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Canada partners with the Government of Nigeria to improve maternal, newborn and child health

In Nigeria, improving access to health care for mothers includes providing bed nets to prevent malaria, anti-malaria drugs, blood builders and health education. Children younger than five benefit from products to improve their nutrition.

Mothers and babies wait for health care services at the Jaji Primary Health Care Centre in Jaji, Kaduna State, a project supported by Canada in partnership with the H4+, a joint effort by UN and related agencies and programs UNAIDS, UNFPA, UNICEF, UN Women, WHO, and the World Bank.

Nigeria has shown impressive progress in leading its own development. It is the continent’s largest producer of oil and the sixth-largest oil-producing country in the world; its gross domestic product has recently surpassed that of South Africa, making it the largest in Africa.

At the same time, significant challenges remain. Lacking sufficient health systems and primary health care services, Nigeria lags behind in terms of maternal and child ill health. Maternal mortality remains high, with 630 deaths per 100,000 live births, and more than half of expectant mothers deliver outside of health facilities and without the help of skilled birth attendants. One in eight children born in Nigeria will not reach their fifth birthday. The transmission of polio remains a problem.

Improvements are needed across the system: governance, training, procurement, delivery systems, etc. Much to the satisfaction of Jean Gough, UNICEF country representative for Nigeria, Canada, a leading donor, joining international partners and organizations to support Nigeria in the implementation of its National Strategic Health Development Plan and its Integrated Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Strategy. According to Gough: “This project has built the capacity of a large pool of service providers. This is a significant step to achieving increased access to maternal and newborn child health (MNCH) services for the rural target population, especially women and children because untrained, demotivated and unfriendly service providers can be a hindrance to effective service delivery.”

As part of its commitment to the Muskoka Initiative for maternal, newborn and child health, Canada has partnered with UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and the United Nations Population Fund in support of the Accelerating the Reduction of Maternal and Newborn Mortality project, a five-year, $21-million initiative.

This project has assisted fifteen Nigerian states and the Federal Capital Territory to strengthen the delivery of key maternal, newborn and child health services, as well as ensure that health workers have the skills, equipment, supplies and medicines to provide care. Since 2010, the project has achieved impressive results, such as training 248 nurse-midwives to provide life-saving care to an estimated 100,000 pregnant women. Two hundred and eighty community health extension workers have been trained and equipped to provide community-based newborn care. Family planning support funded by Canada has contributed to averting 220,000 unintended pregnancies and prevented an estimated 1,350 women from dying during childbirth.

Canada’s support has further helped the Government of Nigeria to roll out its own programs. Working with the Government and other development partners, Canada’s support has contributed to implementing Maternal, Newborn and Child Health weeks, during which more than 4.1 million pregnant women obtained essential maternal health services, including insecticide-treated bed nets, anti-malaria drugs, blood builders and health education. Some 23 million children under five benefited from essential life-saving interventions including Vitamin A supplements, de-worming tablets, and nutrition support in 2012–2013, and a further 3.1 million people were reached with training on the prevention of leading diseases affecting mothers and children.

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