there is the unending contention of whether aids and grants from these donor-agencies have translated to improved standard of living for the people of Africa. Critics have particularly argued that aid to Africa has been largely wasted through corruption by a callous system.

The foregoing issues are part of the agenda of the proposed Third High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness in Africa which begins today Monday, September 1, 2008 in Accra, Ghana to end Friday, September 5th, 2008.

The conference which is being hosted by the government of Ghana will be attended by ministers from over 100 countries; heads of bilateral and multilateral development agencies, donor organisations and civil society organisations from around the world.
Their common objective is to help developing countries and marginalized people in their fight against poverty by making aid more transparent, accountable and result oriented.

Specifically, the Third High Level Forum in Aid Effectiveness will seek to review progress improving aid effectiveness, broaden the dialogue to newer actors, chart a course from international action on aid effectiveness, among others.
Besides, ministers and agency heads are expected to consider and endorse the Accra Agenda for Action (AAA) to deepen implementation of the Paris declaration and respond to emerging aid effectiveness issues.

The AAA has been drafted through a broad-based process of dialogue at both country and international levels, carried out through the work of WP – EFF and its joint ventures, regional preparatory consultations with the various partner countries.

The Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness which predates the Accra Agenda for Action expresses the international community’s convention on the direction for reforming aid delivery and management to achieve improved effectiveness and results.

The Paris Declaration which is grounded on five mutually reinforcing principles namely, ownership, alignment harmonization, managing for results and mutual accountability suggests ways by which countries can exercise effective leadership over their development policies and strategies and coordinate development actions.

The conference, according to the organizers promises to be intellectually engaging judging by the caliber of brainstorming sessions and different levels of interfaces to be held.

* By Ibrahim Yusuf

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Immersion Fellows set out for 3rd High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness

Three Devcoms Network Immersion fellows: Yusuf Ibrahim of The Nations Newspaper, Mr. Onche Odeh of the Daily Independent Newspaper both in Lagos Nigeria and Alex Abutu of the News Agency of Nigeria Abuja are among the eleven international journalists participating at the upcoming 3rd High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness taking place in Accra Ghana.

While in Ghana, the three Immersion fellows will be receiving on-the-spot mentoring form a mentor of the program.

Ministers from over 100 countries, heads of bilateral and multilateral development agencies, donor organizations, and civil society organizations from around the world are gathering or the three day meeting to deliberate on helping the developing countries and marginalized people in their fight against poverty by making aid more transparent, accountable and results-oriented.

Recently, critiques of the impact of aid have become more vociferous as the global campaigns to increase aid have gained momentum, particularly since 2000. Many people argue that aid is never effective but believe that aid will achieve significant impact when properly directed and managed, particularly in areas such as health and basic education.

Aids is only one factor in the complex process needed for poor countries to develop, as such effective economic growth, good governance transparency in budgeting and spendings are to be advocated and assured. There is an urgent need for the adoption of a democratic, instead of institutional system in the process of aid effectiveness that would include the participation of all stakeholders and the broader masses, if real transformational change would occur.

This meeting would build the capacity of journalists to act as watchdogs to ensure that governments are committed to be transparent in the utilization of aids and live up to their political commitment. Messers Yush, Onche and Abutu --Devcoms Network fellows --are part of the core group of Nigerian health reporters being immersed in organizations across Nigeria to effect the media advocacy for better Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in Nigeria.

The 3rd High Level Forum on Aid Effectiveness intends to:
• review progress in improving aid effectiveness
• broaden the dialogue to newer actors
• chart a course for continuing international action on aid effectiveness

The official forum website:

* By Nnenna Ike

Monday, 25 August 2008

Addressing Gender Equality: A Persistent Challenge for Africa

The issue of women and children and how they fare will be the topic of the high-powered Conference of Ministers of Gender and Women’s Affairs jointly organized by the African Union and the United National Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) kicks off today Monday 25, August 2008 with a two-day meeting of the Committee of Experts. The Ministerial segment of the Conference will take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 28 to 29 August 2008.

The major agenda item of the Conference is the discussion and adoption of the AU Gender Policy a coherent strategy for the achievement of gender equality and the advancement of women on the continent. The Plan of Action for the effective implementation of this Gender Policy will also be reviewed and endorsed.

The Conference will review the preparatory process for the Beijing +15 regional review due to take place on the African continent in 2009 and in 2010 at the global level. The Conference will also take stock of progress achieved in the implementation of the AU Heads of State Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (SDGEA) and debate on how to effectively use the African Gender and Development Index.

Given the alarming and persistent violation of the human rights of women across the Continent, the Conference plans to discuss and recommend a strategy for adopting a multi-sectoral approach to fast track the implementation of commitments on women’s rights. To address this critical issue, the Economic Commission fort Africa and the United Nations Development Program, Regional Gender Program (UNDP/RGPA will be launching the African Women’s Rights Observatory.

This is an innovative project, aimed at following up the status of Women rights in Africa and creating a forum for knowledge and experience sharing among countries, institutions, partners and individuals who are involved in advocating for the promotion of women’s rights across the Continent.

Addressing experts today, Ms Thokozile Ruzvidzo, Officer in charge of the African Centre for Gender and Social Development says, “The pressing nature of the development challenges facing Africa including gender inequality made necessary for our continental institutions and other development partners to collaborate in order to harness resources, ensure coherence and avoid duplication,"

Likewise, the Conference is expected to discuss the establishment of the African Women Trust Fund. The African Development Forum (ADF) VI scheduled to take place in November 2008 in Addis Ababa is also on the agenda and options of making this major multi-stakeholder event a success will be deliberated.

