By Adenike Fagbemi
HACEY, a not–for–profit organization has, with support from Access Bank Plc, held a Maternal Health Support Program as a response to promoting maternal health during COVID-19.
In line with its commitment to improving maternal health outcomes in underserved communities, the program, which held under HACEY’s Maternal Health Support Initiative, educated pregnant women and traditional birth attendants on safe birthing and protection from the Coronavirus disease.
During the program, participants were sensitized on respiratory hygiene and healthy living to boost the immune system to combat diseases. Pregnant women and nursing mothers also received relief and hygiene packs and birthing kits.
About 1,200 pregnant women have been reached through the program in underserved communities and provided relief and hygiene packs. The communities included Epe and Iberekodo in Lagos State, Aremo and Oke-ado in Oyo state and Ibafo in Ogun state.
Hygiene packs containing nose masks, sanitizers and bar soaps were distributed to pregnant women as protection against the contagious virus as well as birthing kits. Also, to tackle extreme hunger and poverty food packs containing beans, groundnut oil, seasoning cubes among others were distributed to vulnerable women in the communities mentioned.
10 Primary Healthcare centres and Community Birth Attendants were reached in the communities in the three states. The primary health care centres received donations of birthing kits, hygiene packs containing face shields, masks, bar soaps, and hand sanitizers. Community birth attendants received hygiene packs, birthing kits and relief packs.
The lawmaker representing Ibadan North-East Constituency 2 at the House of Representatives, Hon. Olusola Owolabi attended the sensitization campaign in Aremo, a community in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Speaking on the initiative, Hon Owolabi noted that reducing maternal and child mortality is very important to healthy living, especially when combating preventable diseases like the Coronavirus pandemic.
The lawmaker enjoined all participants at the palliatives distribution drive to practice hygienic lifestyle as recommended by health experts to safeguard against the deadly Coronavirus. He also admonished pregnant women to practice personal hygiene as well as embracing safety measures.
Head of Sustainability, Access Bank, Mrs Omobolanle Victor-Laniyan highlighted that Access Bank was supporting the initiative because it aligns with the bank’s vision of promoting sustainable communities and investing in communities in which they work. She said “At Access Bank, we are committed to supporting communities in which we work. We support this kind of initiatives because they help us give back to our communities. I see a lot of pregnant women who need help, and it is our duty as a sustainable organization to support communities around us. At Access Bank, we are concerned about our community.”
In all the states covered by HACEY, both the programme officers in conjunction with healthcare providers sensitized community members on preventive measures especially for pregnant women during the COVID-19 pandemic. Distribution of the palliative items commenced shortly after the enlightenment sessions.
Executive Director, HACEY, Rhoda Robinson, while explaining the importance of the initiative stated that “over the last 17 years Nigeria has recorded a significant decrease in maternal mortality rate due to the interventions of the government, development agencies and Non-Governmental Organizations.
“However, to meet the 2030 goal of reducing Maternal Mortality Ratio to the barest minimum, more efforts are needed to complement existing efforts by the government. The private sector should be encouraged to support government efforts in bringing maternal mortality to the barest minimum. While the COVID-19 pandemic might have restricted access to maternal health, it is important that pregnant women still receive antenatal care and we must teach them how to get it safely”.
One of the beneficiaries of the initiative, Mrs Rashidat Olowe, expressed gratitude to HACEY and Access Bank on the information and the palliative measures. She said “I am grateful for this programme. I have learnt that I even during COVID-19, I still have to visit for antenatal how to wash my hands properly, and the usefulness of the face mask”.
Maternal mortality is a public health concern in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. In 2017, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that over 295,000 women died in developing countries as a result of pregnancy and childbirth-related complexities.
The Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG3) aims to ensure healthy lives and promotes wellbeing for all across all ages and genders. The first target of the SDG 3 seeks to reduce the global maternal ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births.
According to the World Bank, the maternal mortality ratio in Nigeria as of 2017 was 917 per 100,000 live births.
HACEY is a development organization working to improve the lives of people women, girls and young people in underserved communities. In the last 13 years, HACEY has provided over 62,000 birthing kits to traditional birth attendants in over 14 communities, worked to strengthen support systems between traditional birth attendants and healthcare centres and advocated for policies targeted at improving maternal health.