World Health Organization  hosts  SMI Abuja, Stakeholders  and Rural Community Dwellers

By Chigozie Effe

Worried by the increasing number of maternal and child mortality in the country occasioned by high level of illiteracy on health related issues in rural areas and inadequate health facilities, World Health Organization WHO, has  organized  an  orientation and sensitisation meeting on its COMMUNITY BASED NEWBORN CARE FOR MOTHERS AND NEWBORN IN SELECTED COMMUNITIES OF FEDERAL CAPITAL TERRITORY ABUJA where it   reaffirmed its commitment in improving the health of women and children as Nigeria ranks the second in the world affected by the ugly trend.

Speaking at the sensitization meeting organized by World Health Organisation, Obafemi Awolowo University teaching Hospital and  financed by Glaxo Smith Kline  for those in the selected areas of Bwari, Kuje and AMAC, Dr. David Okelo who is the WHO representative in Nigeria noted “The community based care is a welcome development and WHO is in full support of this project and that is why you see many of us here. We believe that if we go to the community, we will be in better position to know exactly what is happening then we can also encourage one another on how we can make pregnancy safer as well as improve the lives of the new born…as it was estimated that about 40% of pregnant women delivered at home in 2008”

Okelo who was represented by Dr. Andrew Mbewe , Medical Officer WHO/HOD  faculty of  Reproductive Health , stressed the need for volunteerism- especially in rural areas as this will go a long way reducing maternal mortality in Nigeria and meeting the MDG’s deadline of 2015.

In an address delivered by the Director,PHC, FCT, Dr. Hadiza Balarabe said that “it is sad to note that in spite of previous efforts, the maternal, newborn and under 5 morbidity and mortality indices have shown only marginal reductions in the last five years, making achievements of the MDG target by 2015 using current strategies alone hazy”.

Fielding questions from journalists, Executive Secretary, Primary Health Care Board, Dr.Rilwanu Mohammed explained that the whole essence of the program is to train volunteers” and after training them, they will be able to go into the communities and see if pregnant mothers are going for antenatal care”.

According to him, “We are collaborating with Obafemi  Awolowo University Teaching Hospital(OAUTH), WHO, and Glaxo Smith Kline. We are actually going to see how we are going to improve care in about six communities and then extend this program to other communities in FCT and in the whole country.”

The Secretary observed that the reason behind the kick starting with six communities is as a result of the need for effective monitoring “so that we would be able to do it and see if we can expand to other areas.”

Rilwanu who indentified bad road as one of the bottlenecks in service delivery, noted that delay at home due to ignorance; delay in the hospitals; inaccessibility to health care facilities are some of the causes of the increase number of maternal mortality in the country. Other causes are complication of pregnancy like hemorrhage, hypertension in pregnancy among others.

Good Shepherd  learnt that in response to this trend, the FCT Minister, Sen. Bala Mohammed has started giving free medical treatment to pregnant women and children under the age of 5 and to complement that ,the minister established Primary Health Care Board late last year to provide drugs every month to all the Primary Health Care centers in FCT.

Speaking with Good Shepherd ,Dr. Tunde  Adegboyega said that the program is to ensure that Nigeria meets the MDG’s 4 and 5 which are to reduce child mortality by 2/3 and to reduce maternal mortality by ¾ in 2015.

Adegboyega who is Focal Person OAUTHC/WHO lamented the skyrocketed height of child mortality noted “When we talk of new born we are talking about children from zero to 30 days.”Adding that “Half of them that die died within 24 hours of birth and ¾ of them will die in the first week of life and usually we don’t go looking for them.”

He maintained that the “Federal Government has developed what we called National Strategic Health Development Plan which has in it plan of this community based care activities.

So what we are doing now is that OAU has been able to raise a grant and its partnering with FCT and WHO because we have the technical mandate for this materials to make sure that we begin to implement this and the hope is, since it’s part of government plans, government will see that it works “he stressed.

Speaking with  the Media , the  FCT Coordinator  of  Sweet Mother International (SMI), Mr. Adeshina  Mathew has also added his voice to the campaign, adding that the imitative taken by WHO/OAUTHC/GSK  to sensitize women in rural areas is a step in the right direction.

According to Mathew the objective of  SMI is to advocate and sensitize on issues relating to maternal and child health, which coincides  with the goal 4,5 and 6 of the MDGs. Mathew applauded the initiative behind the community project and strongly believe  it will contribute tremendously in improving  newborn and maternal health in the FCT if well implemented.