Daily Trust (Abuja)

9 March 2013

Nigeria: When Young Minds Unite Against Maternal, Child Mortalities

Dr. Ashiru Abubakar is a young doctor who has spent most of his career in the Department of Obstetrics in various community hospitals in northern Nigeria.

Oluwadamilola Olufunbi Olaogun, is also a young doctor who had her medical degree from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, and her Masters of Public Health from the Nuffield Centre of International Health and Development, University of Leeds, United Kingdom. Thirty-three years old Dr. Olaogun from Ile Ife, Osun State on the other hand, has her maternal health focus area in midwives service scheme and maternal mortality in North West Zone of Nigeria.

While 29 years old Chinomso IbeTraffina from Owerri, Imo state has a maternal health focus area in male involvement, community advocates and abolishing of harmful pregnancy practices specialized in Nursing Profession and Certified Midwife.

The trio brought together and sponsored by The Maternal Health Young Champions Programme (MHYC), have started a nine-month fellowship programme to understudy experienced mentors in the medical field with the common objective of curtailing the high maternal and infant mortality rates in Nigeria.

The latest effort by the MHYC is considering the rates of maternal death which remain alarmingly high in Nigeria. Every minute, a woman dies in pregnancy or childbirth and over 300 million women in poor countries suffer from maternal morbidity. Majority of mothers do not receive even the most basic quality health care during childbirth--when both the mother and child are most at risk--are often unavailable.

The latest infant mortality rates for Nigeria as revealed by UNICEF is 73 per 1000 live births, this is a very important health indicator in any country. It is also estimated that every single day over 2,000 children die from preventable causes. These figures are some of the worse in the world. Top causes include malaria, pneumonia and diarrheao, which are all easily preventable with strong health systems and a focus on both demand and supply side dynamics.

MHYC's Programme director (Nigeria), Dr. Yushua Alkali Hamza who is a consultant pediatrician and public health specialist, underlined the essence of the fellowship, noting that it was aimed at equipping emerging public health leaders with the skills, commitment and vision to respond fully to multiple causes and consequences of this threat.

Dr. Hamza explained that the programme offers a unique fellowship to the young champions from across the country who would be selected and then matched with in - country mentors from selected organizations for the duration of the fellowship.

He said the champions would undergo a nine-month research or field project internship focusing on a particular area of maternal health, adding that the fellowship includes leadership training and participation in the Global Maternal Health Conference just held in January in Arusha, Tanzania.

Justifying the intervention of the MHYC, she said "Maternal health is a big issue and that it is because Nigeria has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios and I think next to India with over 1.2 billion people who has the highest number of women who die, and so any intervention that can improve the health of women during pregnancy and childbirth is an intervention that is welcome and we believe that young people who are upcoming needs that kind of awareness and they need to have that platform to air out their ideas.

"And so we felt we would look at young people who are emerging and have them focus on maternal health. We need an innovative intervention that would help this situation. It is because we believe that young people have a lot of innovation; we believe that we should give young people a chance to bring about their ideas and focus on them. That was why the focus is on young people. They say that young people are the future and if we are able to bring up a group of young people, the future would be bright. So I think young people really need to know the issues of maternal health."

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