User blog: Licia de Benedictis
A midwife in Kano hospital.
Almost 2 million babies are stillborn every year – or 1 every 16 seconds – according to the first ever joint stillbirth estimates released by UNICEF, WHO, the World Bank Group and the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
The vast majority of stillbirths, 84 per cent, occur in low- and lower-middle-income countries, according to the new report, A Neglected Tragedy: The Global Burden of Stillbirths. In 2019, 3 in 4 stillbirths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa or Southern Asia. A stillbirth is defined in the report as a baby born with no signs of life at 28 weeks of pregancy or more.
“Losing a child at birth or during pregnancy is a devastating tragedy for a family, one that is often endured quietly, yet all too frequently, around the world,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. “Every 16 seconds, a mother somewhere will suffer the unspeakable tragedy of stillbirth. Beyond the loss of life, the psychological and financial costs for women, families and societies are severe and long lasting. For many of these mothers, it simply didn’t have to be this way. A majority of stillbirths could have been prevented with high quality monitoring, proper antenatal care and a skilled birth attendant.”
Nigeria has the highest number of maternal deaths in Sub-Saharan Africa
and high rates of under-5 child mortality. These indicators are even more severe in northern Nigeria, where up to 90 percent of pregnant women deliver their babies without a skilled birth attendant. States such as Yobe and Borno are particularly
fragile, suffering insurgency which has terrorised young women. Female health workers are particularly important in the north of the country because social norms in rural communities can prohibit women from receiving care from male health workers.
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) trained women to be service providers in six states in northern Nigeria through its Women for Health (W4H) programme.
Graduation of the Foundation Year Students.
Since November 2012, W4H increased the number and capacity of female health workers in Borno, Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, Yobe, and Zamfara, while at the same time supported women’s empowerment, promoted gender equality, and tackled trauma. It improved women’s access to and use of health services in northern Nigeria and advanced Nigeria’s journey toward universal health coverage. W4H worked closely with other health and education programs in the states, and took a “building back better” approach in conflict and humanitarian emergency-affected areas of Borno and Yobe states and ensured the sustainability of progress in Jigawa, Kano, Katsina, and Zamfara.
A national team, led by Dr. Fatima Adamu, provided technical support to state-level teams, backed by a senior technical advisory group. The programme was led by DAI Global Health in partnership with Save the Children. W4H worked closely with 22 midwifery, nursing, and community health extension worker training institutions and state ministries of health to support the training of female health workers and their deployment to rural health facilities. Click here to visit the project’s Facebook page.