CSO calls for return of free antenatal service in Gombe

This article was originally published in Nigerian Tribune here.

By Ishola Michael

A Gombe based Civil Society Organisation (CSO), Network for Maternal and Newborn Child Health Initiative, (NMNCHI), has appealed to the Gombe State Government to revive the free antenatal services in order to promote family health.

The call was made by the Chairman of the Network, Comrade Alhassan Yahaya, during an advocacy visit to the newly appointed Executive Secretary of the Gombe State Primary Health Care Development Agency (SPHCDA), Dr. Abdulrahman Shuaibu.

Alhassan Yahaya said that the call became necessary following the poor indices of the State in terms of maternal and neonatal child mortality which is among the worst in the country.

He added that it is very important because, in the past, the State Government supported the free antenatal service for women from the conception of pregnancy up to delivery, even if it is through cesarean section.

He, however, regretted that the immediate past Governor, Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo stopped it about three to four years ago and hoped that the present administration of Muhammad Inuwa Yahaya will do the needful and bring back the scheme because it has been of great help to the less privileged in the society.

According to him, “It is key and very important because, in the past, we were practising free ANC scheme in the State whereby whenever your wife is pregnant she will go and deliver even up to cesarean session (CS) free of charge. The government was supporting that but about three to four years ago the previous administration stopped that and we hope it is time for this Government to do the needful and bring back the scheme because it is reducing the out of pocket expenses from the parents”, the Chairman said.

He said the visit was to familiarise themselves with the new Executive Secretary and also cross-fertilise ideas towards reducing and improving maternal mortality of our dear State.

While responding, the newly appointed Executive secretary of the Gombe State Primary Health Care Development Agency (SPHCDA) Dr. Abdulrahman Shuaibu commended the good work the network had been doing and said the agency will need the collaboration of the CSO’s because the Agency cannot stand on its own.

He commended the huge impact made by the Village Health Workers scheme and called for its sustenance because of the poor mortality health indices of the State which he described as scaring.

Meanwhile, Gombe State Governor, Alhaji Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya has reiterated the readiness of his Government to sustain the Village Health Workers Project which is the fulcrum of the Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health Project co-funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation through the timely release of funds so that the State can reap the maximum benefit of the project.

The Governor who said that the 57 per cent coverage of the project in the State was not adequate and wants it to cover all the 114 wards of the States called on other NGOs to seek for areas of intervention stressing he believes that through collaboration with international organisations, the poor indices recorded will be corrected.

The Village Health Workers (VHW) project is the fulcrum of the Maternal Neonatal and Child Health project co-funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, led by the Gombe State Government through the Gombe State Primary Health Care Development Agency (PHCDA) with technical support from the Society for Family Health (SFH).

The project is the First Government-led and owned village health workers programme in Nigeria. It is implemented in 57 priority wards of eleven LGA’s in Gombe State.

Meanwhile, Head of the MNCH, Bolanle Oyebola has commended The Village Health Workers Project in Gombe state for improving access to Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health (MNCH) services by women in the state.

Bolanle Oyebola stated this during the Dissemination of MNCH intervention achievements in Gombe State held at the Banquet Hall of the Government House Gombe.

She said that the high fertility rate and low level of institutional births were leading causes of high mortality rates in Gombe State adding that the health sector was limited in its response to the undesirable trend in MNCH due to factors such as weak health systems, financial and cultural barriers and weakened community accountability structures.

She further explained other factors to include poor health-seeking behaviour, uneven infrastructure development and functionality, poor quality of care supply chain management challenges, shortages in skilled providers at the facility level in rural and poorer areas’ public facilities.

According to her, before the commencement of the project in 2009 and redefined/re/designed over the years, child delivery at home attended by Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA’s) was the norm and widely practised in Gombe communities.

However, Bolanle Oyebola said that “The scheme improved access to MNCH services; bridging gaps in Human Resource for Health (HRH) especially at the Primary Health care Centres (PHCC), increased commodity availability, health promotion and effective behaviour change at the community, PHC and Government levels”.

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