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FG, World Bank laud free health initiative in Cross River

By Chioma Obinna
Ekaette Udoh, a mother of two would be alive today if only she had obtained ante natal care during pregnancy. But she never did because she lacked the finances. She did not bother about registering in any hospital until the day she fell into labour. It was only then doctors immediately discovered her baby was not well positioned and the only option was a Caesarean Section. Before you could say ‘Ekaette’ it was too late. She died with her unborn baby.

Many Nigerian women have lost their lives in this manner and unless something is done fast to check the trend, the maternal mortality indices of Nigeria would remain poor.

Thankfully, some State governments are paying attention to health. One of such is Cross River, with the launch of its free health care programme for pregnant women and children under five years. It is tagged “Project Hope” and the Conditional Cash Transfer Scheme tagged “Project Comfort”

Minister of Health, Prof. Babatunde Oshotimeyin recently pledged 10,000 mama kits and 500 delivery kits to the free health care programme. Launching the two programmes at the Primary Health Care Centre, Ukpa Bekwarra Local Government Area, last week, Oshotimehin, commended the Cross River State Government for initiating programmes that touch on the development and welfare of its people as practiced in Cuba and Korea, where such programmes have heightened literacy rate as well as eradicated the incidence of measles and polio.

He called on Nigerians to re-strategise and invest on their people as Cross River had lightened his job by supporting belief that resources should go to the States and Local Government because that is where development is.

Even the World Bank is not left out. Dr. Suleiman Yusuf who pledged a financial assistance of $6 million to boost Project Comfort on behalf of the World Bank’s support in technical grant and financial assistance, also described the two programmes as life changing on rural dwellers which he saw, as a proactive action to take people out of poverty.

Dr. Andrew Lubewe of the World Health Organization (WHO) said the programmes were aimed at reducing deaths among pregnant women and children and suggested that families should be well spaced to ensure growth among children while calling for the training of health workers to do their job as well as make available health facilities, strengthening of routine immunisation, provision of mosquito nets, and mothers breast feeding their children.

Cross River State Governor Liyel Imoke said the free health care programme was launched to ensure that women do not die during pregnancy, adding that the two programmes were meant for the socially and economically disadvantaged people of the State and called for the need to strategise the programmes to meet the most vulnerable in the population.

Imoke explained that the programmes were launched at Ukpa, Bekwarra Local Government Area because of its rural setting. He said the State has adopted a wholistic approach to achieve a remarkable result by taking the free health care programme to 130 health centres across the State with the training and retraining of staff, provision of solar energy and bore holes as budgetary provision has been made for renovation and equipping of facilities as well as provision of rural roads to link them, stressing that significant investment has been made with the support of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the tune of N3.5 billion.

Imoke reasoned that the problem will not be solved with the provision of free health care alone but with the formation of a Primary Health Care Council which he is the Chairman as it is expected to present a holistic platform for it to succeed when the council is established by law, adding that poverty is one of the challenges faced by the people and that the administration will not allow the people be denied qualitative and affordable health care because of poverty.

He noted that 130,000 people have been registered and provided with biometric technology cards and called on health workers to be at their best rather than dash the hopes of the beneficiaries because the essence of the programme is service delivery.

Commissioner for Social Welfare and Community Development Mrs. Edak Iwuchukwu explained that the free health care for pregnant women and children under five years is tagged “Hope” because it is intended to give hope to those who have been underserved while the Conditional Cash Transfer to Poor Household tagged “Project Comfort” is a basic income assistance to people living in near abject poverty and can not send their children to school out of hunger.

Benefitting families will be entitled to N12,000.00 monthly as N5,000.00 is for nutrition support while N7,000.00 is saved and aggregated and given to the family as a lump sum of 12 months which is an investment income of N84,000.00, and intended to prepare the beneficiaries for self reliance and self employment.


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