…Raises Alarm Over Effects Of Zika Virus on Pregnant Women
Wife of the Senate President, Mrs. Toyin Saraki, has called for an increased emphasis on health education through midwives, to protect women in crisis settings by ensuring that they have the knowledge needed to protect themselves and their children.
In the same vein, Mrs Saraki also called for more awareness on the highly probable effects of Zika virus – a mosquito-borne illness with dire effects on pregnancy and newborns that is currently rampaging South America – on pregnancy and birth outcomes.
Mrs Saraki who is also the President of the reproductive, maternal, newborn, adolescent and child health (RMNCAH) non-governmental organization – the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA), spoke on the need for enhanced education for women while discussing how to improve maternal health in areas of conflict and extreme poverty with The Guardian of London (UK).
Sharing insight on the Guardian Global Development Live panel on Thursday, she noted that currently, Nigeria – Africa’s most populous nation – is home to 3.3 million people who have been displaced by violence.
Mrs. Saraki also used the opportunity to raise awareness on the disproportional impact of humanitarian crisis on women and adolescent girls and lamented that many pregnant women and girls give birth without assistance from a skilled birth attendant, due to rising conflict.
In order to facilitate the much needed health education for pregnant women living in conflict settings, according to her, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa recently commenced free antenatal education classes in IDP camps in the country, under its #MaternalMonday Campaign.
Utilizing midwives, who localise messages to mothers, and enable women to take an active role in their healthcare, she said that WBFA’s antenatal programmes take into account local context and social factors, which have an important impact on health in situations of conflict and poverty.
In an effort to improve maternal health in conflict-affected regions in Nigeria, she said that the WBFA has provided pregnant women in Nigerian IDP camps with WBFA Mama Kits (safe delivery kits), which contain all the essential health commodities that can transform any location into a safe and clean birthing area.
The Foundation, she added, also established the Alaafia Universal Health Coverage Fund, which provides quality health insurance for 5000 Nigerians every year; and has developed and distributed cost-effective, client-held Personal Health Records that empower women to track their health, and the health of their child in low-resource settings.
Noting that a scale-up in access to midwives by 25% could reduce maternal mortality by 50%, Mrs. Saraki, who also serves as the Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM), stated, “midwives – if given the right education, regulation, and midwifery associations within a global midwifery services framework – are a cost-effective solution for RMNCAH in conflict and extreme poverty.”
To therefore address the skills gap facing many midwives and healthcare workers, WBFA she said, partnered with Johnson & Johnson and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM) to deliver a ‘skills and drills’ training package for Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care (EmONC) in Kwara State that can reduce maternal mortality by up to 15 percent, and stillbirth rates by up to 20 percent.
Besides, Mrs Saraki on social media, the #MaternalMonday Campaign of the WBFA, also stated that the Zika disease has been linked to neurological problems and an increase in microcephaly – a rare birth defect in which infants are born with unusually small heads – resulting in under-developed brains in newborns.
“Alarmingly, she said, “microcephaly can also lead to eventual learning and motor difficulties – and possibly death.”