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Nigerian First Lady supports maternal mortality reduction with “mama kits”

UNICEF Representative and Nigeria's First Lady
© UNICEF Nigreia/2008
The Nigerian First Lady, Hajia Turai Yar'Adua and UNICEF Representative, Dr. Suomi Sakai display "Mama kit", a safe delivery pack.

By Geoffrey Njoku

Abuja, 25 November 2008 - The wife of the President of Nigeria and the Nigerian First Lady Hajia Turai Yar’Adua has pledged commitment to maternal mortality reduction in Nigeria.

The First Lady made this commitment when she received UNICEF Nigeria Country Representative Dr. Suomi Sakai in her office. Dr. Sakai paid her first courtesy visit to the First Lady since assuming office as the UNICEF Representative to Nigeria. The First Lady said as the Goodwill Ambassador for maternal and newborn child health, she will deploy her position to leverage resources for a drastic reduction in the appalling statistics of maternal deaths in Nigeria.

Nigeria is one of the three countries, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Niger which contribute almost two thirds of maternal deaths in the West and Central Africa region. These countries all together account for approximately 20 per cent of all maternal deaths worldwide.

In Nigeria, 53, 000 women die annually of pregnancy-related illnesses and every ten minutes, a woman dies due to complications of pregnancy. The major reason for this is that only a little more than thirty percent (37%) less than half of all births in the country are attended to by skilled health personnel. The official maternal mortality rate is in a range of 800-1, 000/100, 000 live births.

In 2006, using the Accelerated Child Survival and Development strategy as a foundation to build on, UNICEF and other development partners supported the government of Nigeria to develop an all encompassing Integrated Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (IMNCH) Strategy.

The main idea of the IMNCH is the fast tracking of comprehensive action on evidence based high impact intervention packages that address the main causes of maternal, newborn and child morbidity and mortality in an integrated manner by a committed partnership at scale at all levels.  As part of the effort to access high level political commitment, in January this year, the Nigerian First Lady was invested as the Goodwill Ambassador for IMNCH.

Since the launch of the IMNCH, the First Lady has galvanized the wives of the governors of the 36 States of the country for the adoption of the strategy in the states. As a result of this, the roll out of the IMNCH strategy has started in 15 states out of the 23 states that have asked for help from the National Ministry in starting the process of IMNCH implementation. Dr. Suomi Sakai used the opportunity of this meeting to promise UNICEF’s support in making the roll out a reality.

Hajia Turai Yar’adua intimated the Representative of her strategy to support maternal mortality reduction in Nigeria. The main one is the introduction of ‘Mama Kit” for safe delivery in hospitals across the country, the second is the positioning of safe delivery ambulances in remote hard to reach areas in case of delivery emergences.

The ‘Mama Kits’ contains clean delivery supplies and other immediate needs of the mother and baby for safe delivery. The Mama kit is a pro poor strategy to encourage hospital attendance for safe delivery because poor women, unable to buy these items necessary for delivery stay home to have their babies.

The kits will be in the custody of ‘Hospital Friends” a community based action group for safe delivery and maternal mortality reduction consisting of committed volunteers who are motivated by the zeal to save the lives of pregnant women.. They will dispense the kits based on needs at the community hospitals. “We will entrust the kits in their custody and they will give them to women in labour who are too poor to buy the items and soon will start supplying caesarean packs too.” said Hajia Yar’adua.

The Representative suggested to the First Lady that experiences from this approach to maternal mortality reduction be collated in the form of lessons learned for replication and up scaling. Dr. Sakai also called on the First Lady to use her position to champion the cause of mobilizing other African First Ladies to work with UNICEF to ensure the best for African children. She expressed the hope that the First Lady as a role model will continue to advocate for girls’ enrollment and retention in schools.

For further information, contact Media & External Relations, UNICEF Nigeria Country Office:
• Paula Fedeski: +234 803 402 0879;
• Geoffrey Njoku:+ 234 803 525 0288;



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