Partnering to Save Children

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Patricia Ebele
One of the misfortunes that have endured through history is the death of a mother during pregnancy or childbirth. Another one is losing a child at infancy or at a tender age. These experiences come with so much disappointment and a huge burden of grief.

Experience has shown that the process of giving birth is perhaps one of the most challenging journeys a woman is likely to take. This fact is especially disturbing as new statistics reveal the average percentage of loss of lives every day.

An even more specific and recent depiction is provided by UNICEF which reports that “every single day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 under-five year olds and 145 women of childbearing age. This makes the country the second largest contributor to the under–five and maternal mortality rate in the world.”

As part of the drive to address this problem, Glaxosmithkline Consumer (GSK) and Save the Children formed a ground-breaking five-year partnership combining Save the Children’s global reach and experience, with GSK’s innovation, resources and expertise. The purpose of this shared value partnership is to help save the lives of one million children by tackling preventable under ‘age five’ child mortality. The unique partnership, tagged ‘Orange United’ and inaugurated in 2013, is aimed at addressing the needs of children by expanding immunisation coverage to the hardest to reach communities; addressing nutrition needs of children in the poorest countries to reduce malnutrition; amongst other benefits.

In GSK, this partnership has been marked globally every year through various fundraising activities and GSK Nigeria has always been a part of it. The week of 13th June 2016 was another of such opportunity and this culminated in the grand finale on the 17th June as the ‘Orange United Day’.

Speaking on employee volunteering, Engagement & Communications Manager, GSK Nigeria, Bolaji Sanyaolu, spoke of the passion of the company’s employees in making the fund raising a success. According to her, year after year, the employees play their part in reaching out to the communities around them through various activities, Orange United being one of such activities.

“We all understand that we can improve the quality of lives not only through our medicines, consumer healthcare products and vaccines, but also by the way we add value to the communities within which we operate,” she said.
Head of Health & Child Survival, and representative of Save the Children, Nigeria, Dr. (Mrs) Abimbola Williams, who was also present at the event, commented on the need to take urgent action to reduce infant mortality and maternal deaths, she called for all hands to be on deck in the quest to save more lives. Williams noted that the objective of Save the Children is to ensure that support is given to children to attain their rights – to survival, to development and to growth.

It is worrying to note that despite the fundamental role a mother plays in the life of a child, Nigeria’s current statistics of 53,000 deaths per year during childbirth is still indicative of inherent lapses in the critical aspects of the healthcare delivery system. A recent UNICEF reports stated that that every 10 minutes, one woman dies on account of pregnancy/ childbirth in Nigeria.

She further spoke about the key thematic areas through which Save the Children operates; health and child survival, nutrition, hunger and livelihood, education and child protection, and also humanitarian response. She called for support from all well-meaning stakeholders, and emphasised the fact that everyone has a part to play in ensuring that expectant mothers get the required attention from available facilities.

While acknowledging government actions at doubling efforts to bring the problem under control, many experts have blamed the high mortality rate in the country on poor access to health facilities, poverty, illiteracy and unwillingness of pregnant women to access healthcare services and urged Government to provide greater access to healthcare, while also building the capacity of health workers to stem the tide.

Speaking further on the partnership between GSK and Save the Children, Williams said that both organisations have been partners in the mission of saving the lives of children, for many years.

On the rationale behind GSK’s CSR initiatives, Company Secretary and Legal Director, Uche Uwechia said the gesture is a demonstration of GSK Nigeria’s core values of transparency, integrity and patient focus. “From the way we are configured, giving back is a necessary part of how we do business; to reach out and see how the society can be a better place, he said.

“From the way we operate as a business, both as a consumer healthcare and manufacturing company, we cut across in terms of our engagement, some are educational among others, for example we educate patent medicine dealers, we have the pulse program that enables people to take paid vacation away from the office and go to countries where they can work with non- governmental organizations to enable us to share our skills, knowledge and expertise” He added.

“Over the last three years, we have raised a significant amount of funds to help fight malnutrition in children in developing countries. Since the inception of the partnership, GSK Nigeria have been able to raise about N3 million to support this project and it gladdens our hearts to know that our modest contribution is helping to save the lives of children and that we are a part of that generation that will drastically reduce infant mortality and maternal deaths” Uche concluded.
GSK Plc is one of the world’s leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies. The company is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.

− Ebele, a freelance journalist writes from Lagos