March 01, 2011
Helping Save Nigeria’s Newborns
By Dr. Nkeiru Onuekwusi, Department of Child Development, Federal Ministry of Women’s Affairs, Abuja, Nigeria.
New data has shown that the rate of death in children under-five years in Nigeria is decreasing, yet the percentage of deaths that happen in the first month of life is increasing. Newborn deaths now account for 28 percent of deaths in under-five children compared to 24 percent two years ago.
Women and newborns are most at risk in the first few days of life, therefore we need to make access to care more equitable. In Nigeria today, six out of ten mothers give birth at home without skilled care. In two southern states – Anambra and Imo – more than 90 percent of women give birth attended by skilled health workers, while in 6 northern states – Katsina, Jigawa, Sokoto, Kebbi, Zamfara, and Yobe – fewer than one in ten women have access to skilled care at birth.
At the September 2010 MDG summit in New York, His Excellency, President Goodluck Jonathan GCFR committed to integrated services for maternal, newborn and child health, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, as well as strengthening the health management information system.
To reinforce the nearly 2,500 midwives already deployed to local health facilities nationwide through the Midwife Service Scheme, Nigeria will introduce a policy to increase the number of core services providers including Community Health Extension Workers and midwives, with a focus on deploying more skilled health staff in rural areas.
The health of newborns is a critical bridge between maternal and child health and central to the continuum of care linking mother, newborn and child health. The commitment to Nigeria’s newborns from the government, the UN mission, development partners, health care professionals and civil society is clear. Government at the highest level and the public has spoken: no longer should mothers die during childbirth nor babies and children die of preventable and treatable causes.
Now we must work together and reorient ourselves towards actions to deliver for our country’s most vulnerable citizens. We must keep the promises we have made to our women, newborns and children.