By Michael Eboh and Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA– THE fight against maternal and child mortality in Nigeria, has received a much needed boost from the MTN Foundation, the Corporate Social Responsibility, CSR, arm of Mobile Telecommunication Network, MTN.
The statistics on maternal and infant mortality had over the years, assumed a frightening dimension, with the country recording a huge number of deaths of pregnant women, expectant mothers and large number of stillbirths and pre-term babies.
Report from the Federal Ministry of Health disclosed that every year, the country records 814 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. It also noted that every year, 831,100 babies are born prematurely, adding that 87,800 of the premature babies die every year, while one in three new-born deaths are due to pre-term birth complications.
The report also noted that neonatal deaths account for 32 per cent of all under five deaths, while it disclosed that of the per 1,000 live births, the South-South region recorded 32 deaths; North-Central recorded 35 deaths; South-East 37 deaths. Others are South-West, North-West and North-East with 39 deaths, 44 deaths and 43 deaths respectively.
On its own part, the World Health Organisation, WHO, said the lack of trained health care attended births in Nigeria is compounded by the fact that only six in ten mothers receive antenatal care from a trained medical professional, adding that as of 2003, only 58 per cent of pregnant women received iron supplements and only 39 received drugs to prevent malaria.
To address this shortcoming, MTN Foundation launched a project called YellowHeart Initiative in partnership with the Federal Government and other local and multinational institutions.
The YellowHeart was initiated by the MTN Foundation with the support of the Federal Ministry of Health with a core objective to drastically reduce the prevalence of deaths of women and children by providing access to quality healthcare for less privileged women and children in the society who otherwise would have no access.
Commenting on the initiative, Executive Secretary of the MTN Foundation, Nonny Ugboma, said by creating awareness of maternal and infant mortality and the attendant causes, YellowHeart also seeks to address the predominant issues of knowledge, attitude and practices that hinder healthcare accessibility for mothers and children across the country.
She said the pilot phase would reach the six states of Ogun, Oyo, Niger, Kaduna, Cross River and Abia, with workshops on pregnancy, childbirth and breast-feeding; stakeholder awareness fora on maternal and childcare; advocacy walks; and free delivery kits.
Also speaking on the launch of the initiative, Chairman of the MTN Foundation, Mr. Julius Adelusi-Adeluyi, applauded the Federal Government and the Ministry of Health, for championing the project.
He said MTN Foundation’s longstanding partnership with the government had facilitated the establishment of mammography centres, provision of equipment to maternal wards and primary healthcare centres.
He further stated that the partnership had also brought about improved access to primary healthcare through the Y’ello Doctor mobile clinics and also enabled the delivery of much needed services to expectant and new mothers.
He said: “We have made a long-term commitment to the health, wellbeing and survival of our people. As the different projects that will stem from this initiative begin to unfold, we call on everyone to stand together.
“The Yellow Heart Initiative holds the key to the future we want. Our women and children are the seeds of a new dawn. They birth our nation.”
Confirming the partnership, Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, said the project spearheaded by MTNF was in strategic partnership across public, private and non-profit sectors, and was targeted at addressing the rising incidences of maternal and child mortality in Nigeria.
Adewole, who was represented at the launch of the initiative by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health, Clement Uwaifo, disclosed that the initiative would further strengthen the on-going efforts of the taskforce on accelerated reduction of maternal mortality in Nigeria.
The minister disclosed that the pilot phase of the Yellow Heart Initiative would commence in six states, Ogun, Oyo, Niger, Kaduna, Cross River and Abia.
He said, “The states were selected because they are states where MTN Foundation (MTNF) has implemented maternal and child health projects, such as refurbishment and improvement of maternity wards in each of these states; provision of food and materials to orphans and vulnerable children among others.”
Adewole further stated that phase two of the initiative would focus on states with the highest maternal mortality ratio in Nigeria, namely Sokoto, Kebbi, Jigawa, Katsina, Zamfara and Yobe states, adding, “I want to commend MTN Foundation for its past efforts at improving the quality of life in communities across Nigeria through a range of health interventions.”