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