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Engaging MPs: Wellbeing Foundation Africa and Members of White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria Appeal to Senate and House of Reps to Improve Maternal and Child Health on International Women’s Day

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On International Women’s Day, the White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria (WRAN) chairedby Her Excellency Mrs.ToyinSaraki, the Founder-President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, spearheaded an advocacy initiative to receive concrete commitments from individual parliament members in a letter requesting the Nigerian Senate and members of the House of Representatives to make reducing maternal and infant mortality a priority within government.

In an effort to instigate political action regarding improvements in Maternal Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) in Nigeria, members of WRAN—a national constituent of a global organization working in over 150 countries to advocate for the prevention of needless deaths in pregnancy and childbirth, paid visit to the National Assembly on the 8th of March 2012 to discuss issues regarding women and child health, and engage the Nigerian parliamentarians ahead of the Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly taking place in Kampala, Uganda at the end of the month. The WRAN member organizations represented at the visit included the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, Save the Children, the Zamfara Wellwoman Initiative, and the Health Reform Foundation of Nigeria. Also in attendance were WRAN supporters and Board members including Her Excellency Aisha Babangida Shinkafi, the wife of the former governor of Zamfara State and head of the Zamfara Wellwoman Initative, as well as Dr. Benjamin Anyene and Hadiza Aminu Dorayi.

Working in fulfillment of the Global White Ribbon Alliance’s ‘Action of the Month’ which calls for all alliance members to engage policy makers and local leaders to demonstrate the power of leaders and advocates collaborating to improve maternal health in celebration of International Women’s Day and in preparation for the Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly, WRAN has made strides on both the national and state level. According to WRAN’sInternational Women’s Day activity report facilitated by Her Excellency Mrs. Toyin Saraki and the WRAN National Coordinator, the chair of the Senate Committee of Health Senator Gyang Dalyop communicated that the president has earmarked 30 million USD for the eradication of polio this year while the government is actively trying to improve the National Health Insurance Scheme in order to save the lives of women and children during pregnancy and childbirth. Moreover, Senator Gyang added that over 15 billion naira has been set aside for MNCH from savings intended to be made from the recent fuel subsidy removal. The Senator then assured WRAN delegates that all oversights in the area of maternal health will be covered by the Health Committee and that there will be a reduction in Nigeria’s high maternal mortality rate by the year’s end.

At the WRAN Annual General Meeting (AGM) on the 24th of February 2012, Her Excellency Mrs. Toyin Saraki—the chair of the Board and the Founder of WBF Africa, urged WRAN members to work together in holding government and stakeholders accountable for the lives of women and children in Nigeria; and the meetings at the National Assembly were testament of Her Excellency’s commitment to mobilizing, taking action and reducing preventable deaths that can be avoided through technical and operational improvements in Nigeria’s healthcare system.

In the second National Assembly meeting of the day with the House of Representatives, the Speaker of the House, HonourableTambuwal, commented that while poverty is the leading cause of deaths among women and children, the country has adopted domestic policies to address this and is currently working with NGOs and other organizations to this end; yet, integration is necessary to make MNCH efforts successful. Honourable Tambuwal also added that the House of Reps will constantly seek to make policies more effective and pledged that a Technical Working Group will be set up between WRAN and the House towards building partnership with the members of the House of Representatives.

At the State level, WRAN Board members also engaged state parliamentarians in a visit to the Chairman of the Enugu State House of Assembly Committee on Health, Dr. Emeka Ogbuabo. A recipient of the letter calling for MNCHparliamentarian action, Dr.Ogbuabo acknowledged the challenges in the Enugu State health sector and ensured that his committee will enact the Enugu State policy on free maternal and child into law.

The letters sent to the parliamentarians calling for action and commitment in addition to the meetings with the Senate and the House of Representatives on International Women’s Day is one of many steps to addressing negative national figures including the unfortunate statistic of approximately 800 out of every 100,000 women dying during live births in Nigeria. Therefore, the White Ribbon Alliance Nigeria in conjunction with the Wellbeing Foundation under the leadership of Her Excellency Mrs. Toyin Saraki will continue to take action to address systematic healthcare failures, highlight inappropriate policies, and see to the adequate training of health-workers while advocating for the provision of universal access to quality public healthcare for pregnant women and children in Nigeria.


Signed: Lore Dada


The Wellbeing Foundation Africa


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