Reducing Maternal and Infant Mortality in Sokoto, Niger

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While Nigeria still remains the second largest contributor to under-five mortality and maternal death rates in the world, MTN Foundation, through its Maternal Ward Support Project hopes to change the story. Martins Ifijeh writes

One of the most overwhelming misfortunes that have endured throughout history is the death of a woman or child during childbirth, as it comes with a huge burden of grief, pain and heartbreak. Thereby resulting in unwarranted and preventable deaths.

Experiences have shown that the birth process is perhaps one of the most dangerous journeys majority of women are likely to make in their lifetime. This is especially troubling as statistics revealed that the extent of loss of lives across low and middle income countries occasioned by the issue is still high despite global health interventions.

According to a 2015 report from the World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth everyday and a high percentage of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries, including Nigeria.

And even more specific representation is provided by UNICEF, which reports that: “Every single day, Nigeria loses about 2,300 children under five and 143 women of childbearing age, making it the country with the second largest contributor to under–five mortality and maternal death rate in the world. Also, for every 10 minutes, one woman dies on account of pregnancy or childbirth in Nigeria.”

Additionally, death of newborn babies in Nigeria is said to represent a quarter of the total number of deaths of children under five years. The majority of these deaths reportedly occur within the first week of life, mainly due to complications during pregnancy and delivery reflecting the intimate link between newborn survival and the quality of maternal care.

Since the lack of access to quality healthcare and the apathy by women to patronise existing facilities have been fingered as an underlying causal effect of the high indices of maternal and child deaths, the MTN Foundation, in a bid to changing the narrative and reducing maternal and child deaths in the country is equipping and renovating maternal wards of hospitals across the country with the commencement of its first phase in six beneficiary states, including Sokoto, Kaduna, Niger, Abia, Cross River and Oyo.

According to the Executive Secretary/Chief Executive Officer, MTN Foundation, Nonny Ugboma, a total of 24 selected hospitals in these states will benefit under this first phase of the MTNF Maternal Ward Support Project, with some states already benefitting from the gesture by the Foundation.

For instance, in Sokoto State, the General Hospital, Shargari, General Hospital, Gwadabawa and General Hospital, Tabuwal has taken ownership of the maternal wards equipped and renovated by the MTN Foundation Maternal Ward Support Project.

According to Ugboma, the hospitals were equipped with ultra-modern executive beds, incubators, and other facilities, and were renovated to create a beautiful ambiance. “The modernised wards would contribute significantly to the reduction of maternal and infant mortality rate in the state and the nation as a whole,” adding that the initiative was to complement government’s national objective of reducing maternal and infant mortality in Nigeria.

“Each of the newly inaugurated wards is equipped with 20 hospital beds with cardiac rest, 20 standard hospital mattresses, 20 standard hospital bed pillows, 10 four-way foldable ward screens, 20 metal bedside cupboards, 20 visitors’ chairs, 10 drip stands, 20 hydraulic over-bed tables, 10 height adjustable baby cots and 2 Carl Novel baby incubators,” she said, adding that every beneficiary state and hospitals will benefit same, as this would greatly aid the job of health workers, as well as motivate pregnant women to access healthcare.

Speaking during the delivery of the maternal wards in General Hospital, Shagari, the Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal, said the gesture has brought healthcare closer to the people, as residents of Shagari Local Government Area will not have reasons to travel as far as Sokoto capital to access healthcare.

The Governor who was represented by the Commissioner for Health, Dr. Balarabe Shehu Kakale Shuni, said: “This is a testimony of Sokoto State being a magnet for international devoted partners and other progressive partner.”

He further stated that this was a tip of the iceberg of what the Governor has in mind for the people. “We thank MTN Foundation for being a great friend of the state and for bringing a world class international standard maternal ward to the grass root local government,” he added.

Lending her voice, a midwife nurse in the General Hospital, Shagari, Muhibat Abdulkadir, said pregnant women in the state, especially the uneducated ones, before now, hardly visit the hospital during labour period because they believe giving birth is something natural that should not require visiting the hospital.

“But since the past few weeks that this development took place in the hospital, the number of pregnant women that visit for treatment and counseling has extensively increased daily.

Also, Niger State Government has taken ownership of equipped and renovated maternal wards in General Hospital, Lapai, General Hospital, Suleja, General Hospital, Mokwa and General Hospital, New Bussa.

Speaking during the inauguration of the project in the state, Director, MTN Foundation, Alhaji Muhammadu Danlami, said in order to reduce maternal and child deaths in the country, strategic and specific steps must be taken, adding that, this was the Foundation’s step in reducing the incidence of the scourge in the country.

“The high mortality rate doesn’t have to remain this way. We all have a part to play in changing the story from negative to positive. This is our way of trying to change that story. Indeed, we believe that this partnership with the progressive government of His Excellency, Alhaji Abubakar Sani Bello, is a step in the right direction and will also make a lasting positive impact on the overall health indicators of the country,” he added.

While thanking the state for providing critical government support required to successfully execute the project, as well as JNC International for prompt delivery of equipments, he said MTN Foundation would continue to invest in the betterment of the lives of Nigerians in areas not limited to health.

He added that MTN Foundation which started over a decade ago, has invested over N18 billion on life-changing projects spread across 550 locations in the 36 states and the FCT.