Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Promoting Long Lasting Insecticidal Nets (LLINs) for malaria control in Nigeria

Nigeria's effort to combat the burden of malaria on its populace received a boost with a new initiative to produce Insecticide treated Nets locally. The country's Ministry of Health with active support from partners and other stakeholders had pooled together over 15 million Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) and distributed them to beneficiaries in all the 36 states of the federation, but there is shortfall of about 55 million, "which we are trying to address," says health Minister Professor Adenike Grange.

Intection Bestnet Europe Ltd. in collaboration with Rosies Textile Mills Ltd. are collaborating with the Federal Ministry of Health in the fight against malaria in Nigeria and to produce the nets locally with the establishment of a factory that will produce LLINs at the rate of 100,000 per month in the first year. This capacity will be increased to 200,000 monthly in the second year with provision for annual increases. Similar ventures have been successfully implemented in India, and the Federal Ministry of Health supports the novel approach by Intection in its efforts to contribute to the Roll Back Malaria process in Nigeria.

Past efforts and commitments by the government and her partners in the scaling up of the distribution and use of ITNs in Nigeria had not yielded much as majority of the beneficiaries still have no access to the ITNs. This has posed a great challenge to the attainment of Roll Back Malaria (RBM) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targets by 2010 and 2015 respectively.

All around the world, appropriate use of Insecticide Treated Nets (ITNs) has led to a sharp decrease in severe malaria attacks by up to 45% and a reduction in child mortality by over 17%. It has been estimated that a total of 74 million long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) are required to achieve universal coverage and that 80% of people at risk should have access to ITNs by 2010.

A greater commitment from governments at all levels and partners is needed for the provision of additional ITNs to sustain the current momentum towards malaria elimination. This will help Nigeria to reach the goal of a Malaria-free Nigeria in line with the Global Malaria Programme strategy and the current strategy for scaling up ITNs distribution, which deems that all persons at risk of malaria should have access to ITNs.

The greatest challenge however is the inadequate capacity to locally provide the LLINs. Furthermore, there is no local technology for the production of LLINs in Nigeria. This calls for novel approaches to ensure an interrupted provision of the LLINs in Nigeria.

Dr. Yemi Sofola, National Coordinator of the Roll Back Malaria strategy (center right) and Prof. Adenike Grange, Nigerian Minister of Health, meet with officers of Intection Bestnet Europe Ltd. to discuss malaria prevention strategies in Nigeria.

By Amanda Hale

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Devcoms' Immersion fellows

With the support of Ford Foundation, Development Communications Network conducted the orientation of the first batch of Immersion fellows for Devcoms’ Health Journalists’ Immersion Programme to Strengthen Integrated Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (IMNCH) in Nigeria, from Friday 22nd to Saturday 23rd, February 2008. Fifteen journalists from the print, broadcast, and radio media attended the orientation. The training aimed at better equipping the fellows to work as a critical mass for reporting Maternal Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) issues.

Please read the following profiles and get to know our talented Immersion fellows better!


Ijeoma Popoola:
A senior correspondent for the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), Mrs. Ijeoma Popoola has dedicated much of her career to health and environment coverage in the media. Since her graduation from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, with a degree in Mass Communication in 1994, Popoola has worked with NAN in covering the health of Nigerian women and children. She believes that a participation in the fellowship for the Immersion Programme will enable her to inform Nigerians to take advantage of existing government facilities for maternal and child health to improve their healthcare and wellbeing.

Ijeoma Iheme:
Ijeoma Iheme’s diverse communications background has landed her positions as a reporter, communications officer, marketing manager, and press officer at various media organizations and companies around Nigeria. As a professional who is interested in issues pertaining to access to good water, sanitation issues, etc. and their relationship to maternal, newborn and child health, Iheme is dedicated to the Immersion Programme and the practical skills she will gain from her journalist training.

Sekinah T. Lawal:
Sekinah T. Lawal is a practising Senior Health Correspondent with the National Mirror Newspapers. In her daily reporting, she advocates for exclusive breastfeeding for newborns and raises awareness of the alarming statistics of the maternal and infant mortality rate in Nigeria. Since graduating from the Universiy of Lagos with a degree in Mass Communications in 1996, Lawal has been very passionate in her reportorial duties especially in the area of Health, hence the prompting to pursue her Masters in Public Health. Lawal believes that partaking in the Immersion Programme will be another opportunity to receive needed information about MNCH, and to have the tools to push for a better policy in terms of women and children issues through the pages of Nigeria’s newspapers.