In light of the upcoming review of the Paris Declaration, the Ministers of Gender and Women’s Affairs will reflect on the gender dimensions of aid modalities and development cooperation. Strengthening national women’s and gender machineries will also feature high on the agenda of the Conference as the momentum gathered during the Beijing Conference in 1995 seems to be on the wane.

The convening of this ministerial conference coincides with the renewal of the Bureau of ECA’s Committee on Women and Development, whose work and new mandate will be examined during the Conference.

Over 25 Ministers and 3 Deputy Ministers will attend the Conference, which is a collaboration between the Women, Gender and Development Directorate (WGDD) of the AU Commission, and the African Centre for Gender and Social Development (ACGS) of UNECA.

Participants also include over seventy five experts from gender ministries and resource persons, representatives of Regional Economic Communities and UN agencies, as well as African and international media.

*By Nnenna Ike

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Oba Erediauwa commits to saving women’s lives

Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo, Oba Erediauwa CFR, the Oba of Benin, was in his element on the day a team of advocates came calling to solicit his support to stem the tide of the senseless deaths of Nigerian women and children. Displaying an indepth knowledge of key issues in traditions and the application of modern day science and public health, it did not take long for a royal consent to address the need of women and children in the Benin Kingdom and Nigeria in general.

The Omo N’ Oba Edo Uku Akpolokpolo added his weight behind the Partnership for Maternal Newborn and Child Health during an advocacy visit to the Palace in Benin. The Benin monarch who received the partnership comprising the Family Health Unit of the Federal ministry of health, developmental partners, International and Nigerian non-governmental organizations, and the media, was enjoined to speak about the health and lives of women and children more often. The partnership pointed out that when a high ranking monarch such as he talks, the society and political authorities are most likely to heed the call and act accordingly.

To His Royal Highness “Education is key, but we need to work at it from traditional perspectives too. People need to be educated to address maternal and infant mortality. Our culture is very dynamic, so people need to know the implications of their actions.” To this end, the Monarch ordered an inventory of the state of Primary Health Care (PHC) facilities in the seven local councils in the kingdom promising to do something, but the state and national assemblies need to do something for a holistic solution to stem the tide, he says.

Despite modernisation, Nigerians still hold certain traditional and cultural practises very well to heart. This has led to the continuation of cultural practises which are detrimental to the health of the people especially to women and children. Some of these practises include forced marriage, traumatic puberty initiation rites, gender based violence, wife inheritance, child marriage and widowhood rites. Religion also plays a very significant role in the lives of Nigerians with adherents obeying the opinions of their leaders despite laying claim to modernisation.

These, added to the patriarchal system of the Nigerian society, has led to reproductive/maternal health problems not being given priority consideration. Thus any strategy to address maternal and infant health need to take these influences into consideration.

Indeed monarchs and religious leaders in Nigeria are beginning to take more proactive roles in the advocacy for better Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH). This is because of the influential role they play in the lives of the people and the high esteem people have for traditions and culture in Nigeria.

Professor Friday Okonofua, the Convener of the Advocacy Panel supported by ENHANSE/USAID states that “the strategy is to meet with high ranking government officials, key traditional and religious leaders, and politicians and convince them on the need to place priority on reducing maternal and child mortality in Nigeria.”

*By Nnenna Ike

Thursday, 3 July 2008

MP4 commended for championing the cause of women and children

Media Partnership for Women and Children (MP4), a newsletter published by the Development Communications Network Lagos and the Nigerian media practitioners have been commended for the recent rise in the frequency and quality of media reports on the need to have better maternal, newborn and child health in Nigeria.

Making this commendation at the just concluded review of the national policy on the elimination of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and plan of Action in Jos, Plateau state, Dr Sola Odujinrin RH Advisor for the World Health Organisation in Nigeria, stated that the achievement of the MDG 4 and 5 lies on the hands of the people.

“If the media would concentrate and continue to educate the people on their health and enlighten policy makers on the health realities and the need for better and workable policies, then there is hope in attaining a level of the health goals set up in the MDG.”

“The media is doing well through the MP4 and all the other activities we have noted so far but there are still other areas to be highlighted. Areas such as FGM and the issues surrounding its practice,” she intoned.

Corroborating with the WHO stand, Mrs. Stella Akinso, who represented the country director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Director in Nigeria, Sidiki Coulibaly, stated that the MP4 has gained readership amongst many policy makers in Nigeria and the global audience through the internet.

According to her, “We believe the media has a lot of influence and would seize every window of opportunity to collaborate with them so that there would be a re-orientation of the general mindset towards practices that are inimical to the health of people especially women and children; practices like the FGM.”

* By Nnenna Ike

Nigeria Needs N55b to Reduce Maternal Mortality-Expert

With about N55 billion, Nigeria would be able to reduce the number of women dying from pregnancy related causes to as low as 200 per 100, 000 live births, Nigeria Director of Ipas, a body dedicated to reproductive health, Dr. Ejike Oji, has said.

The figure according to Oji could be spread across a period of five years on various strategies but with particular emphasis on remuneration and mobilization of skilled reproductive health personnel deployed to the rural areas.

The Ipas director, in an analogy based on the model used by the Kano state government for its free maternal services, showed that if each state concedes to dedicating not less than N9 million per month to maternal health services, then all states including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) would have spent N3.3 billion on such services within 12 months.

