Every One has a role to play in preventing the deaths of 241,000 newborns who die every year in Nigeria. Nigeria is number one in Africa and number two in the world for newborn deaths – a ranking that does not instil pride. But we are doing something about it. This week, over 1000 paediatricians and child health advocates at the 42nd annual Pediatric Association of Nigeria Conference attended the launch of the Saving Newborn Lives in Nigeria report which highlights the current situation of newborn care in Nigeria and what needs to be done to reduce these deaths and meet Millennium Development Goal 4 for child survival.
Birth and the first week of life present the highest and greatest risk for mothers and babies. Unfortunately in Nigeria, just over one third of all women deliver with skilled attendant, and even fewer benefit from effective postnatal care. This needs to change now if we are going to save the lives of newborn babies and their mothers in Nigeria.
Every One can and must play a role in saving newborn lives. Civil society – from international and national NGOs to community and faith based groups, and the media – has a responsibility to be the voice of Nigeria’s newborns. Civil society has an important task to ensure that families know that in most states they do not and should not pay for maternal and child health services, and that government is held accountable for care for poorest families.
Save the Children will continue to work with the Ministry of Health and partners and commits to:
Partner at national, state and local level to advocate for policy change that will benefit mothers, newborns and children, including increasing the budgetary allocation for health to 15%, and ensuring improved access to health care for all and particularly for women, newborns, and children.
Promote the roll out of high impact essential interventions such as Helping Babies Breathe, Kangaroo Mother Care, case management of newborn infections, and integrating newborn care into existing packages such as emergency obstetric care, as well as support of healthy practices at household and community level, such as early and exclusive breastfeeding, hygiene, and care-seeking for illness.
Prioritise the use of local data for decision-making and implementation of research to fill knowledge gaps for maternal, newborn, and child health especially linking households and communities to effective health systems.
This is an election year in Nigeria. While the country votes, we need to also vote for the health of mothers, newborns and children. As civil society we must work together with our government to strengthen health systems to improve access to quality health services and bring a voice to Nigeria’s most vulnerable citizens.