Godwin Haruna:
Godwin Haruna is a deputy features editor and health editor with THISDAY Newspapers, where he has dedicated most of his time to covering stories on HIV/AIDS, maternal and child health, unsafe abortion and other disease conditions. His journey to join journalism was a conscious one over time, and he derives pleasure in his ability to enlighten the public through his writing. This passion, he believes, is required for journalists to stem the spread of HIV and to force the hands of policy makers to take positive decisions on other disease conditions, especially maternal and child mortality in Nigeria.

Ukpai Oka Ezera:
Ukpai Ezera is a news correspondent at RHYTHM 93.7FM Lagos and reports on health, education and religion beats. He hopes to hone his investigative journalism skills during the Immersion Programme to articulate the views of the generality of the public on their healthcare expectations with a view to enrich government’s policy formulation process through his reportage. In addition, he plans to regularly reconcile the huge budgetary figures for the health sector and its impact on Nigeria’s citizen.

Fatimah Abdulkareem:
As Chief Editor and health reporter for the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo State (BCOS), Fatimah Abdulkareem has dedicated 17 years to reporting health issues on broadcast and radio media, including her weekly radio and TV programme “You and Your Health” which covers issues relating to maternal, newborn and child health in Nigeria. Her favourite food is pounded yam and vegetable soup, while her hobbies include driving, meeting people and most importantly making a difference in people’s lives. As a journalist focusing on health issues, Abdulkareem believes that prevent HIV positive mothers from infecting the unborn is an area that needs to be focused on and reported on in the media, and she hopes to achieve this through the Immersion Programme.

Jennifer Igwe:
Jennifer Igew is a senior presenter, reporter and producer with the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA 2 Channel 5) in Lagos. She reports on health, environmental and social issues. As a finalist under the Kaiser Family Foundation for the CNN/African Journalist of the Year awards for 2007 HIV/AIDS reporting, Igwe continues to deliver quality health reports on diverse health areas in Nigeria.

Iliya M. Kure:
Iliya Kure is a reporter with the federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria in Kaduna. A graduate from the University of Maiduguri with a BA (Hons) in Mass Communications, Kure reports on issues relating to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and polio vaccinations, among many others, during his time in Kaduna.

Olaiya Temitope Templer:
Olaiya Templer is an interned Reporter with the Guardian Newspaper and covers various beats including news, city file reports, special reports, human-angle stories and cover stories. He feels highly honoured to participate in the Immersion Programme as the programme offers the opportunity to break new ground in the field of investigative reporting and to sway public attention away from issues in politics or sports to the more timely developments in health issues to bring about policy development and implementation.

Abiose Adelaja:
Abiose Adelaja is a correspondent for National Daily Newspaper and anchors four pages of health and science section. A recent nominee for the Nieman Foundation Fellowship in Global Health Reporting at Harvard University, the Immersion programme offers Abiose the opportunity to network with researchers and journalists of like passion and to join in the alliance of pushing maternal, newborn and child health issues on top policy agenda.

Nonye Aghaji:
Nonye Aghaji is a health reporter with Vision FM (92.1FM) in Abuja, Nigeria. She has covered special reports on maternal and child health issues, including safe abortion and paediatric ART, and expects that the investigative skills she will acquire from the Immersion Programme will be very useful to her in doing research and fact finding for further informative stories on MNCH.

Chiamaka Bobby-Umeano:
Chiamaka Bobby-Umeano is a freelance journalist with a great interest in health and development issues. Over the years she has worked with several broadcast companies, including Minaj Broadcast International and Taraba Television, Jalingo, and attended professional trainings in investigative journalism, peace building, and gender mainstreaming to further build her capacity as a health journalist. It is her belief that the Immersion Programme will thus give her the experience to continue addressing issues affecting mothers and children in Nigeria.

