IWD: How Enugu Governor’s Wife is Making Difference through Custos Care Foundation

The energy and determination of the wife of Enugu State Governor, Mrs. Nkechinyere Mbah, towards the health and wellbeing of Enugu women and children heralds a better future for them, writes Gideon Arinze

The International Women’s Day (IWD), which is marked on every March 8, has no doubt grown in global stature at a time when the world celebrates the socio-economic, cultural, and political achievements of women and to raise awareness on matters that affect their daily lives. Enugu State was not left behind.

As part of the events lined up to mark the day, wife of the governor of the state, Mrs. Nkechinyere Mbah, and the Mrs. Ngozi Enih-led Enugu State Ministry of Children, Gender and Social Development put together an event to discuss issues affecting women such as inclusion, entrepreneurship, women in politics and decision making, among others.

In addition, it was also an opportunity to honour women of the state, who had distinguished themselves in their various callings and the work they have done to advance the causes of women and development of Enugu State. The awardees include the wife of the former governor, Mrs. Monica Ugwuanyi, who has done so much through her NGO, Ugo’s Touch of Life Foundation – U-TOLF; the first female Deputy Governor of the state, Hon. Cecilia Ezeilo; former Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nigeria Nsukka, Enugu Campus, Prof. Edith Nwosu; former Commissioner for Gender Affairs and Social Development, Hon. Princess Peace Nnaji; first female Branch Chairman of the Nigeria Society of Engineers, Dr. Uchenwa Ujam; veteran actress, Mrs. Patience Ozokwor; women empowerment activist, Mrs. Chinemerem Anyi; and Member of State House of Assembly, Hon. Jane Eneh.

Importantly, it was an event that brought out Mrs. Mbah’s courage and strength of voice on issues affecting women and children, as she articulated a call to action on the need to dismantle all barriers – inequitable access to education and healthcare, gender-based violence, discriminatory practices in the workplace, among others, that hinder women. She also assured that her office would work closely with local farmers, engage in sustainable agricultural practices, and implement programmes that empower individuals and communities to secure their food sources.

Beyond Ceremonies

Although the history of the International Women’s Day dates back over a century, making the lives of women transcends a mere celebration that requires concerted effort by all. Interventions by well-meaning and public-spirited individuals, organisations, governments, international development agencies, and movements, among others matters alot in this regard. Whether it is the various women movements dating back to 1909 or the UN international women’s conferences in Mexico City in 1975, Copenhagen in 1980, Nairobi in 1985 and Beijing in 1995; whether it is that advocacy by a community-based NGO or positive government policies, it is these efforts, put together, that have remarkably improved the fortunes of women. It is also for this reason that they must be encouraged.

It was good news for the people Enugu State, as wife of Enugu State governor, Mrs. Nkechinyere Mbah, recently founded the Custos Foundation, an initiative aimed at eradicating maternal and child mortality, improve the well-being of mothers and children, and indeed eradicate all barriers to social inclusion and social security. Custos Care Foundation focuses on four key areas, namely; mother and child healthcare and welfare, primary education for all, women and youth empowerment, and social protection and mentorship.

The energy Mrs. Mbah has invested in the Foundation and the attention she has accorded to the rural areas is underscored by the fact that the launch of the Foundation’s Mother and Child Healthcare and Welfare Project was held not only in the three senatorial districts of the state, but also in three local governments outside the state capital. They are the Primary Health Centres in Oji- River Urban, Oji-River LGA for Enugu West Senatorial District and also at Agbani in Nkanu West LGA for Enugu East Senatorial Zone. Both held on February 19, 2024. That of Enugu North Senatorial District held at the Health Center, Nsukka on March 1.

But why the focus on child and maternal motility?  Mrs. Mbah provided a glimpse while launching the project at Oji River.

