Being the lone male survivor of the nine children his mother had while the remaining seven died as infants, President Goodluck Jonathan Tuesday said he is passionately committed to arresting infant mortality in Nigeria.
And in its effort to support this lofty ideal the Norwegian government has concurred that it will provide the sum of $25 million to Nigeria's Save One Million Lives programme, launched at the Banquet Hall of State House Abuja, over the next five years.
Jonathan who told participants at the United Nations Commission on Life-Saving commodities for women and children; meeting of chairs, co-vice chairs, commissioners and ministers with national observers and launching of the saving one million lives programme about his family history which informs his inclination to curbing child mortality, said the sum of $33.4 million has been committed for the procurement of the necessary commodities in the next four years.
He revealed that the sum of $500 million has being earmarked for reproductive health, while the apex government's commitment to the fight against eradication of polio and immunisation has been increased to the sum of $68 million.
Stating that the user fees for contraceptives has been removed due increase in its demand rate to about 150 per cent, Jonathan commended development agents for the aid given to Nigeria in fighting the devastating flood that has ravaged majority of the states in the country.
He explained that the launching of the save one million lives project was historic, pledging transparency during the stage of the implementation plan, stressing the important role religious and traditional leaders will play in making it a reality.
President Jonathan commended the Clinton family for what they and their partners have been doing for Nigeria as well as other humanitarian bodies that are also committed to this issue of women.
His words: "On the issue of saving lives of women and children I'm passionate, because my mother had nine of us but seven died as infants with myself and elder sister surviving. That I'm alive today is not because of any intervention but by God's hand".
He said, "today is a special day as we mark a mile stone in the global efforts to protect the rights of women and children while we try to improve access to the life saving facilities. This uspicious occasion provides me the opportunities to formally launch the Nigeria save a million life programme, in line with the United Nation's global strategy for women and children health agenda which aims at saving 16million lives by 2015. Fortunately, 2015 is the year when my tenure of four years will end, so we have to work very hard.
"We have initiated the saving one million lives programme with the objective of saving one million lives by 2015, through equitable and concrete utilization of quality cost effective basic health services."
The programme clearly identified the needs for concrete access and the appropriate use medical devices and commodities that can save lives.
Government and people OF Nigeria greatly appreciate efforts of our development partners for on-going efforts by relevant government MDAs.
"Increased domestic funding for commodities is a key area of commitment we are pursuing in this administration. We are committed to a total of $33.44 million in the next four years for the procurement of additional reproductive health commodities representing a 300 per cent domestic funding increase.
"We have also set aside half a billion Dollars over the next four years for maternal, new born and child health intervention under the subsidy re-investment and empowerment programme. This is in addition to the $68 Million for polio and routine immunization programme.
"In our efforts to improve financial access to life saving commodities from women and children, the federal government of Nigeria in April, 2011, removed user fees from contraceptives in public health facilities. This has led to a dramatic increase in the demands for contraceptives in public sector by more than 150per cent. With support from our partners, we have developed essential medicine scale up plans addressing diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia, three diseases which account for 55 per cent of our nation's under five deaths. Achieving 80 per cent will translate to saving more than half a million lives".
The co-chair of the UN Commission and Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, represented by Angeel Hansen, the Secretary General of Norway, while commending Nigeria's cooperation as co-chair of the commission, disclosed that they have secured the funding to bridge the gap to be monitored by UNICEF and UNFPA.
He said investing in women and children produces healthy individual and prosperous nation as has been demonstrated in Norway which use to be a poor country 100 years ago amongst the European nation but today it has moves to a prosperous nation not because of petroleum but mobilizing human resources and putting them into good use.
He commended the Nigerian government for committing budgetary allocation to as much as 15 per cent on health issues and announced that the Norwegian government will support the Programme of save one million lives with $25 million for the next five years, subject to parliamentary approval.
"Our intervention will safe up to six million lives. If we go together we will go further. The leadership role of Nigeria brings hope, reduces death of women by 40 per cent".
Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, the Executive Director, UNFPA, in his goodwill message, said when Nigeria succeeds Africa will succeed. We have such a substantial contribution to make in Nigeria to save lives.
"If we learn from Norway government, building human capacity is the way forward. We are happy Nigeria is putting more domestic commitment in terms of resources, adding that the Programme would ensure that live saving commodities would be available for those that needed it.
He said 87,000 women die worldwide giving birth and the causes why they die - bleeding and infection etc, can be prevented. "We know what to do and we should do it. For children the die of chest infection, malaria etc".
Osotimehin added that 220 million women that need family planning do not get it. "We can provide this because is about providing resources", he said.
He commended Nigeria for providing initial $3 billion and further increasing it to $8.5 billion for reproductive health. He said this should be applauded as this was not the when he was a federal minister. "This was not there when I was a minister and this should be commended. "As UNFPA, we make strong commitment to do our best to ensure the implementation plan are given life to safe the lives of women and children".
