MSH Celebrates 10 Years of Improving the Health of Women and Children in Nigeria

MSH Celebrates 10 Years of Improving the Health of Women and Children in Nigeria

 {Photo credit: Ghaffar Rabiu}Dr. Zipporah Kpamor, Country Director, MSH Nigeria, is interviewed at the 10th anniversary event.Photo credit: Ghaffar Rabiu

Management Sciences for Health (MSH) celebrated 10 Years of Improving the Health of Women and Children in Nigeria with 250 stakeholders and supporters at a special event in Abuja on March 31, 2016. Distinguished guests included the chairman of the Nigerian House of Representatives, director of the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria, high-level representatives from state governments and partner organizations, and more.

After a rousing rendition of “Arise, Oh Compatriots,” the Nigerian national anthem, Country Director, Dr. Zipporah Kpamor, welcomed participants and underscored the intention for the day’s two round-table panel discussions:

In Nigeria, 150 women and 2,300 children die every day from preventable causes. One in five children won’t live to see their fifth birthday. This event can help continue conversations on what we can do to end preventable deaths among women, children, and young people.

Currently, MSH’s partnerships for health system strengthening in Nigeria reach nearly 560,000 people through four projects.

Aligning Political Commitment, Participation of the Private Sector, and Social Norms and Accountability to Improve the Health of Women, Children, and Youth

The first panel, moderated by MSH Vice President Catharine Taylor brought together stakeholders from the federal government, donors, the private sector, and local and international civil society organizations to discuss cross-sector alliances to improve the health of women, children, and youth in Nigeria.

[MSH Vice President Catharine Taylor (far left) moderates the first round table.] {Photo credit: Ghaffar Rabiu}MSH Vice President Catharine Taylor (far left) moderates the first round table.Photo credit: Ghaffar Rabiu

Dr. Alexander Omoru, deputy director of Family Health at the Ministry of Health, emphasized federal legislative and program initiatives that improve the health of women, children and youth, e.g. National Health Act, Primary Health Care Under One Roof, and the Savings One Million Lives. Dr. Nancy Lowenthal, director of Health, Population and Nutrition at USAID Nigeria, said donors could help state and local governments implement these initiatives, jointly with civil society and private sector. Lowenthal added that the private sector is important to the provision of primary care in the country; and, any significant implementation effort should consider including this sector.

Development partners facilitate a culture of cross-sector partnership between civil society, government, and the private sector, said Donald Seufert, a governance expert from MSH. The feasibility and success of these partnerships in improving access to and quality of basic services has already been demonstrated by recent donor-funded projects in the country. The results of social accountability could improve service delivery, as they would be discussed among partners.

Nnenna Ike, a senior behavior change communications specialist from MannionDaniels, said development projects need to engage local, traditional, and religious leaders to align social and cultural norms with the adoption of healthy behaviors and early care seeking. These leaders can publicly state their support in open fora at local and community level, thus helping change the local norms related to this behavior. Peer support groups and peer education, reinforced with programming using radio and social media, can support these efforts simultaneously.

Dr. Zeinab Cole, a senior officer of the Private Health Sector Alliance of Nigeria (PHN), said private corporations are supporting innovations incubation to improve the health of women, children and youth. Cole described PHN's recent experience by which private social enterprises were competitively selected to receive grants (provided by the corporate sector) to pilot test innovative approaches and technical interventions, e.g. a method to diagnose malaria using urine samples. These innovations can be rolled out by private or government organization.

Finally, Dr. Salomon Rakotovazaha, country director of International Medical Corps, talked about the importance of NGOs as a bridge between communities and government services among vulnerable populations. He described IMC's technical and material support to local NGOs and community-based organizations in North East Nigeria so that the latter can support the government's provision of immunizations and nutrition services at both health facilities and communities.

The Honorable Davematics D. Ombugadu, representing the Federal Constituency & Chairman of the Federal House of Representative Committee on HIV/AIDS/TB & Malaria, closed the first panel:

Stakeholder engagement for partnerships is critical to ownership and sustainability of intervention programs in the country. That accountability is the key to effective partnerships.

Impact of Malaria Programs on the Health and Wellbeing of Pregnant Women and Newborns

The second panel, moderated by Ibiang Livinus, associate director for Laboratory Systems Strengthening at MSH, featured six experts discussing the successes and challenges of translating national policy to service delivery to prevent malaria in pregnant women and their child.

