A five-year project in Gombe has seen an increase of 132% in the number of health workers and women practising skin-to-skin nursing over the last five years.
Skin-to-skin nursing, also called “kangaroo care”, emphasizes the importance of holding a naked or partially naked child against the bare skin for as long as possible daily, and is used in caring for babies born premature.
The State Accountability and Quality Improvement Project (SAQIP), working with health workers in 57 wards of Gombe, was started in 2014 to “improve the governance capacity and performance of public health system, improve accountability, get communities to participated in health systems and encourage uptake of commodities for maternal, newborn and child health (MNCH).
Skin-to-skin care is among MNCH interventions recommend to tackle newborn deaths.
“Many did not even know that it was important, but now the awareness has improved,” said Jemeh Pius, director of programmes at Pact West Africa, which implements SAQIP alongside three other grantees with funds from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Over the five years, the project also reported a 250% increase in availability of life-saving MNCH commodities, reached some 46,000 women of child-bearing age with MNCH-related education.
The women were also empowered to save in groups, got access to loans to improve their livelihood and provide access to health services.
“Many of those groups were able to save a whole lot of money, they are able to access loans to start a business. So many of them have started businesses and that also increases their ability to pay for health-related services,” Pius told Daily Trust in Abuja.
The project ends this December, and lessons from its implementation in Gombe are to be made public on Tuesday in Abuja.
The project leaves in its wake a pool of master trainers to provide training for health care workers.
Pact has already convened a workshop in Gombe to share its lessons and look at gaps that the state government and its agencies can bridge once SAQIP winds down in December.
“They are willing to commit to strengthen ward development committees, and make sure that every primary health care facility in the same has the same quality of care as the ones we have worked with,” said Pius.