Every year our Federal Ministry of Health, and the multitude of development partners at its service produce hundreds of reports about their plans and activity. Most of these reports are hidden away on dusty shelves, deep inside websites that no one goes to. Many of the reports are poor and will not stand the scrutiny of enlightened peer review. Some are sprinkled with pictures of newly repainted primary health care centres as evidence of improved health care services. Once in a while a good report is produced that actually addresses some of the major challenges of our time.
It is no longer a secret that Nigeria is at significant risk of not meeting the the Millennium Development Goals 4 and 5.
MDG 4: Reduce by two-thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-five mortality rate.
MDG 5: Reduce by three quarters, between 1990 and 2015, the maternal mortality ratio
Did you know that every day in Nigeria, about 700 babies die (around 30 every hour). This is the highest number of newborn deaths in Africa, and the second highest in the world.
A new report – Newborn Health represents a major milestone to plan for Nigeria’s 241,000 newborns who die from preventable and treatable causes every year. Published under the auspices of the Federal Ministry of Health, and developed by Save the Children in collaboration with major stakeholders, the stated goal of the report is to accelerate action by dutybearers to save the lives of Nigeria’s newborns.
One obvious innovation in this particular report, are written commitments from the development partners, our Federal Ministry of Health, professional bodies and even representatives of the people.
Filled with well analysed and presented data on the Nigerian health sector as it relates to maternal and child care, the report is an excellent summary of where we are and how we can make progress. It ends with a call for action around 5 well articulated recommendations. For me personally, the most striking fact in the opening sections of the report was that “key interventions to save newborn lives are mostly possible through the existing health system and will prevent the deaths of mothers and older children …but coverage remains poor” ….Below is some of the data. Data that should absolutely shock our leaders and drive them to action. But unfortunately neither our leaders, most of health professionals or the public at large have quite come to terms with the enormity of challenges that face us in the health sector.
- Exclusive breastfeeding of infants less than six months – 13%
- Had at least 1 Antenatal visit in pregnancy – 58%
- Has received 1 Measles vaccination – 41%
- 12 states where less than 20% of women give birth with a skilled attendant present
- Coverage is especially low for modern contraception use (10%)
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has…Margaret Mead