The Kano state model targets 200 midwives and nurses who will be paid a N50,000 monthly remuneration in addition to a N25, 000 monthly rural allowance.
“If this is to be replicated in all 36 states and FCT, we will have an average annual spending of N6.3 billion and in addition to other costs, this will amount to about N11 billion including cost of monitoring and evaluation,” Oji said in an interview at Abuja.
“Over 5 years, about N55 billion would have been spent on maternal health but the good would be that the mortality ratio would have reduce to 200 per 100, 000 live births.”

Citing the result of a 2004 survey of urban health facilities in Lagos and Kano state by the Society for Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Nigeria (SOGON), Oji estimates that the average number of women that die annually from pregnancy and childbirth related causes in Nigeria could not be less than 3700. This is the average for the figures obtained at the Lagos Island Maternity Hospital and the Murtala Mohammed Hospital in Kano.

A break down of the figure as disclosed by Oji shows that 3900 maternal deaths are recorded at the Murtala Mohammed Hospital in Kano per 100,000 live births. The figure for Lagos Island Maternity Hospital shows that an estimated 3,455 women die from complications arising from childbirths and pregnancies per 100, 000 live births.

Figures released by Dr. Mairo Mandara Senior Country Advisor, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, at the at the third Religious Leaders Consultative Forum organized by the Federal Ministry of Health holding in Abuja shows that Nigeria accounts for 8993 (1.7 percent) of the estimated 529,000 maternal deaths recorded globally every year.

She also pointed out that “for every women who loses her life, approximately 20 more will suffer short and long term disabilities such as chronic anaemia, maternal exhaustion, Vesico-Vaginal or recto-vaginal fistulae, Pelvic Inflamatory Diseases, emotional depressions among others.”

She puts the national average for maternal deaths in Nigeria at 1000 per 100,000 live births.

* By Onche Odeh

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

FGC elimination: A veritable means of reducing maternal and perinatal deaths

Group deliberation on the FGC policy by national stakeholders

Though it has not been duly recognized in recent times, Female Genital Cutting(FGC) has been knowledged to be one of the causes of perinatal and maternal morbidity and mortality in Nigeria. Since it is widely practiced in Nigeria, all efforts must be made to ensure the elimination of this practice to help reduce the number of women who die from the complication of FGC at childbirth.

This assertion was made last week at the meeting organized by the Federal ministry of Health in Jos Plateau with sponsorship from the UNICEF, UNFPA and the WHO.

Mrs Stella Akinso, representing the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Country Director in Nigeria, Sidiki Coulibaly, in her opening speech to the stakeholders lamented the high maternal morbidity and mortality rates in Africa and Nigeria especially.

Her words, “The perinatal mortality occasioned by FGC is quite high in Nigeria similarly the maternal mortality due to other childbirth-related causes. So anything that would help Nigeria in the achievement of the MDG 4 and 5 is welcome and must be coordinated such that different body and agency would work effectively towards their achievement. We can achieve the goals through the effective roll-out and implementation of the IMNCH strategy, through family planning programmes, and the FGC elimination programmes. These are all targeted at ensuring that the lives of women and children are safe-guarded and improved by 2015.”

According to her “we have brought all stakeholders who we know are working in the field of FGC and have the expertise in all the issues surrounding the practice of FGM in Nigeria. We are held to review the policy, make amendments such that at the end of this meeting, we would have a document that is practical and implement-able in Nigeria. If by the end of 2015, we can not get a zero level of FGC practice, at least we would been able to achieve 80% of FGC elimination.”

As a means of making the policy more workable, Akinso stated that there is a need to have a national legislation on the eradication of FGC. “Right now, we have state laws in about 11 states out of the 36 in Nigeria and Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. What we need is to convince people to change their minds about this practice that is inimical to the health and lives of women in our country. This, we hope would be captured in the policy and the plan of action being developed at this meeting”, she intoned.

* By Nnenna Ike

Minister Tasks Religious Leaders On Maternal, Child Mortality

Nigeria’s Minister of Labour and Acting minister of health, Dr. Hassan Muhammad has urged religious leaders across the country to drive Nigeria’s quest to reduce the abysmally high maternal and child deaths in the country.

The minister gave this charge on Tuesday, at the opening session of the third Religious Leaders Consultative Forum organized by the Federal Ministry of Health holding in Abuja Nigeria. An interfaith forum is to be formed at the end of the Abuja meeting on Wednesday.

This forum, which is sequel to two previous editions held in 2005 and 2006 would look at recommendations on how faith based organizations could be used to address the problem of maternal and child mortality in Nigeria.

“This forum will serve as an advisory committee on maternal and child mortality situation in Nigeria and relate with the government in design, implementation and monitoring of all health care policies and interventions,” the minister said.

Hassan identified the Christian and Muslim faiths as two religious bodies that make serious impressions on their subjects, hence a veritable tool for addressing the problem of maternal and child mortalities.

The minister took a swipe at religious leaders who inadvertently spread misleading messages among their subjects about certain measures meant to curb the high maternal and child deaths in Nigeria. According to him such messages, when heeded to, left the subjects in worse health conditions as is the case with the survival of the child and the mother.

He cited the rejection of immunization in some parts of the country as an unfortunate scenario resulting from misleading messages from some religious leaders thereby causing the number of women dying from causes related to child births to be on the high. This he said has also caused many children to die as well.

Hassan related the low level of immunization and use of modern family methods to erroneous religious beliefs and said people who spread such messages are not being true to the dictates of their respective religions.

“In the middle whole of Saudi Arabia, where Prophet Mohammed was born, Iran, and other Islamic countries of repute, there is no polio. This is because they abide by immunization as a means of enhancing child survival, yet some people say it is irreligious to come out for immunization,” he said.

