In Nigeria, 1 woman dies every ten minutes because of complications in pregnancy or childbirth; 2,300 children under the age of 5 die every day.
With these alarming statistics in mind, World Renew and its local Nigerian partner, the Beacon of Hope Initiative, spent the last year mounting a campaign targeting preventable deaths of mothers, newborns, and children in Nigeria. With the help of a Baker Foundation grant, the project focused on prenatal, postnatal, prepartum, and postpartum care in rural communities in Nigeria. World Renew Country Consultant David Tyokighir calls it a success.
Currently in Nigeria, 800 women in 100,000 will die preventable deaths in pregnancy and childbirth. World Renew and the Beacon of Hope Initiative hope to change that story.
From July of 2016 to June of this year, the Nasarawa State project tackled three areas central to the prevention of death among mothers and children: healthcare; nutrition; and water, sanitation, and hygiene. Led by 66 trained peer educators, 495 households of pregnant women, parents, and caregivers of children under 5 spent the year learning together and then reaching out to others.
Prenatal care is poor to non-existent in rural Nigeria. Project participants learned about proper care for mothers and babies before and after birth, including warning signs in pregnancy, benefits of delivery by a skilled birth attendant, and planning for delivery in a health facility. Peer educators offered lessons about the benefits of child spacing and breastfeeding.
World Renew Nigeria Country Consultant David Tyokighir says the project saw increased attendance at the prenatal clinic as well as improved preparedness by women before showing up for delivery. “Clinic health workers told us,” says Tyokighir, “that 485 mothers attended at least four prenatal care visits during the life of the project — more than twice the turn out to prenatal clinics in the previous year!” The program also facilitated the immunization of 327 children in collaboration with the state immunization program.
Lack of proper nutrition – as well as some traditional beliefs about nutrition — can lead to stunting and decreased brain development, impairments that leave children disabled for life. Families in the project learned about best feeding practices and educators and health practitioners carefully addressed attitudes and beliefs about nutrition that negatively impact a family’s health, such as superstitions that make certain foods unacceptable in the diet, and attitudes about who has priority in the household allocation of food. “Most exciting,” says David Tyokighir, “is that health workers at the clinic saw improved attention to breastfeeding, with 203 children under six months of age exclusively breastfed during the project.” Some exclusive-breastfeeding mothers testified that their babies had fewer illnesses than their older children who were not exclusively breastfed.
This part of the program also offered assistance to 238 families in establishing vegetable gardens in order to add nutrition to their daily meals. Households learned about proper nutrition and how to cook meals that incorporate the vegetables they are now growing in their gardens.
Water, sanitation, and hygiene intervention was a key component of this project, focusing on water purification, environmental sanitation, and basic hygiene. Educators emphasized three basic behaviors: proper handwashing, safe disposal of human waste, and use of clean water. Tyokighir reports increased engagement in environmental sanitation activities, increased desire for and use of safe water.
This project succeeded with the support and enthusiasm of traditional leaders and Ministry of Health staff at both the state and local level. Participants showed their own support of the project in a total of 61 skits presented in public places, sharing what they had learned in meetings and weekly home visits.
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals include reducing the number of maternal deaths per 100,000 pregnant women worldwide from its current level of 215 to less than 70 per 100,000 by the year 2030, with similar ambitious reductions in infant and child mortality as well. Currently in Nigeria, 800 women in 100,000 will die preventable deaths in pregnancy and childbirth.
World Renew and the Beacon of Hope Initiative hope to change that story.