UNFPA Lauds Toyin Saraki’s Commitment to Maternal, Children’s Health

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  • Partners Wellbeing Foundation on midwifery

Senator Iroegbu in Abuja

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has lauded the Wife of Nigeria’s Senate President, Mrs. Toyin Saraki, for her commitment to maternal and children’s health in Nigeria.

The Country Representative of UNFPA in Nigeria, Dr. Diene Keita, gave the commendation during a courtesy visit to Saraki’s residence in Abuja, recently.

According to Keita, Mrs. Saraki, though a lawyer, has since 2003 brought hope and joy to many homes in the country through many health-care initiatives, providing care for mostly less-privileged families in rural communities.
She said UNFPA’s visit was to strengthen partnership with Saraki in her various health interventions through her foundation, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa.

“The essence of the visit is for the two organisations to partner for improved health for women and children, and promote good working environment and enhanced skills for nurses and midwives,” she said.

Speaking further, Keita said apart from providing women and girls with the health-care they need, Saraki championed advocacies for equipping nurses and midwives with the skills they need, which she said are the core mandates of UNFPA.
She said the health advocate had consistently followed all programmes aimed at boosting nursing and midwifery professions by personally attending such fora locally and internationally.
She said: “You do it with such powerful messages, such kindness and emotion that as a Country Representative, I cannot do anything else but try to be wherever you are; because you are doing my job better than I will be able to do it.

“I will like to thank you for attending the London Family Planning Summit. I thank you for accepting being a Champion. My late Executive Director, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin loved you. I was still in DRC when he talked about you. He talked about how much he respected you and how much he was proud of you. To work with Wellbeing Foundation for me is a must. I want to work with you and Wellbeing Foundation on how to get the private sector into maternal health,” Keita added.

Responding, Mrs. Saraki said when she decided to formally begin to advocate the wellbeing of women and children in the country in 2013, she didn’t have any role model to look at what they had done, or to follow.
“I was relying on Google. Each time I rely on Google in those days, I came across a Saudi Arabian lady who I did not know then. But, I began to look at what she was saying and solutions she was proffering. Even though I didn’t know her, I found out she was a solution to good work in Nigeria.

“At that time, Prof. Thoraya Obaid was the Executive Director of UNFPA. We became very good friends, family friend since then and she continued to inspire me. So, I was very happy when my late brother, who I still miss very much, Prof. Osotimehin became the Executive Director of UNFPA. I felt that for the first time, we would have African solutions, Nigerian innovations to the world problems; and we did,” she explained.

She said Osotimehin’s contribution helped improve the conditions of women and children and provided them with platforms “to have a world where every child is wanted, where every delivery is equipped and people have a choice to become health-seeking, wellbeing-seeking, and economic empowerment seeking.

“That is what has always brought me back, time and time again to the UNFPA, because like other international organisations, you are not focusing on only one thing. You are actually looking at the wellbeing. It is a total picture of the wellbeing, and it is why, even though it is now that we are formalising our partnership and collaboration, I think that UNFPA has been my partner from the start.
“I will like you to consider Wellbeing Foundation not just as a partner or as a collaborator, but as a sister organisation. I really look forward to formalising our working relationship on many accounts.

“Look at it, as the Global Goodwill Ambassador of the International Confederation of Midwives, midwives to me are the army, the trusted friendly army that will actually get the message to the grassroots, to the frontline and will actually help us to drive beyond maternal and child health to what I call family health and what I call community health. As a Nigerian woman, I can tell all of you very honestly we women tend to only seek formal care when we are pregnant and when we have emergency. And, that leaves out all the other lifestyle conditions that actually reduce our health. We have an old saying in Nigeria that ‘prevention is better than cure,” Saraki added.

She however revealed that one of the setbacks faced by the Foundation was the death of its Director of Midwifery Services, Mrs. Felicity Ukoko Aliana, whom she said died of undiagnosed heart disease. “We miss her immensely because she was the engine room that gave me the courage to start an antenatal programme independently, working with government and private facilities to actually bring education about their own bodies to them,” she said.