Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Journalists commit to saving women and children’s lives

Press Release:

Journalists commit to saving women and children’s lives

Lagos, Nigeria: Nigerian journalists have decried the needless deaths of Nigerian women and children in the course of child birth and debilitating child health services in the country. At the conclusion of a two day capacity building on ‘policy analysis for budget tracking of MDGs 4 & 5’, the senior editors and correspondents from 20 media organizations called on government to ensure that the health of mothers and children are made a priority in the implementation of health programs in the country.

The training, organized by Development Communications (DEVCOMS) Network, winner ONE Africa Award, 2008 under the aegis of the Lagos State chapter of the Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ), is DEVCOMS initiative in fulfilling the Ford Foundation supported project on “Strengthening mass media advocacy on improved national responses to the poor maternal health situation in Nigeria.

Akin Jimoh, Program Director of DEVCOMS Network, says it became necessary to organise the training for journalists since they are the ones who are the voice of the people, and at present the only hope of the common man. He asserts; “lots of funds are allocated every year by governments at all levels in Nigeria for health related issues, but much of the impacts are hardly seen nor felt”. Jimoh enunciates that the high rate of maternal, newborn and child mortality in Nigeria, could be reduced appreciably to a reasonable ebb if funds allotted for Primary Health Centres, drugs and other health challenges are judiciously used for the purpose for which they were released. This also echoes the aim of the ONE Award 2008, which Devcoms is the flagbearer in Africa.

NUJ Chairman Lagos State Chapter, Wahab Oba descries the training as a “wonderful opportunity that equips journalists to appraise budget from formulation to monitoring its implementation as well as evaluating the performance of government’s yearly budget. With the skills acquired we will now be able to monitor the growth and development in the country in achieving the MDGs and other key areas.”

In the same vein a facilitator at the training Emeka Nsofor, of Human Supports Services said that government world-over are being held accountable for the way they appropriate the people’s funds in their custody. Nsofor said it is high time the media in Nigeria, set the agenda of holding governments at all levels accountable for the funds/revenue they generate.

Also buttressing his views on the necessity of budget tracking, Kayode Iyalla one of the speakers during the training notes that since budget statements are fiscal policies, it is pertinent journalists know why policies fail in Nigeria. He stressed that policies ought to be deliberate plans of action, selected to achieve definite needs and goals. But “the reason why many policies do not succeed in the country is because they are not formulated as a result of the needs of the people,” he says.

Many of the journalists at the training said the programme was really an eye opener. Adekunle Yusuf, Senior Writer at Tell Magazine says “this training is highly beneficial and would aid in giving depth to whatever story we do concerning development issues in our work.” The participants pledged ensuring to give the news behind the figures, rather than just statistics which do not give the audience the true picture of governments spending as may have been proposed. The media professionals in attendance who represented all spheres of the media in Nigeria came up with ‘A call to action’ which was duly signed by all of them.

The media training on policy analysis and budget tracking of MDGs 4 & 5 organised by DEVCOMS network is the second in a series. The first was held for 22 journalists in May, 2009 at Ijebu-Ode, Ogun State.

DEVCOMS network, is a pace setter in media development especially capacity building in public health and science journalism in Nigeria.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Groups seek imminent solutions to maternal mortality in Nigeria

The high rate of maternal mortality encountered in Nigeria has caused a great concern to the Government, Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) that focus on reproductive health issues, as well as to donors both at National and International levels. With barely six years to the stipulated targets of MDGs 4 & 5 which is year 2015, Nigeria is still not listed amongst the ten countries seen to have made rapid progress to meet the target.
At present Nigeria ranks one of the thirteen countries in the world with the highest MMR (Maternal Mortality Ratio).

  • However, intensive interventions are being put in place by both Government and Non Governmental bodies to see how to curb this alarming menace of maternal mortalities recorded in Nigeria. Also, strategic steps are taken to ensure that the country is given a new face in the global rating, as concerns MMR.

