Discussing how to improve maternal health in areas of conflict and extreme poverty with The Guardian (UK), H.E. Mrs. Toyin Saraki, Founder-President of the reproductive, maternal, newborn, adolescent and child health (RMNCAH) non-governmental organization – the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA), has called for an increased emphasis on health education through midwives, which will protect women in crisis settings by ensuring that they have the knowledge needed to protect themselves and their children.
Currently, Nigeria – Africa’s most populous nation – is home to 3.3 million people who have been displaced by violence. Sharing insight on the Guardian Global Development Live Q&A panel on the 28th of January 2015, Mrs. Saraki also used this opportunity to create awareness of the disproportional impact of humanitarian crisis on women and adolescent girls, with many pregnant women and girls giving birth without assistance from a skilled birth attendant, due to rising conflict.
In order to facilitate the much needed health education for pregnant women living in conflict settings, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa recently commenced free antenatal education classes in IDP camps in the country, under its #MaternalMonday Campaign. Utilizing midwives, who localise messages to mothers, and enable women to take an active role in their healthcare, WBFA’s antenatal programmes take into account local context and social factors, which have an important impact on health in situations of conflict and poverty.
Noting that a scale-up in access to midwives by 25% could reduce maternal mortality by 50%, Mrs. Saraki, who also serves as the Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), stated, “midwives – if given the right education, regulation, and midwifery associations within a global midwifery services framework – are a cost-effective solution for RMNCAH in conflict and extreme poverty.” To therefore address the skills gap facing many midwives and healthcare workers, WBFA has partnered with Johnson & Johnson and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) to deliver a ‘skills and drills’ training package for Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (EmONC) in Kwara State that can reduce maternal mortality by up to 15%, and stillbirth rates by up to 20%.
In an effort to improve maternal health in conflict-affected regions in Nigeria, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa has provided pregnant women in Nigerian IDP camps with WBFA Mama Kits (safe delivery kits), which contain all the essential health commodities that can transform any location into a safe and clean birthing area. The Foundation also established the Alaafia Universal Health Coverage Fund, which provides quality health insurance for 5000 Nigerians every year; and has developed and distributed cost-effective, client-held Personal Health Records that empower women to track their health, and the health of their child in low-resource settings.
Other panellists in The Guardian Q&A panel included Sandra Krause, Director, Sexual and Reproductive Health Programme – Women’s Refugee Commission; Nicolas Avril, Senior Health Consultant, Crown Agents; Katy Mayall, Global Advocacy Adviser, Center for Reproductive Rights; Nadene Brunk, Executive Director, Midwives For Haiti; Adrian Brown, Chair, Maternity Worldwide; and Henia Dakkak, Technical Adviser, United Nations Population Fund.
Amongst other salient points, these health experts highlighted the role of empowering marginalized groups within the context of poverty and conflict; addressing the underlying social determinants of health, improving access to family planning and emergency contraceptives; utilizing mhealth’s ability to respond to local demands; building local capacity of healthcare systems; and ensuring accountability in all programmatic interventions to improve maternal health. For the entire conversation, follow this link (http://bit.ly/1OW6fMd).
Photo: A new born baby sleeps in the arms of her mother at a Community Health Center in Mall, near Lucknow, India. Photograph: Roberto Schmidt