Governor Olusegun Mimiko
By Steve Dada
The safemotherhood project, Abiye, initiated by the Ondo State Government to checkmate deaths recorded at childbirth in the state, has been identified by international study bodies as a promising home grown effort to nip the trend in the bud and also build a comprehensive, sustainable and evidence-driven approach that ensures women have reliable access to quality maternal health services.
The state Commissioner for Information, Kayode Akinmade, while speaking with newsmen in Akure yesterday, said the revelation was the verdict of international studies as contained in report before a conference holding in the United States of America.
In her report for the a maternal health conference in Washington DC due for Wednessday, Jenniffer Cooke of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies ,Africa programme disclosed that “In August 2012, CSIS Africa Programme staff travelled to Nigeria to conduct a series of interviews with government officials, implementing agencies and health professionals to better understand the country’s national strategy on maternal health and the obstacles that are slowing progress.”
The aim too, she also mentioned, was to get a sense of the challenges at the state and local government level, to determine where responsibility lies for primary healthcare, and to identify instances where real progress is being made.
In that vein, she reported, “the CSIS team visited Ondo State, in the South-est region of Nigeria, where the government’s “Abiye” (“Safe Motherhood” in the Yoruba language) initiative has won early praise from maternal and public health experts in Nigeria and beyond.
“The programme is seen by many as a promising, “home-grown” effort to build a comprehensive, sustainable, and evidence-driven approach that ensures that women have reliable access to quality maternal health services.”
The Ondo approach, she remarked, is an example of how broad principles of maternal health can be tailored to localised circumstances and implemented in a concerted, organised way.
The Ondo State Abiye programme she also remarked, is a work in progress, adding that the initiative’s leadership is cognizant of the challenges associated with scale-up and sustainability over time.
“ But the programme does provide a positive preliminary model of how data collection, technology and innovation, efficient use of resources, and mechanisms of accountability - backed by sustained political will - can come together in a comprehensive strategy that, in its first two years, is yielding significant results.
“The great and tragic irony of maternal mortality in Nigeria and elsewhere in the developing world—is that the vast majority of maternal deaths are avoidable through relatively uncomplicated health interventions. But ensuring that women have access to, and seek out, these basic health services has proved a complex and daunting task” She submitted.
The barriers to access she offered ,are multiple, “ranging from a woman’s immediate economic circumstances and cultural context, to the weakness and limited reach of the country’s primary health system, to the financing, capacity, and political will that governments devote to the issue. Maternal health in Nigeria is a powerful barometer of broader trends in development, in health and health capacity, and ultimately in governance and investment on behalf of society’s least powerful citizens.”
Giving an insight into the level of success so far recorded by the Ondo State initiative, Cooke said “The Abiye program has won praise from Nigerian and international public health experts and is gaining prominence within Nigeria as a promising “home-grown” effort to improve maternal health outcomes.
“Then World Bank Vice-President for Africa, Oby Ezekwesili, praised the programme as ‘a role model and a benchmark for the African continent in tackling infant and maternal mortality rate. Everybody knows what you need to do to improve maternal health,” said one observer in Abuja, “but the Ondo government is actually doing it.”
Cooke in the report also said “much of the initiative’s success is attributed to Governor Olusegun Mimiko, a medical doctor who twice served as Ondo State Health Commissioner. Alarmed by the 2008 DHS findings, which showed Ondo State as the worst performer on maternal health in the South West region, the governor made bringing down the state’s maternal mortality rate a top priority.
“In office since 2009, he has invested considerable resources and political capital in implementation of the Abiye model, underscored by the weight he has given the program in his 2012 reelection campaign. According to colleagues in the state health ministry and at the flagship hospital in the state capital Akure, Governor Mimiko has remained intimately involved in management and oversight of the program and vested in its success” the report also mentioned in part.