    One of such interventions was a programme held in Abuja mid June, 2009 tagged “Nigerian NGOs workshop: Towards a consolidated role as Maternal, Newborn and Child Health advocates”. The programme which was put together by ACCESS (Access to Clinical and Community maternal, neonatal and women’s health services) and JHPIEGO (John Hopkins Program for International Education in Gynaecology and Obstetrics) in partnership with the Nigerian Government was aimed at bringing members of Non Governmental Organisation in line with (Maternal, Newborn and Child Health) MNCH strategy from the six geo-political zones in Nigeria to brainstorm on best strategies to addressing maternal mortality issues.

    As the target of reducing the MMR by three-quarter in 2015, as stipulated by MDG 5 draws nearer, many people have begun to express doubts, as to how feasible this goal could be achieved. However for this target to be met, some health professionals and active NGO players in the area of reproductive health said that one key area that needs to be improved on, is primary health services at all levels. They are of the opinion that once there are adequate and well equipped primary health centres across the country, maternal and child health issues will be a work over.

    Other participants at the program said that bulk passing amongst the three tiers of government needed to be addressed also, especially as it relates to funding. Also that health policies and implementation at all levels needed to be harmonized.

    An official from one of the federal parastatals said that, “since NGOs play an important role in awareness raising and advocacy, their roles at the state and local governments cannot be over emphasised.”

    In suggesting ways of curbing maternal and child mortality scourge in Nigeria, representatives of NGOs from the six geo-political zones were of the view that, primary health care centres needed to act as the coordinating point for implementation of (Integrated Maternal, Newborn and Child Health) IMNCH strategy. They canvassed to be part of the multi-sectoral platform for the planning, implementation, as well as at the monitoring and evaluation. They also solicited for improved funding at all levels for IMNCH.

    The consensus at the two day workshop was that there is need for the federal government to scale up its activities at the states and local Government area. Being that NGOs have better ability to reach the grassroots effectively, there is need for the government to work closely with them.

    In line with this, wife of Kwara State Governor, Mrs. Oluwatoyin Saraki who also participated at the workshop encouraged Non Governmental Organisation at the state level to work closely with wives of state Governors in the states they represent. She said that in Kwara state, government has taken the bull by the horn, to confront the menace out rightly. Some of the strategies she mentioned are:

  • Kwara State Official Wives Association, (KWASOWA) Safe Motherhood. (A vehicle with which she has made commendable progress in promoting Maternal and Child Survival in the state.)

  • Kwara Safe Motherhood-Be a Mother Programme.

  • Alaafia Kwara (The Kwara Wellbeing Trust) A sister organization with the mother foundation. (A pet project of the first Lady of Kwara State, an Independent Organisation

  • Alaafia Kwara Twins and Multiple Births Assistance Project: (Grants from this project are given to indigent mothers who have had multiple births. This financial and social support is also available for children under 5 years who lost their mothers at childbirth. The fund ensures that a sustainable structured plan is put in place to ensure that their immediate needs are met and are privy to a continuum of healthcare, in addition to educational opportunities.)

    It could therefore be said that if the states and local governments could put in place comprehensive and functional health structures at all levels, then Nigeria will be seen to be making progress. Thus bulk passing amongst the tiers of government will be a thing of the past, as there will be apt cooperation from members of the community, since fighting this scourge needs all hands to be on deck.

    According to the First lady of Kwara State, “it takes passion and commitment to fight this menace.” She said sacrifice is pertinent in dealing with the prevailing set back. One of her sacrificial effort she said is using her up-keep allowance to save the life of mothers and children in the Kwara state.

    Indeed the Federal government’s current strategies on Maternal Newborn and Child Health needed to be replicated at the state and local government levels, where these mortalities are highest. Every state government should embrace the health insurance scheme and put up viable primary health structures.

    In the words of the Mrs Oluwatoyin Saraki, “there is need for Nigeria to have a home grown donor agency where funds are made available devoid of International agencies all the time.”

- Ijeoma IHEME