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Boosting child, maternal health in FC T

In fact, by 2015, when the UN initiative will end, it is envisaged that the survival rate of children less than five years will exceed…

In fact, by 2015, when the UN initiative will end, it is envisaged that the survival rate of children less than five years will exceed 75 per cent, while women of child-bearing age will no longer die on account of pregnancy and child birth complications.

Just four years to go, stakeholders in the nation’s health sector are not too pleased with the situation on ground and relates to the attainment of set objectives.

Perceptive health analysts say that recent research findings on maternal mortality and morbidity are not cheering at all as one expectant mother still dies in every 10 minutes in Nigeria due to no fault of theirs.

Dr Hadiza Balarabe, Director of Primary Healthcare at the FCT Primary Health Care Board, made an assessment of the situation in the last five years.

“It is sad to note that in spite of previous efforts, maternal, new born, and under-five morbidity/mortality indices have shown only marginal reductions in the last five years, making achievements of the MDG targets by 2015 hazy.”

Balarabe, who recently addressed a training workshop for some state technical facilitators in Abuja, spoke of the desirability of accelerated attainment of the health objectives of the MDGs before 2015.

Against the backdrop of the recently celebrated Maternal, New Born and Child Health Week (MNCHW) of the FCT, Balarabe, said that the event provided another opportunity to propagate “equity, community participation, inter-sectoral collaboration and self-reliance in primary healthcare service delivery”.

International health partners and donor agencies such as UNICEF, WHO, Save-the-Children, among others, no doubt, consider MNCHW as particularly helpful to the objectives of MDGs, judging from its successes in Angola, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mozambique, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Zambia.

As a precursor, the Child Health Week (CHW) was incepted in October 2009 by the Inter-Agency Coordination Committee (ICC), upon approval by the National Council on Health. It was planned for implementation biannually.

It was later modified to include Maternal, New Born and Child Health Week, which initially centered on exclusive breastfeeding, Vitamin’A’ and Oral Rehydration Solution (ORS) applications.

During the week’s celebration, primary health care facilities nearest to communities and within five kilometers’ radius were expected to be the fulcrum of activities, while mothers and care givers were encouraged to bring their children to the local facilities.

Since the successful launching of CHW therefore, more interventions have been added to improve on efforts at developing primary healthcare in the country.

Now all-inclusive and facility-based, it now encompasses routine immunization for children aged between zero and 59 months; de-worming for kids aged one and above, malnutrition assessments, use of long-lasting insecticide treated nets (LLITN), among others.

Analysts say that in barely two years of its observance, the MNCHW has achieved improved health outcomes and impact, as mobilization had been achieved through policy makers, traditional, religious and community leaders, service providers and care givers at all levels.

The last MNCHW, with the theme — “A package of care for healthy family”, took place nationwide with varying degrees of success.

For instance, eight states — Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Kogi, Kwara, Niger, Sokoto and Zamfara States and the FCT, which are supervised by UNICEF “C” Field Office in Kaduna were clustered into three groups, which marked theirs at convenient dates.

Sources of support for the interventions are varied but suffice it to say that they include UNICEF, WHO, Target State High Impact Project (TSHIP), Save the Children and Partnership for Reviving Routine Immunization in Northern Nigeria (PRRIN).

Media enlightenment and sensitizations were explored to the fullest before and during the week’s celebrations in the respective centres, with a view to giving boost to the goals of MNCHW.

Mrs Tamani Yusuf, acting Managing Director of Kaduna State Media Corporation (KSMC), pledged the media’s cooperation towards attaining the nation’s health goals.

“Every woman who becomes pregnant and sustains the pregnancy does so in expectation of the delivery of a healthy baby. There is an added joy and satisfaction of watching the child grow.

“Surely it is the duty of society, healthcare providers, the media and other stakeholders to do their utmost to fulfill this expectation,” Yusuf emphasised.

She said that the MNCHW was particularly important as it afforded ready access to millions of mothers and children in the states for improved healthcare, counselling and birth registration.

