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

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