Similarly, Nigeria Director of Ipas, an organization dedicated to promoting reproductive health, Dr. Ejike Oji, stated that churches in Nigeria are also contributing to the spate of high deaths from child births.

Ejike, who spoke at the forum, noted that many pastors have taken over the duties of obstetricians and gynecologists, despite lacking the expertise and trainings to handle childbirth and its related conditions.

“Churches and pastors are taking over the role of obstetricians and gynecologists. They now deliver so many women of their babies without referring to trained services. This must be checked,” Oji said in an address he acknowledged was intended to elicit actions from the minister.

Meanwhile, the minister has said the ongoing forum is intended to use religious leaders as very influential tools in the society to reduce the incidence of maternal and child deaths in Nigeria.

* By Onche Odeh

Monday, 23 June 2008

NiNPREH partners The Nation on safe motherhood

Government has been urged to wave off delivery fees totally in its hospitals in order to make motherhood safer in Nigeria
This was made known by members of Nigeria Network of NGOs and CSOs for Population and Reproductive Health (NiNPREH), Lagos branch during a courtesy visit to The Nation Newspapers last Tuesday

Speaking on the theme of this year’s Motherhood Day "Stopping deaths of mothers and new born babies ‘Fate in the hands of unskilled care givers," the State Convener, NiNPREH, Deacon Sunday Solanke said ignorance and poverty are the major factors that lead to malnutrition which is contributing to the death of about 60 percent of all mothers and children. He said "NiNPREH is advocating for more attention to be given to safe motherhood, as it affects a large population, especially the poor population".

He speaks further: "We observed that though many people have the opportunity to use the facility and have their babies delivered free of charge, but just only 60 percent of the people take advantage of this and we see some people going to faith homes to deliver because of poverty".

Welcoming the team on behalf of Staff and Management of Vintage Press, Publishers of The Nation Newspapers, The Editor, The Nation on Sunday, Mr Lekan Otufodunrin, urged the team to partner with the media so that their work will be promoted and appreciated. "There is need for you to focus on issues that need to be promoted so as to enjoy more prominence from the media", he said.

In her own speech, the Auditor of NiNPREH, Mrs Grace Hygie Enwerem said the main objectives of NiNPREH are: To empower people to become active agents of sustainable and equitable development; to promote an understanding that communities are key to changing attitudes towards issues; and advocate partnership, which will ensure all agencies, stake holders and people to enjoy a safer and more prosperous future.

She added that the group aims at recognising the achievements, addressing the challenges and getting back on track to achieve the millennium development goals and also concentrating on the reduction of child mortality and improving maternal health.

By Niyi Odunmorayo

Friday, 20 June 2008

Mutant Mosquitoes, but what of ITNs, IRS?

Mutant Mosquitoes, but what of ITNs, IRS?

Malaria does not always capture the interest of the press, but for the last two days stories have appeared in a wide variety of sources about experiments to modify the DNA of mosquitoes to make them less able to transmit malaria. If eradication is to happen, new tools are needed. Consequently, Time Magazine reports that, “Faced with a losing battle against malaria, scientists are increasingly exploring new avenues that might have seemed far-fetched just a few years ago.”

Some have doubts about the potential of ITNs. An Associated Press story in the Baltimore Sun indicated that while “the United Nations recently announced a campaign to provide bed nets to anyone who needs them by 2010. Some scientists think creating mutant mosquitoes resistant to the disease might work better.”

ABC News quotes Jo Lines of the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene who raises some doubts. “It’s a series of arms races that the parasite has consistently won. Whenever mosquitoes have developed genes resistant to the malaria-causing parasite, the parasite has always found a way around it, Lines said. Quantity might also be a problem. You are going to need to produce billions of these mosquitoes if this is ever going to work.”

The AP also talked with scientists who expressed concerns about the environmental consequences of modifying organisms and who worried about ‘fooling mother nature.’

malaria-vector-map-sm.gifClearly this is not a technology that can be implemented over night. There are numerous species of Anopheles mosquitoes that carry malaria. (see map from Kiszewksi et al.) And then too, we have several Plasmodium species to worry about. Mosquitoes have different feeding preferences (animals, humans), and although not every mosquito is an efficient malaria vector for human malaria, mosquitoes have been known to change their behavior and feeding preferences.

Interestingly, in areas where the mosquitoes still exist, but the parasite has been eliminated, genetic modification may be a way to get a head start to prevent the reintroduction of malaria. This approach might also be an answer to the continual problem of insecticide resistance.

So far we have no one magic bullet of an intervention to eliminate malaria. Should we now also include mutant mosquitoes in the mix?

Bill Brieger | 20 Jun 2008

Thursday, 15 May 2008

NIREC meets, calls for acceleration for the attainment of MDGs 4 and 5

The quarterly meeting of the Nigeria Inter-Religious Council (NIREC) ended last week with the council urging the governments, groups and all Nigerians, particularly the Faith-based Organizations to build a systematic platform for peace and religious harmony in Nigeria through the promotion of socio-economic justice, transparency and good governance.

This, according to the council, this would help to accelerate the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals MDGs for reducing maternal mortality and promoting child survival.

This was part of the resolution from the meeting at the Maiduguri International Hotel, which held from May 4th to 7th 2008, under the Co-Chairmanship of the Sultan of Sokoto, who is also the President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) His Eminence, Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar CFR; and the President of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), His Grace Archbishop John Onaiyekan, (CON).

The council asserted that in spite of its human and material resources, Nigeria’s maternal and child morbidity and mortality rate are some of the highest in the world. It appealed to all citizens to support the government’s campaign for eradication of polio and other childhood diseases by accepting immunization. This is one of the cost-effective interventions under the integrated maternal, newborn and child health strategy of the federal ministry of health aimed at reducing the maternal and child mortality.