“The media can go a long way in making a difference as we improve the quality of lives of the communities we serve,” she said, adding that mass media was indispensable to the scheme’s success.

The MNCHW was indeed unique in the FCT as the official opening was graced by Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu; his junior counterpart, Dr Mohammed Pate and the FCT Minister, Sen. Bala Mohammed.

Mohammed stressed the importance of the MNCHW, saying it aimed at delivering an integrated package of interventions that were “cost-effective; of high impact and indeed result-oriented as far as improving maternal and child health is concerned”.

He described the theme for the celebration as apt and timely, especially as the present FCT Administration wished for a high quality healthcare programming and service delivery to its residents.

Mohammed noted that Vitamin A coverage in the territory had risen to 87 per cent in 2010, while the cumulative Diptheria 3 coverage also rose to 87 per cent correspondingly.

“The FCT recorded only one confirmed case of wild polio virus in 2010 and none so far in 2011,” he said, adding that thus far, the capacities of health workers in the territory had been improved.

“Worthy of note is the introduction of the Mailafia Mobile Rural HealthCare Delivery Initiative; it is a local initiative that has international acceptance.

“No eligible woman, new born baby or child should miss any of the interventions that will be provided at the designated health facilities in each ward in all the six area councils in the FCT,” he said.

In retrospect, however, Mr Samuel Yohanna, a Cold Chain Officer attached to Bwari Area Council, said that credit for the large turn out of participants at MNCHW went to town criers and social mobilization officers in the territory.

Few hiccups were experienced by organizers of the week in terms of logistics and funds but Dr Rilwanu Mohammed, the Executive Secretary of the Board, blamed it all on “administrative bottlenecks”.

Remarkably, the media kept a close tab on the week’s celebration, especially in Bwari, Gwagwalada and Kuje Area Councils, where activities lined out for the week were dutifully executed.

During a health talk at the General Hospital, Bwari, intriguing questions were fielded from a cross section of the participants.

Some mothers, for instance, sought to know if ORS should be prepared with warm or cold water; whether cube or granulated sugar could be utilized for the solution and whether such solution could be kept overnight and used.

Prayerfully, the session’s leader ended his presentation thus: “May God let your children live to attain their destinies in life and buy you houses, cars and aeroplanes”, to which all present chorused “Amen.”

In Gwagwalada, the participants shared their various perspectives on the weeklong celebration.

One of them, Mrs Rahmat Hassan, an official of the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria said that the outing was very commendable and rewarding.

For Mrs Promise Bature, a 400-Level Accounting undergraduate at the University of Abuja, the free birth certificate issued her was amazing.

Nevertheless, it was all not smooth for week’s event, going by what chanced at Chibiri Ward in Kuje Area Council, where the health workers at the primary health centre were virtually on holiday as nothing meaningful was in place.

Apparently disappointed by the poor showing, a state technical facilitator, Mrs Ruth Bako, did not hide her misgivings, even though the centre’s Focal Person, Mrs Amina Aliyu, tried to exonerate herself, claiming that the community health workers refused to cooperate with her.

As a direct consequence, some antigens for the centre laid waste and were destroyed as they had not been properly preserved.

No doubt, the FCT’s PHCDB, through the celebration, demonstrated the will to succeed in its numerous healthcare challenges.

To date, the FCT has 216 health facilities in 62 wards within all its six area councils though not all are well staffed, equipped and supplied with drugs.

With an estimated population of 1.4 million, according to the 2006 Census data, the territory has a growth rate of 9.3 per cent due to the influx of Nigerians from elsewhere.

Such daunting reality imposes a demand on the administration to turn around its primary healthcare facilities.

Dr. Rilwan Mohammed, Executive Secretary of the board, said that a turn around of health facilities in the territory was desirable but added that the process would be gradual because of obvious limitations.

He stressed that partnerships with international donor agencies would be strengthened to boost health care in the territory.

On his part, Emir of Pindiga, Alhaji Adamu Yakubu said it was desirable for the next MNCHW to be better organized so that maximum gains would be derived from the celebration for the betterment of the territory’s residents.

NAN Feature