She said: “This project is very dear to me because women and children constitute the most vulnerable people in our society. It is worthy of note that one of the most significant challenges faced by women and children is maternal and child mortality. The world has battled against this enemy since time immemorial and stands united to eradicate it. There is nothing as painful as the death of a mother and or child. The United Nations, through the Sustainable Development Goals, is working towards reducing the maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births by 2030.

“They are also committed to ending preventable deaths of newborns and children under five years of age, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to as low as 12 per 1,000 live births and under five years of age mortality rate to as low as 12 per 1,000 live births.

“Our country, Nigeria, accounts for the second-highest number of maternal and child deaths, globally. This information was reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) in a 2023 report entitled “Improving Maternal and Newborn Health and Survival and Reducing Stillbirths”.

“The findings of this report are heart-wrenching because poor economic conditions of these mothers and lack of proper health education have been identified as contributory factors. Many mothers cannot afford to seek healthcare services when the need arises because they cannot afford it. If we are to pull ourselves from this position, we have to start making individual efforts.

“This is why I have decided that the Custos Care Foundation will contribute towards achieving these targets, and by the Grace of God, we will accomplish this by partnering with relevant agencies and Individuals.

“I urge other thriving community members to partner with the Foundation to support more vulnerable women and children to have access to a better life through access to quality healthcare and services. Together, we can achieve Enugu State that is maternal and child mortality-free,” she said.

According to her, the Enugu State Government has been trying to achieve the global 2030 targets. Towards this, Custos Foundation will commence the Mother and Child Healthcare and Welfare Project through the payment of one-year health insurance premium to selected indigent mothers through the Enugu State Agency for Universal Health Coverage Scheme. This will also cover children below the age of five and support their welfare. Mrs. Mbah’s Foundation will also support newly born and their mothers childcare supplies.

Respite for missing mother’s children

Meanwhile, earlier this week, Mrs. Mbah came to the rescue of three children, aged six and below, whose mother’s whereabouts are unknown. An earlier report had it that their mother reportedly committed suicide after dropping them in front Ogui Police Station in Enugu metropolis. However, in an update by the police, the security agency debunked the suicide part of the story, saying, “On March 2, at about 8:30 a.m., the Divisional Police Officers (DPOs) of Central Police Station (CPS) and Ogui Police Division received distress calls alleging that a woman abandoned her three children in front of God Is Good Terminal along Ogui Road by Osisatech Roundabout, Enugu.

“The callers further alleged that the woman stripped herself naked due to a mental disorder before running off to an unknown destination. The DPOs and their teams immediately moved to the scene, where they found and took the children to Ogui Police Station and commenced investigations to locate their mother.”

The bottom line, however, is that the children’s mother could not yet be traced and Mrs. Mbah has further earned the admiration of the people of the state and Nigerians following her prompt response immediately the report broke out. She quickly visited the Ogui Police Station where the children were kept at the time. During the visit, the governor’s wife, who described the incident as heartrending, assured the Custos Foundation  would not allow the children to suffer or their future hampered by the event.

“This is very sad news and my heart goes out to these children. So, what we will do going forward is to ensure that they are not stranded in life; that they do not lack quality education, and that their future and destinies are not truncated.

“Therefore, for now, we will move them into a secure government residential facility where they will receive adequate cares. The Custos Foundation will also sponsor their education from primary to the university. We have to be there for one another.” 

She used the opportunity to underscore the import of mental health awareness and urged persons struggling with depression and related challenges to seek assistance and counseling, saying there was nothing to be ashamed about. She further called for greater mental wellness enlightenment campaigns by ministries that deal with children, gender, and social development at both the federal and state levels of government across the country.

As the world marks the International Women’s Day, it is reassuring to the people of Enugu State, especially the women and children, that they have in Mrs. Mbah, who has their interest at heart and is ready to go the extra mile to better their loss.

Undoubtedly, her disposition and determination, coupled with the many pro-women and children policies, programmes, and projects of the Governor Peter Administration such as the ongoing construction of 260 Type-2 world-class primary healthcare centres and 260 smart schools in all the wards of Enugu State heralds a better future for Enugu women and children.

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