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