Tuesday, 29 January 2008

IMNCH: Turai Yar 'Adua commits to saving women and children

Picture of the First Lady Haija Turai Umar Musa Yar'Adua with the Minister of Health, Prof. Adenike Grange

That Nigeria has continued to record high Maternal, Newborn and child death rates is no longer news, that the Federal government has developed an Integrated Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (IMNCH) Strategy to strengthen the health system, scale up interventions and maximize impact towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5 is also not news.

What is news however is that in recognition of this fact, the first lady of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Hajia Turai Umar Musa Yar’Adua, recently was made the National Goodwill Ambassador for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) in Nigeria. This means she will ensure that MNCH issues will remain on the front burner of the Nigerian national agenda and that come 2015, MDGs 4 and 5 would have been achieved, at least to a larger extent.

With over 100 witnesses ranging members of the National Assembly, Wives of Executive State Governors, Federal Ministers and representatives from both the organised private sector and the developmental agencies in Nigeria, at the investiture, the first lady pledged her total commitment to ensuring that the present alarming rates of maternal and child death are reduced and Nigeria is removed from the MNCH critical list. She looks forward to a time Nigeria would be placed side by side with developed counties on issues of Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.

At the event, the Minister of Health Professor Adenike Grange in her paper ‘Maternal, Newborn and Child Health: where are we now?’ made urgent calls to action to the first lady to solicit her support in drawing national attention to the consequences of not keeping the promise to meet the health related Millennium Development Goals. To the National Assembly, Grange’s call was to expedite action on passing the national health bill and other bills that impact on the lives of vulnerable groups, including women and children. The Minister of Health urged the wives of State Governors to advocate, and mobilize resources for the implementation of laws that promote the well-being of women and children in their states.

The civil society was not left out as Prof. Grange called on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and Women Organizations for effective advocacy and community mobilization for the implementation of the interventions at different levels of the society as well as to support monitoring and evaluation of these interventions. The organized Private Sector were urged to adopt communities and health facilities and get involved in the management of these facilities, besides providing incentives including accommodation, water, electricity and motivation for staff.

In closing, Prof. Grange shared with the audience her new concept to bridge some of the major gaps identified in MNCH. This idea is to bring Maternity Waiting Homes on board. The Homes are intended for women with major obstetric complications requiring specialist care such as caesarean section (CS), blood transfusion, treatment of infections, use of specialised drugs for pregnancy induced hypertension. The Homes will also be used by women whose homes are in remote and/or inaccessible areas where health facilities are either not available or inaccessible. In the first phase of the project, a Home will be located in 6 yet to be identified pilot Local Government Areas within the six geopolitical zones.

The accumulation of credible evidence of the high level of maternal mortality, the dismal state of maternal health care in Nigeria coupled with the WHO ranking of Nigeria’s healthcare system performance as one of the worst in the world in 2002 have served to awaken healthcare and other political officials to action.
With the IMNCH strategy in place, people’s expectations is that partnerships will be forged across all walks of life to eliminate the three major delays and ensure: there is adequate information about pregnancy and labour complication signals available for mothers and their partners, adequate access to health facilities including proper citing of facilities, good quality road and communication network and an informed community to ensure adequate community support. Finally, that highly skilled attendants and quality equipment and supplies are provided at the health facilities.

The MDGs and health systems worldwide are watching to see that the first National goodwill ambassador can utilize IMNCH as a tool to make pregnancy safer and cut maternal and newborn morbidity and mortality by half by the year 2014- ten years from now!.

* By Constance Ndubuisi-Enyali

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