The council stated that pervasive poverty, denial of basic amenities, insecurity and collapse of infrastructure are some of the sources maternal and child mortality. It urged the government to increase the tempo of sustainable measures for the eradication of poverty through job and wealth creation which will channel the energies of our youths towards productive ventures.

The council acknowledged that HIV/AIDS has added to the country’s disease burden and that Nigerian youths who are the country’s hope constitute the most vulnerable group of those infected. It called on Faith-based Organizations to educate their members on the tenets and injunctions of their religion to limit the spread of HIV/AIDS and reduce the high number.

By Nnenna Ike

Monday, 5 May 2008

CHIEF commends Media advocacy for MNCH

The Health Journalist Immersion Project for the media advocacy for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) has been described as one of the most effective means for ensuring the improvement and implementation of all health policies especially those that relate to women and children. This assessment was made by Mrs. Remi Akinmade, Executive Director of Community Health Information Education Forum (CHIEF), a non-governmental Organization during a courtesy visit made by Devcoms to their office in Lekki, Lagos.

According to her, health mortality and morbidity rates have remained high in Nigeria largely due to ignorance. There is an urgent need to bring health information education communication to the doorsteps of individuals, families and communities. This is the point where concerted efforts by grassroot organizations such as CHIEF, in active partnership with journalists would reveal the health realities so as to educate the public. This would also ensure that policy makers know exactly where there are gaps in policy implementation and practices that would ameliorate them.

She stated that correct information is vital as it has saved the lives of many community women, especially when it was difficult for them to access health care services. Through proper information, they know how to take better care of themselves and their children, understand the need to attend ante-natal clinics, and know when it becomes imperative that they access healthcare.

She urged other organizations to partner with Devcoms to bring about the needed change in the implementation of maternal, newborn and child health policies in Nigeria. Akinmade urged the media not to relent in the effort at drawing attention to the inadequacies in our health care system especially as it concerns women and children who are, most times, the vulnerable and unvoiced segments of the society.

CHIEF is grass-root organization based in Lekki, Lagos whose vision is to promote grass-root health development, communication and care. Amongst their objective is to reduce maternal/infant morbidity and mortality rate through establishment of primary health clinics/outreach clinics and to promote home-based care in the community.

By Nnenna Ike

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Talking and listening to youth a crucial step in preventing HIV and AIDS, unwanted pregnancy, and more

Despite the advances in treatment, keeping the world’s nearly one billion young people from becoming infected with HIV in the first place represents the most realistic way to curb the HIV and AIDS pandemic. Many committed professionals have designed policies and programmes to help adolescents protect their sexual and reproductive health. Yet in doing so, they rarely ask themselves whether they listen to young people first.

Guttmacher Institute and nine partner organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa embarked on a research study to find out whether the next generation is well protected. The study reveals that across Ghana, Malawi, Burkina Faso and Uganda young people cited fear, shame and embarrassment as their main reason for not going to health clinics and hospitals for sexual and reproductive health care, despite a stated preference for formal health services.

The years between ages 15-20 are marked by a tremendous shift in sexual behaviour, hence the need for young people to access reliable information and nonjudgmental interaction with adults. The study showed that parental monitoring of teenage activities (including their friends) is not of any use if they do not first talk to them about unsafe sex and its implications. One of the most intractable challenges is for adults to accept the reality that adolescents are or will soon be sexually active and therefore need information about how they can protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

By Ambia Hirsi
Kenya Broadcasting Corporation

Monday, 28 April 2008

Protecting the next generation

Photo Credit: David Colwell (c) 2008

Recommendations and policy implementation strategies resulting from the study done in four African countries on the realities of the sexual and reproductive health of young people were presented yesterday at the on-going ‘Youths Deliver the Future’conference.

According to the study titled "Protecting the next generation" carried out by the African Population and health Research Centre, in Uganda, Malawi, Ghana and Bukina Faso, many more young people are sexually aware, while the older ones are becoming sexually active before marriage.

As such, abstinence until marriage is not a message that resonates with many adolescents. When they have to seek sexual and reproductive health services, the study discovered that they prefer going to professional centres rather than family or community gatekeepers. Cost and embarrassment are major barriers to seeking services. Unintended pregnancy was found to be of more importance to adolescent females than HIV infection.

Mandatory sex education is advocated and this education should be started early, at least during the last two classes in primary schools. To ensure the effectiveness of this, there would be a need to insist on mandatory schooling for youths.

Religion plays an important part in the lives of youths and as such, there is a need to work with religious bodies to propagate the

The study recommended among others that:
• Programmes should accept the reality of adolescent sexuality and work to de-stigmatize sexual activity among older un-married adolescents.
• Make services for adolescent quite low, ensure confidentiality and non-judgmental services besides expanding health facilities to meet the needs of the most vulnerable youth
• Target journalists in outreach and new research studies, programme and policy initiatives
• Promote condoms for the prevention of pregnancy, and not only for HIV prevention.
• Promote services to cater for out-of –school youths.

By Nnenna Ike

Investing in Young People at 'Youth Deliver the Future' conference

Photo Credit: David Colwell (c) 2008

African governments should urgently invest in programs that focus and enhance the health and development of young people says experts at the uniquely designed international conference on Young People's Health and Development that opened on Sunday in Abuja, Nigeria.

The three day conference brought together an assembly of researchers, academicians and policy makers in a series of interaction and knowledge sharing to promote and better prepare the youth for the new world.