In his welcome address, the Minister of Health, Prof. Onyebuchi Chukwu, thank the co-chairs for their tireless efforts for providing leadership in the commission.
He said the fight started in when the UN Secretary General lunched the save every woman and every child programme aimed to save 16 million lives by 2015.
He said it was even more urgent to get these several commodities to Nigeria now following the devastating effect of the flood and women and children being the worst hit.
Chairman, Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) represented by the Director General of the body, Okaro, said, "The forum frowns at the continuous death of our women and children. We thank our supporters and assure that by 2015 we will indeed save a million lives and that all 36 governors are on board this initiative".
The Senate President's representative, Senator Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa said, the Senate will support Mr. President and other partners committed to saving lives. He Commended efforts so far made in the health sector and look forward to signing the Health Bill.
The House Committee Chairman on Health, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, congratulated President Jonathan for his foresight for hosting this conference.
He said the House of Representatives were very concerned with the equity of sharing of these commodities. "We promise to do our best to ensure the necessary funding needed is provided for this initiative".
Pastor Ayo Oritejafor, the President Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), speaking on behalf of religous and traditional leaders, said, "this is very positive initiatives. I hope we will go beyond all the ceremonies, stop the talk and do the work.
"We thank the partners and we urge them to continue to reach out to us and God will give us the grace and conscience to do the right thing".
In his remarks, Jim Ovia, representative of the Nigerian Private Sector Health Alliance, said the body was Nigeria's response to UN initiatives to saving lives.
"Why the private sector is interested in saving lives is because we thought is not about running successful businesses but also giving back to the society. We got inspired by what has happened outside Nigeria like Ray Foundation, working for UN ambassador saving lives.
"We in the private sector could bring a lot of ideas and initiatives to save lives, I will rather play a role in saving lives than in making money. We will bring resources, good governance and how these initiatives will be delivered appropriately to the table".
The Representatives of development partners, described the lunch and other effort of government as a "positive indication of Nigeria's seriousness in saving lives. We are pleased to support this valuable initiative.
"We recognise progress has been made but the pace is slow in meeting the target by 2015. Concerted efforts should be made to realise the goal, we remain committed to supporting the plan and vision 2020:20. We endorse the initiative of saving one million lives as we jointly strive in a harmonise manner to deliver on the goal".
The Administrator, USAID, in his goodwill message, assures of thr United States commitment to working with Nigeria. "The health expenditure is growing so is not about more money for health but also more health for money. The programme must have wider impact on women and children. We are committed to aligning our health portfolio to saving one million lives of women and children in Nigeria".
In her goodwill message, the Board member, Clinton Health Access Initiative, Ms. Chelsea Clinton, said "I'm honour to be here not just as a member but for as a firm believer in what is being done here. We believe we can cover the distribution of zinc and ORS it will save over 157,000 by the end of year. The private sector deliver more than 60 per cent of health services in Nigeria and so should be part of it.
"We have been able to drive down the cost of providing drugs by 75 per cent. We are looking forward to coming back in 2016 to celebrate the success".
Geeta Rao Gupta, Deputy Executive Director (Programmes), UNICEF said it was unacceptable that mothers bleed to death, babies die for lack of antibiotics in 2012. She said saving one million lives by 2015 was achievable "if we work together, work on our mistakes and stay on our goal.
"We can all learn from Nigeria as it grows from health to health We look forward to celebrating the success and give every child a healthy mother and every mother a healthy child.
"We hope to review the status of the 13 life saving commodities when we reconvene in April 2013 to review implementation".
The Minister of State, Health, Dr. Ali Pate regretted that 5,000 children die weekly in Nigeria and that mothers in rural area are 12 times likely to die during child birth.
He said the SURE-P has started a remarkable health funds transfer assuring that government will improve on it as it goes along.
He said Nigeria was capable of saving 1.8 million lives by 2015 but has set for herself the target of one million.
The Coordinating Minister and Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, said President Jonathan believes naturally in empowering women, to ensure lives of women and children are saved.
"Today is a call to action. We have refuse to accept the number of deaths and the danger it portents for the socio-economic life of Nigeria. Nigeria currently stands on its treshhold and by 2030 most of it's working population will be the young people.
"We are proud that as Mr. President promised to channel the subsidy reinvestment fund, N3 billion has been released by SURE P for health related programmes. Five Ministries will sign an MOU with women affairs ministry to deliver on certain services that benefit women and children and will get additional budgetary allocations on this.
"Without the commitment of midwives we will be far away from attaining our goals and so we commend them for the good job they have been doing that has been recognized gobally".
The UN Commission approved 10 recommendations to support improved and equitable access to selected life-saving commodities.
It was launched globally as part of the "Every Woman, Every Child (EWEC)" movement on Sept. 26, 2013.
The recommendations are: shaping global markets, shaping local delivery markets, innovative financing, quality strengthening and regulation efficiency.
Others included: supply and awareness, demand and utilization, reaching women and children, performance and accountability and product innovation.