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