By SOLA OGUNDIPE
The last is yet to be heard about the set of four pre-term babies (quadruplets) born at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital, UITH, Kwara State, on May 24, 2012., to Joy Chukwukaelo, a nursery school teacher and her husband, Samuel, a petty trader.
Following the death of two of the babies between May 27 -29, 2012, anxiety rose to fever pitch within the medical community at the Federal Teaching Hospital where the babies were being observed.
The condition of the last two surviving infants remained fragile but stable, when an SOS message sent out late May was received by the Wellbeing Foundation, WBF, Africa – a frontline African Maternal Newborn and Child Health, MNCH and empowerment organisation, dedicated to transforming the lives of women and children through advocacy and action. On reciept of the distress call, Wife of the Kwara State Governor, Mrs. Toyin Saraki, who is also Founder /President of the WBFA, personally intervened.
Her response to the needs of the pre-term babies on May 30, 2012, was through immediate dispatch of the WBFA Alaafia Kwara Twins and Multiple Births Assistance Unit which runs longstanding assistance programmes at the UITH as well as the Children’s Specialist Hospital Centre, Igboro – both in Kwara state.
Unfortunately, on the 2nd of June 2012, a third baby suffered a bleed and also passed away.
In a statement, Toyin Saraki observed that from the onset, as informed by the supervising physician, the WBFA, the current needs of the two surviving infants included antibiotics, fluid, diapers and most importantly, pre-term baby formula.
“Most of these essential commodities were accessible locally but critically not the infant pre-term baby formula, which is a specialised product for hospital use only,” she stated.
In her account, the WBFA Founder noted how the parents of the quadruplets, had little to no hope of acquiring this formula, not only due to the lack of financial resources, but unavailability of the formula in the Nigerian market and within the health system.
Armed only with her phones, and most importantly, her considerable knowledge of MNCH issues that spans two decades, Saraki reached out immediately to partners from an informed position, knowing what products were needed and where most likely to access to it.
“An eight- hour search finally resulted in the acquisition of the pre-term formulas thanks to the world renowned Great Ormond Street Hospital, London. A fortuitous logistic arrangement allowed the product to be delivered to the hospital within 24hrs through the WBF Africa Executive Director Mr. Temitayo Erogbogbo who was travelling back to Nigeria that very evening.
The WBFA Alaafia Kwara Twins and Multiple Births Assistance Unit led by consultant Hajiya Serifat Abdullahi has been providing on-going counselling to the family and complimenting the hospital staff care, while also providing financial support to cater for their essential immediate needs.
According to Toyin Saraki: “The experience of this young family illustrates the challenges within the Nigerian health system, the obvious lack of commodity illustrated by the absence of access to per-term formula, but more critically the lack of information and early engagement by pregnant women within the health system.
“The WBFA has long advocated for essential commodities for MNCH, most notably the IMNCH Personal Health Record (PHR). A key motive for the use of the PHR is to encourage expectant mothers to more readily access maternal services, guiding them through antenatal, postnatal and childhood development up to the age of five.
In the case of a potential complicated pregnancy and risk of pre-term births such as a multiple pregnancy, this could be identified early to allow for closer monitoring and due preparation taken to minimise risk to both mother and babies.”
With reference to the recent UNFPA report titled Born Too Soon championed by WBFA to highlight the growing number of pre-term babies and their increasingly high contribution to annual neonatal deaths globally and in Nigeria, Toyin Saraki notes:
“In Nigeria, there are 10-15 pre-term births per 100 live births. It is essential that there is a strategic approach that includes building partnerships to cater for the pre-term challenge as part of the country’s on-going effort to address its poor MNCH indices.
“WBF Africa hopes that the appointment of President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria as Co-Chair of the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women acts as a catalyst to improving access to essential live saving commodities.
“We continue to pray for the Chukwukaelo family and the staff at the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital. I’ll be watching their progress closely. Every case such as theirs reminds me why I began this journey to address maternal, newborn and child health challenges over 20 years ago. It also strengthens my resolve that there is so much to do particularly in Nigeria, further still, it highlights that we need to work together to overcome these challenges,” she asserted