By Rotimi Ojomoyela
IBADAN—SCALING down the increasing rate of child mortality and new born deaths across the country has been a major challenge to health professionals and care givers in the country and her development partners alike.
Experts disclosed that Nigeria accounts for 10 per cent of the global burden of infant, child and maternal mortality and they insisted that if the country is desirous of achieving the Sustainable Development Goal, SDG, target of 25 deaths per thousand births in 2030, it needs to accelerate infant mortality reduction from the current alarming situation.
Child deaths in Nigeria mostly occur in rural localities of highly populated states.
Ten states which include Bauchi, Niger, Kebbi, Zamfara, Sokoto Kastina, Jigawa, Kano, Lagos and Oyo have been identified as high prevalent areas.
Survey indicates that the number of babies dying in Oyo State daily was higher in absolute number than others in the South- West states because of the population of the state and data from SMART Survey indicated that Oyo ranked 3rd in absolute number when compared with the other states affected by the infant deaths.
This apparently informed the partnership between the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF, and Oyo State Government, which culminated in the launch of Accelerated Action for Impact, AAI, an initiative formulated by the duo to wage a total war against the scourge of new born death in three most affected communities in Oyo – Ibadan North-East, Ibarapa North and Saki West.
This revelation was made at a forum tagged: Media dialogue on improving health outcomes for children in Oyo State through Accelerated Action for Impact, which was organised by the duo in Ibadan to sensitise journalists on the need for immediate action to tackle the scourge.
A health specialist with UNICEF, Dr Adebola Hassan told journalists at the forum that the six local government areas were mapped through survey, which UNICEF considered as having a preponderance of neo-natal death, but three of them – Ibadan North-East, Ibarapa North and Saki West – were doing terribly bad and needed more intervention than others.
She added that the AAI is to fast- track interventions on the preventable child death through a granular data from local governments, wards and communities considered to be burdened by the neo-natal death. Dr Hassan said that this novel approach helped in scaling the number of areas needing more intervention into the three local governments.
She noted that prior to the intervention of UNICEF, 334,000 new born were estimated to die due to inadequate health facilities, inadequate doctors and other health workers and unequal distribution of nurses.
Dr Hassan said most of these children die from preventable diseases, and as a result of lack of information on exclusive breastfeeding, immunisation and nutrition of children up till the age of five. This is even when available vaccines and good nutrition could have prevented such deaths.
Community to the rescue
Through the effort of community development associations’ volunteers in the three local government areas, windows of dialogue with the people at the grassroots were opened and this led to improved patronage of the health facilities.
Information on exclusive breastfeeding and immunisation has also been scaled up.
A National Orientation Agency officer at the forum, Moshood Olaleye, in his paper titled: Community Involvement and Participation, said that through the information materials produced to assist the CDA volunteers in the area of exclusive breastfeeding and immunisation, health workers and patients have been sensitized on the use of health facilities instead of patronising Community Birth Attendants, CBA, or Traditional Birth Attendants,TBA.
Olaleye added that both CBAs and TBAs now synergize with health workers such that they now refer patients to health centres.
The General Secretary, Community Development Council, Ibadan North- East, Ahmed Olayemi Yusuf told Vanguard that “Immediately NOA contacted us, we embarked on house to house campaign, sensitising our people on the need for the pregnant women to be attending hospital for their ante-natal clinic and they have been doing so. We also educate them on the need for exclusive beastfeeding.