The conference dubbed "Youth Deliver the Future" Investing in Young People's Health and Development: Research that Improves Policies and Programs, seeks to find solutions to various problems facing youth.

These problems include lack of access to education, health and information services, increased HIV infection and sexually transmitted diseases, early marriages, unintended pregnancies and death from unsafe abortions, drug abuse, mental illnesses, death in road crashes, and acquiring poor nutritional and exercise habits among others.

Speaking during the opening ceremony held at the Nicon Luxury Hotel in Abuja, Nigeria's First Lady Hajia Turai Umar Yar'Adua in a speech read on her behalf by the Minister of Health and Labour Dr Hassan Muhammad Lawal, said to reduce the risks young people are faced with and promote their positive development, nations and societies must invest in young people more than ever before.

The First Lady said young people hold the key to the future and the slogan of this conference, "Youth deliver the future" is therefore an apt one.

Mrs Yar Adua noted that the youth who will effectively deliver on the future is one that has been adequately prepared for the future and one in whom the society has sufficiently invested in to ensure maximal development and provide relevant opportunities to optimize his or her potential.

"Without proper development of young people there will be no future development anywhere" she emphasized.

She reiterated the need to optimize youth development investments through evidence-based policies and programs.

"Today the world has the largest number of young people ever recorded in history -approximately two billion people between the ages of 10 to 24, most of whom are in Africa and Asia, therefore the need to confront the challenges facing young people in various areas of development has never been greater".

She said the substantial increase in the number of young people globally presents more opportunities than challenges and added that equipping this energetic and technologically-minded group with the best of resources offers opportunity to move the world forward like never before. She said investing in youth will help the world achieve the Millenium Development Goals (MDG's).

She hoped the conference will enable the world to commit themselves to the new development of the future generation. She further reiterated her government's renewed commitment to the health and development of young people as evidenced by the recent launch of a new National Policy on Health and Development of Adolescents and other Young People in Nigeria, and increasing investment in related programmes.

Minister for Health and Labour Dr Hassan Muhammad Lawal said there is need to take all necessary measures to invest in young people's health and development so that Africa can enjoy the demographic bonus of this age group.

The conference is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health John Hopkins University in partnership with Centre for Population and Reproductive Health, University of Ibadan and Department of Community Health, Obafemi Awololo University.

By Redemtor Atieno
Kenya freelance journalist

‘Youth are the best investment in the future of the nation’

Dr. Lauri Laski, Head of Adolescents and Youth, UNFPA, talks about the positive impact that youth have on society at the 'Youth Deliver the Future' conference.

What did UNFPA bring to the ‘Youth Deliver the Future’ conference?

UNFPA brought young people from around the world to the conference. This is very important for the conference agenda. Young people are after all a dynamic force for social change, and can advocate on behalf of marginalized youths. This can achieve a lot. Internationally UNFPA sponsored five people, and in Nigeria we sponsored 47 people.

What are your impressions of the conference so far?

I think the conference is a great idea. It is the first international conference that focuses on adolescent health research with a focus on reproductive health. If we can learn from this conference and support the development of research on adolescents and convince investors to invest more in young people, it would be a great achievement. Youths are the best investment in the future of the nation, as they are healthy and fresh workers.

What do you feel should be the outcomes of the conference?

We need to look at the research agenda of the conference so that African universities can do operations research and evaluate their own adolescent health programs. This allows the universities to become self sufficient in evaluating their adolescent health programs. This is an opportunity for Africa—the number of youths is very large, and many are living in poverty. Building adolescent health programs is a way to break the string of poverty that has captured families for generations. We need to invest in the most vulnerable populations, particularly young girls. We need to ensure that girls are put into school and given lifelong skills to enter labour markets and boost the national economy. Look at China and South Korea—they are investing a lot in young people and it has made a positive impact there!

What knowledge should youth delegates take away from this conference?

Youth can learn about successful interventions and best practices for adolescent health programs. Our youth are great links between researchers and policy makers. They can communicate results of research and advocate for more funding for adolescent health programs within our government policies. They can pressure their governments to put more funds into poverty prevention plans and to build strategies and policies in support of adolescent development.

By Amanda Hale

Nations should take advantage of demographic dividends

There is an expected increase in the population of young people globally, with many nations having a significantly higher number of people of the working age who would be mainly young people. With this in view, researchers are urging countries to strategize to use the demographic dividends that would accrue to their country.

This information was presented by Professor Amy Tsui of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health at a Pre-conference training for journalists attending the ‘Youth Deliver the Future Conference’. The Pre-conference training was organized by Population Reference Bureau (PRB).

According to her, African countries should try harder to ensure the judicious use of public resources to cater for the health of the people, especially youths and young people, who would make up the country’s workforce. Though every country has competing needs if adequate resources are put in place now, some of the health, education and poverty problems being encountered now due to the present demography of the nation would be alleviated.

To ensure that upcoming African economies reap the demographic dividend of their youthful generation, these strategies were advocated: increasing female enrollments and labour force participation, introducing changes in technology and institutions to raise agricultural productivity while increasing land conservation, developing and implementing a more effective family planning policy.

By Nnenna Ike

FG pledges to invest to optimize youth potentials

The Youth Deliver the Future Conference 2008 holding at the Nicon Luxury Hotel Abuja opened yesterday with the representative of the Nigerian government reiterating its commitment to increasing and improving programmes for the actualization of the development of the youth in Nigeria.

