A non-governmental organisation is out to address the lingering and widespread maternal and child mortality as well as morbidity rates in the country. It has been a bedrock of safe motherhood in Zamfara state since its establishment. SANUSI MUHAMMAD examines the policies and programmes.
Advocacy Nigeria was established in 2005 as a movement to improve the reproductive health of all Nigerians. It is indeed, an alliance of concerned Nigerians with the common goal to work together with a view to lowering the excessively high maternal and infant mortality as well as morbidity rates.
However, the alliance consisted of representatives from the federal and states government officials, non-governmental organisations, religious organisations, parliamentarians, the academia and health service providers, respectively.
Based on national demographic survey, Nigeria has one of the world’s highest maternal mortality rates with an estimated 800 women dying out of which every 100,000 give birth. The estimated number of women who die annually is 52,000 with every 4,400 deaths per month and for every maternal death, 20 women suffer from debilitating disabilities.
According to Advocacy Nigeria, the main causes and reasons for Nigeria’s poor reproductive health profile are complex and comprises the non-recognition at the highest political levels that the country has a major problem that puts her out of phase with development, with a weak health system, weakness in harmonising development project, poor leadership, abject poverty, poor implementation of signed conventions due to cultural and religious prejudices and general ignorance on reproductive health issues and their impact on development.
According to the non-governmental organisation, most of the deaths that occur as a result of this can be avoided by increasing access to such basic services as family planning, safe delivery and micro nutrient supplementation. Reducing maternal morbidity and mortality rates will help to reduce the unacceptably high under-five child mortality rate of 100 per 1,000 children.
The organisation further suggested that there is need for political will as well as monetary and human resources to make basic health services available so that women can have children without fear for their health.
Vision and mission.
The advocacy Nigeria has mission and vision among others to ensure that every country has healthy citizens where motherhood is made safe, child survival is enhanced and reproductive health services are accessible and affordable. While at the same time ensuring an effective advocacy mechanism that will ensure increase in budgetary allocation to reproductive health and support legislation to promote sustainable reproductive health services respectively.
Objectives, strategies and networking.
The advocacy Nigeria has three determined setting objectives which include increase public funds devoted to reproductive health, advocacy to change laws and policies with a view to promoting the provision of reproductive services and increase donor commitment to reproductive health for Nigeria and the global community.
Meanwhile, its main strategies are to undertake focused advocacy directed at policy makers to ensure increased budgetary allocation to reproductive health. Its networking is to leverage the work of existing stakeholders and programmes, working with colleagues in other countries to encourage the government to use its stature in the international community to promote reproductive health at the global level as well as working with the media to amplify its message.
Advocacy Nigeria also builds an identified advocacy, networking capacity of a broad spectrum of advocates and part of its activities are conducting advocacy skills training for advocates and other capacity building activities, developing evidence-based briefs for policy makers which demonstrate the benefits to women and the country of investing in reproductive health, organising media conferences, publish a newsletter, establish a website for networking, establish a network of reproductive health advocates.
At Zamfara state level
Advocacy Nigeria is working in six local government councils in Zamfara state out of which two local government areas were selected from each of the senatorial zones of the state. These local government councils are, Anka, Bungudu, Tsafe, Kauran Namoda, Talata Mafara and Zurmi, respectively.
The project works toward reducing capacity, increasing accountable utilisation of resources and thereby contributing to reduction in maternal risk in the state. However, the main key objectives of the projects are to strengthen demand for accountability for maternal health services, promote transparency in management and outcome of health sector budget allocation and advocate reforms to block leakages in the health sector budget.
Towards achieving the cardinal objectives in the state, the advocacy group identified seven activities which include working hand in hand with state government officials, community members, legislators, traditional and religious leaders, civil society organisations, women group and the media for its successful programmes in the state.
It has five goals during its stewardship in the state to include raising awareness on the right of stakeholders at the community levels, increase community interests in accessing maternal health services at health facilities .Others include opportunity for direct dialogue between service providers and the community, increase involvement and participation in MNC issues by partners and providers as well as improve sustainability by local communities through the ownership of services, respectively.
Its main focus
The Advocacy Nigeria sets to work in order to strengthen the capacity of communities to demand accountability by health care providers towards improving maternal health through the following area of focus: communities engagements through town hall meetings and focus group discussion, advocacy visits to politicians, government officials, policy makers and custodians, visit to religious and traditional leaders to foster their buy-in and conducting wide ranging and effective sensitisation rallies and campaigns across the selected states including Zamfara inclusive to the general public, stakeholders and general services users with the aim of increasing attendance at both antenatal and postnatal clinics especially in the PHC supported by the project.
Challenges and constraints.
According to advocacy Nigeria, it said the first challenge is the organisation’s efforts to reduce maternal health in the state which has less media coverage on issues of maternal health especially those that are of concern to the common man and woman in rural areas who are obviously the worst hit victims.
“In fact, the frequency at which maternal health issues are reported by the media is significantly low when compared with the enormity of the problems, especially the likelihood of utilising the best family planning options, sleeping under mosquito net and using antenatal care services in the available facilities which can only be improved when a lot of radio and television programmes are carried out at approximate interval for the benefits of our target groups. This will help in guiding the common man ask the right type of questions about their maternal health at the right time and through the right channels.”