[Ibiang Livinus (far right) of MSH Nigeria moderates the second panel on malaria programs.] {Photo credit: Ghaffar Rabiu}Ibiang Livinus (far right) of MSH Nigeria moderates the second panel on malaria programs.Photo credit: Ghaffar Rabiu

Dr. Godwin Ntadom, head of the National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP) Case Management and Drug Policy branch, described the Federal Ministry of Health’s activities that aim to improve the preventative services of malaria in pregnant women. He emphasized the number of women lost each year to malaria and malaria related complications. Furthermore, he shared how malaria during pregnancy negatively impacts the health and wellbeing of the fetus and development of the child after birth.  

In connection with Dr. Ntadom’s comments, Dr. Uwem Inyang, USAID-PMI Nigeria, said malaria prevention and control fully aligns with the US government's vision of ending preventable child and maternal deaths and ending extreme poverty. Under the PMI Strategy for 2015-2020, the US government's goal is to work with Nigeria and other PMI-supported countries to strengthen prevention, diagnosis and treatment efforts for pregnant women and all Nigerians to meet control and pre-elimination standards.

The Malaria Consortium’s Dr. Maxwell Kolawole gave examples of other countries’ successes utilizing integrated community case management to improve malaria in pregnancy services and suggested these proven interventions can be applied in Nigeria. He shared how the Malaria Consortium is expanding care at both facility and community levels by strengthening health workforce capacity and introducing development and training programs to support facility and community health workers. This has led to greater quality of treatment with appropriate, quality-assured drugs following proper diagnosis.

Similarly, Ifeyinwa Umeh of Sustainable Healthcare International (SHI) discussed how national advocacy, communication, and social mobilization policies developed at the national level have led to better overall knowledge of malaria among women.  She emphasized the need to use better tools and target messaging at certain populations.  

Hajiya Hauwa Kulu Ibrahim of the Federation of Muslim Women’s Associations of Nigeria (FOMWAN) emphasized that prevention efforts aimed at pregnant women need to protect cultural and religious practices. She shared examples of how improving community-level messaging about malaria in pregnancy was more effective when combined with messaging to husbands about the need for antenatal care and malaria prevention. By sharing information house to house, through neighbors and family, and at religious gatherings and ceremonies, FOMWAN helped significantly increase the use of intermittent preventive treatment of malaria four fold in eight years.

Dr. Mohammed Saka of the Nigerian Inter-Faith Action Association (NIFAA) provided an additional example of how to improve uptake of preventive services for pregnant women. In December, 2009, NIFAA began a year-long "Faiths United for Health" campaign to train 300,000 religious leaders to spearhead the widespread distribution of antimalarial bed nets. Since then, the use of antimalarial nets by pregnant women has increased from 5 percent in 2009 to 50 percent in 2015.

“A journey of 1000 steps starts with just one”

Following the second panel, three distinguished guests offered remarks.

The District Head of Gagi and Representative of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sani Umar spoke of the respect northern Nigerians give to the decision-making power of traditional and religious leaders: “Identifying and working with these leaders will facilitate acceptability of health services interventions, and eventually improve access for the update of malaria services.”

Her Excellency, Dr. Zainab Bagudu, wife of the executive governor of Kebbi State of Nigeria, praised the success of MSH in improving maternal and child health. Bagudu said health progress still has a long way to go, particularly in regions in northern Nigeria that bear the highest burden of maternal and child deaths, malnutrition, and other causes of death. Bagudu said: “The major causes of this come from lack of education and inability to afford appropriate medical care.”

“Strengthening institutional capacities of community-based organizations can help sustain intervention programs at the grassroots,” said Talatu Shanway, the executive director for Jumorota Community Care Initiative (JCCI). She said that JCCI was able to mobilize local resources from the community to implement structured health programs through technical support made available through partnership with MSH.

[A ceremonial cutting commemorates 10 years of MSH in Nigeria.] {Photo: Ghaffar Rabiu}A ceremonial cutting commemorates 10 years of MSH in Nigeria.Photo: Ghaffar Rabiu

Kpamor closed the program with a resounding statement:

Nigeria is a vast country. We understand it will not happen in a day. MSH is committed to Nigeria for the long haul. A journey of 1,000 steps starts with just one. We have begun our journey.

Zipporah Kpamor, Joe Lewinski, Ibiang Livinus, Amarachi Obinna-Nnadi, and Adaeze Umolu contributed to this content.

Learn more about MSH Nigeria


A total of 19 media outlets were present, including the Daily Trust and Abuja Inquirer, print newspapers widely distributed across Nigeria. See the following publications related to the event:

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