In the opening speech, Dr Hassan Lawal, representing the First Lady and the Minister of Health and the minister of Labour said, ‘The path to a glorious future for our world and the achievement of our collective development vision as represented in the Millennium Development Goals lies in massively and strategically investing in young people’s development.’ According to him, the government of Nigeria’s commitment had been exemplified with the recent launch of the new ‘National Policy on the health and development of Adolescents and other young people in Nigeria’ and looks forward to the conference outcome.

Professor Oladosu Ojengbede, Chair of the National Steering committee of the conference stated that the conference was designed to assemble policy makers and researchers to present results of studies from around the globe which all aim at improving the environment for optimizing the great potentials of youths and young people. His words, ‘Youths make up about 40% of the nation’s population our youths, the poor reproductive health indicators of youths is unacceptable and a challenge to human intellect.’ The conference aims at deliberating and unveiling solutions and interventions that would promote adolescent health globally and in Nigeria.

While welcoming participants to the conference, Professor Amy Tsui, Chair of the International Steering Committee expressed the hope that the conference would bring about tremendous knowledge to help harness the investment that lie in the youth population of every nation.

Goodwill messages came from the Bill and Melinder Gates Foundation, World Bank, World Health Organization, Packard Foundation, UNFPA, USAID, youth ambassadors and other Development partners.

Photo Credit: David Colwell (c) 2008

By Nnenna Ike

Conference reveals the who, what, when, why and how of adolescent health programs

International representatives from World Health Organization, World Bank, Youth Coalition, and United Nations Population Fund Agency spoke on the urgent need to promote adolescent health and development during the opening ceremony of the ‘Youth Deliver the Future’ in Abuja, Nigeria yesterday.

Jane Ferguson of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, reflected on the evolution of adolescent health over the last 20 years. Twenty years ago, most research was focused on the why of adolescent health—on why the global policies should reflect adolescent issues such as HIV/AIDS and too-early pregnancy among youth.

‘While regrettably [the why] is still needed, particularly for convincing national level policy makers, people are much more aware of the need to focus on adolescents,” said Ferguson. She cited the MDG indicators on HIV and reproductive health as areas that provide the world with vision and a sense of urgency for adolescent issues.

For the who aspect, the conference will focus on the different groups of adolescents around the world, such as girls and boys, young and older adolescents, married adolescents, and adolescents who are living in particularly vulnerable circumstances. “This is good because programmatically, it is very important to be as specific as possible about what one does differently [for these groups],” said Ferguson.

The conference also provides abundant attention to what needs to be done for adolescents. Some sessions would be on overall education, sex education through school and mass media. Others would be focusing on models of health service delivery tailored to meet adolescents’ needs, as well as programs to support parents of adolescents.

Perhaps the most significant in the conference are the increasing efforts to assess the when and the where of adolescent programs, in order to assess the impact of programs on adolescents’ attitudes and behaviours.

Ferguson’s words: “Unless we can be clear about the results of programming for adolescents, as well as the costs of these programmes, we will not be able to persuade the decision makers to allocate the investments needed for sustained programming.”

She concluded by saying that to get adolescent health on the global agenda we will not only have to be able to make a compelling case, but to be able to demonstrate how adolescent health programs are “do-able.”

“We are confident that the discussions over the next days will clarify the challenges we face in improving policies and programmes for adolescent health and development in countries, and persuading others to do this now,” said Ferguson.

Ferguson promised that the John Hopkins’ ‘Youth Deliver the Future’ conference would move away from the why and focus more on the who, the what, the where, the when, and the how of adolescent health.

By Amanda Hale

Investing into young people’s health; quotes to ponder on

Young people have again attracted the attention of the world with the ongoing international conference on young people’s health and development. The opening ceremony of the conference under the theme ‘youth deliver the future,’ offered yet another volley of wonderful speeches punctuated with quotes for delegates to ponder once they return to their respective countries.

The First Lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mrs. Hajia Turai Umar Yar’adua, made an opening address that “the substantial increase in the number of young people globally presents us with more opportunities than challenges. Equipping this uniquely energetic and technologically minded population group with the best of the resources offers the best opportunity to move our world like never before. This is an opportunity we dare not miss; for the consequence of failure is too costly to contemplate.”

But the First Lady was not yet done. “To reduce the risks young people are exposed to and promote their development, nations and societies need to massively and strategically invest in young people’s development more than ever before,” she added.

From the First Lady’s speech it was apparent that there is need for more investment of resources – including financial ones - in young people’s programmes. Financial resources always present a big challenge to youth programmes as often times once the funding taps are closed, everything comes to a halt. But representatives of several development agencies that have been funding youth programmes offered a ray of hope, which policy makers and government officials from developing countries can take advantage of.

“The United States Agency for International Development, in collaboration with the Nigerian Government is committed to investing in the lives of the Nigerian people and worldwide through our youth programmes and interventions,” said USAID’s Dr Alh. Abdullahi Mawaida.

Representing the World Bank, Ms Elizabeth Lule said, “We stand ready to finance programmes that work for the benefit of young people and their families, communities and nations. Investing in young people’s health and development and looking at the evidence to improve policies and programmes is central to reducing global poverty and promoting economic growth…”

However, she stressed that there is need to focus more on programmes that have worked for scale-up. This indeed saves resources from being wasted on programmes that do not work.

By Kakaire Kirunda
Daily Monitor,Uganda

Hope for the future

Youths in developing countries have been given hope for a brighter future. Several speakers at the opening ceremony of the international conference on investing in young people’s health and development yesterday outlined the need to focus on the health and development of young people.

“To reduce the risks young people are exposed to and promote their positive development, nations and societies need to massively and strategically invest in young people’s development more than ever before,” said Hajia Turai Umar Yar ‘Adua, Nigeria’s First Lady.