C.A. Ugwuegbu:
Chinyereugo Ugwuegbu is an English graduate from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. Over the past two years Ugwuegbu has worked as a broadcast journalist for Radio Nigeria Abuja National Station as a health reporter and a presenter. Her interest in the availability of information on MNCH and access to health care facilities in rural areas makes her an ideal candidate for the Immersion Programme

Vincent B. Danture:
Vincent Danture is a journalist with the News and Current Affairs Department of Gombe Media Corporation (GMC). He believes that as a journalist with training, responsibility, and the desire to live up to his social responsibility, his experience in covering programmes and events for the Immersion Programme will build his ability to write analysis and commentaries of MNCH that will ensure a multi-sectoral involvement.

Augustine Abutu Alex:
Augustine Alex is a science journalist with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) covering health, engineering, agriculture and other related issues. Alex has received multiple trainings from UNFPA News, World Bank, and the World Federation of Science Journalists, and he believes that the participation in the Immersion Programme will position him in good stead to critically analyze trends in the health sector and conduct objective research that would expose the shortfalls of MNCH policies and commit government to action.

Ibrahim A. Yusuf:
Ibrahim Yusuf currently works at The Nation newspaper as a correspondent attached to the Sunday title. Though he is a correspondent on the general beat, Yusuf has reported multiple health-related stories, including reproductive and public health issues over the past six years of his journalist career. His primary concern as a journalist in the Immersion Programme is to raise critical issues that concern public health above the din so as to create complete awareness and ultimately seek for means and ways of addressing such issues for the common good.

Appolonia O. Adeyemi:
Appolonia Adeyemi is a Senior Correspondent and Head for the health desk at NewAge, a publication of Century Media Limited. Her position places her in an editorial position to influence the publication of MNCH issues in health pages, feature pages and anywhere where it is relevant within NewAge. Having taken the decision to be part of the Immersion Programme, Adeyemi feels that the training she will receive will expose her to all aspects of MNCH, especially child growth and survival, of which she will put to good use to influence policies and bring about positive behaviour change geared towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Isaiah Abraham:
Isaiah Abraham is a journalist for New Nigerian Newspapers in Abuja. He schooled at the Ghana Institute of Journalism with a focus on Population Communication and Research in 1992, and has since worked at a variety of publications, including Daily Times of Nigeria, and has received such awards as the Nigerian Media Merit Award in 2000. He believes that participation in the Immersion Programme will add value to his professional practice, deepen his knowledge and experience through re-orientation of the mind to recognise issues relating to Maternal and Child Mortality and help to appreciate the danger they constitute.

Sani Shuaibu Malumfashi:
Sani Malumfashi is the center coordinator of the Voice of America VOA Hausa Health Initiative, Reproductive Health and Child Survival. Originally from Katsina, he has 29 years experience working as a journalist in Radio Nigeria and NTA Kaduna. His focus on child spacing and maternal health during his programs is a key reason that Malumfashi is an ideal candidate for the Immersion Programme.

Ebun Babalola:
Ebun Babaolola is a health correspondent with Vanguard Newspapers, where she has reported on health issues for the last three years. She believes that the Immersion Programme will have a positive effect on the face of the country and the people, especially in the area of maternal, newborn and child health, and is grateful to take part in the program.

Bakare Morayosola:
Morayosola Bakare is a journalist at the Life & Style desk of The News Magazine. She has undertaken various health stories, especially those related to maternal, newborn, and child health, and has represented her medium at several health conferences.

Asmau Musa Iliasu:
Asmua Iliasu works as a reporter at Freedom Radio to cover maternal mortality rate causes and how it can be addressed in Nigeria.

Eugene Agha:
Eugene Agha is a feature reporter working with ThisDay Newspapers. He has over 10 years of experience as a journalist in Nigeria, and believes that the immersion project will go a long way to improve the policy formulation and implementation in the area of maternal and child health in Nigeria.

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Women’s Rights are Human Rights!

Congratulations! But take heart! Just yesterday another woman who resides in Ikorodu, a suburb in Lagos, Nigeria, died because her husband was not available to sign a document authorising the doctor to commence a life-saving operation on her.

The disheartening death of more than half a million (500,000) women across the world annually from complications arising from pregnancy and childbearing is alarming and should be seen from the human rights angle if any progress is to come.

More disheartening is the fact that several individuals and institutions still perpetrate the “sacred” act of gaining permission from the husband before seeking health services upon birth. But why should a woman seek the consent and signature of her husband who has the locus standi before an operation (no matter how urgent and life-threatening) could be carried out on her? What happens if she wants it as an independent decision? Why are men not subjected to the same process of seeking the consent and obtaining the signature of their wives or another female who has the locus standi before an operation, no matter how little or complex, could be carried out on him?

