Kano’s Free Maternal Healthcare Bill Awaits Ganduje’s Assent

Kano’s Free Maternal Healthcare Bill Awaits Ganduje’s Assent

Emameh Gabriel writes that with the passage of the Free Maternal and Child Healthcare Bill, the Kano State House of  Assembly has not only put the state in positive spot light but has also shown the path for other states to follow.

The Kano State House of Assembly last week took the bold step to pass into law the long-awaited Free Maternal and Child Healthcare (FMNCH) Bill, making the state the first in Nigeria to enact such law.

The move has again put the state in positive spot light and has received wide commendations by stakeholders across board. It is therefore not surprising that civil society leaders across the state are in a celebratory mood, just as they have been effusive in their praise for the legislators who voted across party lines to pass the law.

The response of Comrade Dr. Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi, Executive Director of the Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED), embellished it all.

The leader of the frontline civic group that vigorously advocated for the passage of the legislation described the bill’s passage as a befitting parting gift from the ninth Assembly to the people of the state.

CHRICED, with support from MSEREOR/KZE, had, since 2014, conducted various activities to address the scourge of maternal and infant deaths in the State.

According to the human rights activist, the gesture of the Kano State House of Assembly is highly commendable.

Zikirullahi further enthused that the members of the State House of Assembly have demonstrated they are on the side of the people of the State.

He said: “Regardless of political differences, the members overwhelmingly supported the Bill’s passage. This law represents a landmark achievement for the health sector, and it will have tremendous influence on maternal and child healthcare.

“This is a pivotal moment in our efforts to end maternal and child mortality, which has claimed the lives of thousands of women and children over the years. We are hopeful that the Governor of Kano State,  Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, will sign the bill to institutionalize free maternal and infant healthcare”.

Similarly, civil society leaders also commended the Speaker of Kano State House of Assembly, Rt. Hon Hamisu Ibrahim Chidari, the Deputy Majority Leader, Hon. MagajiZarewa, and Hon. Musa Ali Kachako, who sponsored the Bill and ensured its passage.

Other stakeholders whose commitment was noted to have tilted the scales towards the passage of the law include the Kano Emirates Council, particularly the Emirate Council Committee on Health led by Dr. Basheer Mohammed.

For CHRICED and its civil society allies, the road to the passage of FMCH Bill has been long and difficult. Noting the role of the people at the grassroots in the process, the group recognized the efforts of the community men, women, religious bodies, persons with disabilities, and activists in Kano State.

It equally commended the researchers, resource persons and facilitators who worked on the project, as well as officials of the Kano State Ministry of Health, Departments and Agencies.

CHRICED also expressed its deep appreciation to its international partner, MISEREOR/KZE of Germany, which provided both the technical and financial support in achieving the historic milestone of the FMCH law.

However, the passage of the legislation also offered some opportunity for civic groups to reflect on what the historic moment means for the ultimate target of decisively addressing maternal and child mortality.

This particular concern of the advocates becomes even more important as Nigeria’s reputation as one of the worst places for women to give birth continues to garner unfavorable international scrutiny.

As of now, Nigeria is nowhere near achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of reducing the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births.

Professor AbdulmuminiBala Ahmed of the Faculty of Law at Bayero University in Kano provided some insight into the role that the law should play.

Ahmed stated at the Kano Statewide Stakeholders Consultative Forum convened by the Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) immediately after the law was passed that once assented and faithfully implemented, the FMCH law will save the lives of thousands of women and children.

The university don emphasized that the passage of the law represents a significant step toward promoting the constitutionally guaranteed right to healthcare in Nigeria. “The right to health encompasses not only a right to health care, but also a right to the underlying determinants of health,” he argued.

According to him: “Many of these determinants play a key role in ensuring that women are able to access the necessary services and facilities to prevent maternal mortality. It encompasses pre-natal care, reproductive and maternal healthcare services (prenatal and postnatal), and child health care services.”

Ahmed equally posited that the right to health includes entitlements to a range of health interventions which have an important role to play in reducing maternal mortality.

These entitlements, he said, include: emergency obstetric care, a skilled birth attendant, education and information on reproductive health and primary health care services.

“The State has an obligation to provide these services in order to prevent maternal mortality. To achieve this, the state needs strategies, which would empower women, girls, families and communities, while prioritizing country ownership, leadership, and supportive legal, regulatory and financial mechanisms.”

Ahmed therefore called on all stakeholders to apply human rights framework to ensure that high-quality maternal and newborn health care services are available and accessible to all who need it.

Consequently, with the passage of the FMCH law by the Kano State Assembly, the University don gave insights about how the law will help achieve the goal of drastically cutting down the high maternal and infant deaths in Nigeria’s most populous State.

The first point made in this respect is that the law provides robust support to enable access to prenatal, maternal and child health care services in Kano State.

His words: “The law recognizes and promotes women and children’s entitlements to medical and healthcare services in Kano State. Therefore, it will ensure government’s commitment to developing strategies and plans to fund maternal and child healthcare services in the Kano State.

“The law encompasses and makes provisions for pre-natal care, post-natal care, reproductive care and child health care services. It guarantees the provisions, supply and use of all the necessary instruments, conditions and material aids necessary to ensure that mothers and children receive the best medical and health care services in Kano State.

“This will promote and ensure the availability of free maternal and child healthcare and other matters related thereto in the State. The good people of Kano State will therefore be assured of a qualitative healthcare service that will guarantee timely and appropriate treatment in all cases of maternal and child health challenges.”

These many benefits of the law, he noted, will be consistent with current professional knowledge and uphold basic reproductive rights, while guaranteeing a clinically effective, and safe experience for the patient.

“With this law in Kano State, it is expected that there will be a substantial reduction in maternal mortality and child health challenges, especially with the promotion and advancement of maternal and child healthcare.”

With the historic passage of the FMCH law, civic actors in Kano State led by CHRICED, have also started brainstorming on how to find the resources to implement the ambitious targets, which the newly enacted law proposes. This is an important issue because the claim of lack of resources was one of the issues, which made the political actors skeptical about the law before now.

The law creates a synergy between the state and Local Government Areas on how to generate the quantum of resources required to match the scale of the problem.

However, CHRICED alongside fellow CSOs have always insisted that the push for additional resources must be tied to accountability in the use of current resources. On this point, there has been unanimity that the spotlight should be focused on the current resources.

The logic is that for future resources to be effectively utilized, the use of current funds must be properly evaluated to identify gaps and areas where better management is required.

As such, civic groups have clamored for accountability, transparency, inclusion and value for money in the utilization of maternal and child healthcare funds.

As things stand, Kano State civil society leaders are optimistic that with the FMCH law in place, more of these accountability and transparency initiatives, which use citizens’ agency to monitor the use of public resources for delivering quality maternal and child healthcare, will become even more relevant.

Finally, over eight years of arduous struggle by civil society activists to spur action in terms of lowering maternal and newborn mortality in Nigeria’s most populous state has paid off.

The new law would stimulate the civic arena, ensuring citizens are engaged and duty bearers are pressured to significantly reduce maternal and child mortality in Kano State.

It is hoped that other states of the federation will follow Kano House of Assembly’s lead and pass similar legislation in their respective states.

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