According to the December 2007 African journal of Reproductive Health, Africa has a high burden of ill-health associated with adolescent reproductive health. However, there is little understanding of what needs to be done to reduce the magnitude of this problem.

Susan Rich of the Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation outlined the Foundation’s commitment to making strategic investments in the health and development of young people, which will yield returns in future. Since 1995, the Foundation has invested $129 million to improve information and services to protect young people from HIV/AIDS and unwanted pregnancy.

It is good that society is starting to recognize the vulnerability of females. A study on protecting the next generation in sub Saharan Africa, which will be presented today reveals that adolescent females in sub-Saharan Africa tend to have sex at an earlier age than males. This puts them at a risk of unwanted pregnancies, HIV and other adverse outcomes. The study was carried out in Uganda, Burkina Faso, Ghana and Malawi. Nearly 60% of females have had sex by 18 years compared to 40-45% of the youth according to the study.

These findings, although alarming, will go a long way in tickling governments and policy makers particularly in the developing countries, where the biggest number of youth is based, to come up with realistic policies to ensure a bright future for the biggest composition of the global population.

Like different speakers noted yesterday, we cannot have a bright future without addressing the reproductive health concerns of the youth.

By Anthony Bugembe
The New Vision, Uganda

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Journalists train on issues affecting adolescent health

With 20 per cent of the global population between the ages of 10-19, today's youth are making a critical impact on the society around them. By the time a young person turns 16, he or she may have moved out of their parents' house, had their first job, had their first sexual experience, had their first child, or even entered their first marriage. The transition from childhood to adulthood is becoming increasingly more demanding as adult expectations and responsibilities are put straight into the hands of adolescents.

“Adolescence is a turbulent time,” said Amy Tsui of John Hopkins University, USA, during her presentation on the demographics of young people around the world at yesterday's Journalist Seminar on Health and Development of Young People, in conjunction with the John Hopkins' 'Youth Deliver the Future' conference in Abuja, Nigeria.

But the training revealed that journalists can help adolescents to make a smooth transition from childhood to adulthood by raising positive awareness for counseling and mentorship for youth, sexuality education, guidance and resources for youth, and a lance of peer counseling and parent-to-child communication among other stories.

During a story-generating exercise led by Akin Jimoh of Development Communications Network and Josephine Kamara of Internews Nigeria, Josephine Kamara urged journalists to narrow in on issues of adolescent health and development at the conference by finding people to share personal stories that reflect important issues, such as peer
pressure or sexual violence.

“It will be tempting to cover every presentation and speaker at the conference, but that is impossible,” she said. “Just get the specifics for your topics and tell the issues like they are.”

Journalists then brainstormed a number of topics including abstinence/sex policies, poverty, teen pregnancy, unemployment, media pressure/influence, communicating with adults, discussing taboo issues with parents and teachers, demographic stories, and the effectiveness of current youth programs.

Apart from the brainstorm session, the training also had various presentations on 'Key issues facing young people' from Family Health International, 'HIV Stigma and Discrimination and the Media' by International Center for Research on Women, and 'Finding and Using Data on Youth' by Population Reference Bureau (PRB).

Amy Tsui concluded the training by saying, 'I'm not a journalist, I'm not a writer, but I have a strong belief in the importance of what you do.'

By Amanda Hale

Youths are the solutions to the problems of this generation----Prof Amy Tsui

In a brief interview at the pre-conference training for journalists at the ongoing 'Youth deliver the future Conference' in Abuja, Nigeria Professor Amy Tsui, of the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA reiterates the importance of assuring the health of youths in this dispensation

Question: The Youth deliver the future conference starts today, with the theme ‘Investing in young people’s health and development’. Why is the focus on youths?
Today there are more adolescents than at any time in history. It is estimated that in sub-Saharan Africa, half of the population is under the age of 15, and less than 5% is over 60. There are 1.2 billion people between the ages of 10 to 19. This group makes up about 20% of the global population (WHO, 2002) so youths are the solution to the problems of this generation. Important lifetime consequences come about from the things that this group of people do and there are demographic dividends to be accrued from the percentage of the burden placed on this group. It is for this reason that issues concerning their health is of paramount importance. This conference seeks to share research results on studies on youths from across the globe and present these results such that policy makers would be presented with ideas and best practices, so that at the end of the conference, it would hopefully bring a paradigm shift in policy making and implementation, and monitoring for best practices.

Question: Why was the conference venue chosen to be in Africa?
The youth conference is one in the series of biannual conferences organized by the John Hopkins School. We have had a conference on Visco Vaginal Fistulae (VVF) and one on integrating HIV into reproductive health policies. This is the third one and is being hosted in Africa because of the percentage of young people in the continent, and because in some areas of health such as mental and sexual health, adolescents suffer disproportionately. The consequences of poor health at this age also stretch into the future, affecting their prospects and those of their children. In addition, health-related behaviors, such as smoking, eating habits, sexual behaviors, and help-seeking behaviors developed during adolescence often endure into later life.

Question: How can African countries take advantage of the opportunities given by the expected Demographic dividend?
African countries should try harder to ensure the judicious use of public resources to cater for the health of the people, especially youths and young people. Every country has competing needs but if adequate resources are put in place some of the problems encountered now due to the demography of the nation would be alleviated. Besides, increasing female enrollments and labour force participation, introducing changes in technology and institutions to raise agricultural productivity and increasing land conservation, coupled with developing and implementing a comprehensive population policy that includes more effective family planning would ensure that upcoming African economies reap the demographic dividend of this generation.

By Nnenna Ike