The displacement and cultural relegation of women relative to men is also a vital contributor to maternal mortality. A cross-national study of 79 developing countries found that women’s status is a strong predictor of maternal mortality. A study of women’s autonomy and use of maternal health care services in Uttar Pradesh, India, found that women with greater freedom of movement obtained more antenatal care and were more likely to use safe-delivery care.

In Nigeria, there is still great debate on whether the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) should be ratified. CEDAW, in essence, establishes an agenda for national action towards putting a concrete stop to discrimination. It also makes provision for bringing about equality between men and women; this is intended by fostering women's equal access and opportunity to political and public life as well as education, health and employment.

In addition, Article 12 of CEDAW mandates governments of state parties to make available appropriate services in relation with pregnancy, delivery, and the post-natal period. It also obliges the government of state parties to ensure access to free services, where necessary, as well as adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation.

Nigeria is a signatory to many international treaties, covenant and conventions including CEDAW. Like many other countries, Nigeria is hit by the devastating effect of maternal mortality. This is, among other reason, due to the fact that though Nigeria is a signatory to the several international treaties and conventions, it is yet to legislate concretely on issues relating to maternal mortality.

In the light of the increasing deaths accruing from maternal mortality, there is the need for Nigeria to view health issues as life issues. As such, this should be seen from the guaranteed point of section 33 of the Nigerian constitution which provides that: “Every person has a right to life, and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of the sentence of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria.”

Thus if it is not a crime for a woman to be pregnant, then it is criminal for the government or any other institutions or persons to deprive the woman of her right to life by not providing all resources and facilities necessary to ensure safe motherhood.

There is a need to bridge the gap between the works being done and the devastating effect of complications arising from maternal mortality. Aside from legal and political instruments, Nigerian state parties should also ensure advancement of technological innovations in terms of equipment, supplies, procedures, techniques and manpower development to help mitigate the devastating incidences of maternal mortality.

At the various levels of policy formulation and implantation at the national, management or service levels, deliberate effort should be made at fostering human rights principles into proposed projects and programs. This is achievable by legislating to stop all forms of discrimination against women, including violence against women (particularly harmful practices affecting women's health); putting in place adequate antenatal, delivery, and postpartum care for all women; providing family planning services and information to all women and adolescents of reproductive age; and empowering women to be responsible for their reproductive health decision by putting an end to the spousal consent requirement for some particular services.

These are basic human rights and no matter what is being done, they must not be compromised. They are non-negotiable. They should be given to the woman because she is a crucial member of the human family.

By Kawe Lucky

‘Youth Deliver the Future’ when it comes to making maternal and child health a reality

To combat the growing number of women and child deaths around the world, a coalition of active youths who are willing to take on the wide girth of challenges in today’s development and public health issues is becoming a necessary weapon.

But many researchers and health experts have found that in order to have a society of determined young people with a vision of a better future, we first need to take proper steps to deliver the necessary health and developmental needs of young people around the world, especially those in low-resource settings.

In the upcoming “Youth Deliver the Future” conference convened by Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA, the health and development of young people around the world will be discussed, debated, and deliberated upon by researchers and practitioners, as well as youth delegates themselves. The conference, themed “Investing in Young People’s Health and Development: Research that Improves Policies and Programs,” aims to provide an international forum for exchanging research and evidence on how to meet the health and developmental needs of young people in low-resource settings.

As such, the conference offers an opportunity for researchers and consumers of research findings and implementers of youth programming as well as youths themselves, to learn from research, share lessons and valuable experiences, and provide recommendations for improving adolescent health around the world. Population, development, sexual and reproductive health, poverty reduction and gender equity as they affect young people will be the top discussions during a multitude of forums for international research and development.

Expected outcomes from the international ‘Youth Deliver the Future’ conference include increased resources and commitment to youth-directed investments in health and development at international, national, and local levels.

The conference takes place on April 27-30 in Abuja, Nigeria, at the Nicon Luxury Hotel, and is partnered by the Institute of Public Health, Obafemi Awolowo University; Centre for Population and Reproductive Health, University of Ibadan; Nigeria Federal Ministry of Health, Youth, and Education; and over 40 international and national organizations.

By Amanda Hale