The National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), has deployed 1,447 midwives to rural communities in the northern part of Nigeria for their one year mandatory Midwives Service Scheme (MSS).
At a Flag-Off Orientation and Documentation of Basic Midwives held in Kaduna on Thursday, the Acting Executive Director of the agency, Dr. Echezona Ezeanolue, who declared the induction course open, said the programme was aimed at reversing the ugly trend in the maternal and child health outcomes.
Describing the high rate of maternal and newborn deaths as a national tragedy which requires concerted effort to tackle, Professor Ezeanolue charged the midwives to take the assignment seriously wherever they would be posted.
The deployment of the nurses is under the midwives service scheme, an intervention started since 2009, to reduce the number of women and children who die from pregnancy-related complications.
Since its inception, the scheme has demonstrated progressively to be a strategy for achieving better maternal and newborn outcomes.
However unfortunately, lack of adequate funding has been a major challenge in realizing this objective.
The NPHCDA has already staged orientation for a first batch of 443 midwives in Abuja, the second is taking place in Kaduna, while the third would be conducted in Edo state.
The executive director who identified lack of medical personnel as some of the factors responsible for maternal and child deaths in the country, expressed hopes that the deployment of these nurses to the rural communities will mitigate incidents of pregnant women and child related deaths in those areas.
She called on the midwives to show hard work and patriotism during the service, reminding them that their performance would determine their induction into the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria.
“It is our believe that the scheme will continue to strengthen the PHC system and have positive bearing on all other levels of care.
“It is important to note that your engagement into the scheme is a pre-requisite for you to receive your license from the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria.
“This underscores the need for you to be of good conduct to your clients and members of the communities where you will be posted during this period.
“The Midwives Service Scheme has demonstrated progressively to be a strategy for achieving better maternal and newborn health outcomes as well as revitalizing the primary health care system.
“The health workers under the scheme are trained on life saving skills, modified life saving skills and other required skills and competences to improve quality of care at the facility level.
“The agency has reinvigorated the ward development committees and will continue to build capacity within diverse community stakeholders. The scheme has also provided an opportunity to deliver essential drugs and supplies to facilities under the scheme.”
Furthermore, she said: “I wish to reiterate that maternal and newborn deaths remain a national tragedy. Any Nigerian woman’s life lost is a loss to our dear nation’s human capital.
“The loss of lives of mothers and newborns is linked in three delays, delay in recognising that there is a problem and that healthcare must be sought, this often occurs due to lack of access to right information, delay due to lack of means to access to health care which could be physical and financial access and delay to non availability of needed services and skilled manpower to provide services at the facilities”.
The Kaduna state Commissioner for Health, Dr Paul Dogo on the other hand noted that there was great improvement in access to healthcare under the present administration in terms of provision of equipment and manpower at the primary health care centres, stating that with the posting of more medical personnel to rural communities, maternal and child deaths could be minimized.
“Globally, there has been improvement in maternal and child health care, and there has been also a significant decrease in maternal and child deaths rate lets say in the past 25 years.
“Now what we have witnessed today are young midwives going in for one year compulsory community service. We have to address human resource situation, that means we are going to have an increase in the number of deliveries supervised by skilled birth attendants and we know that this will significantly reduce the rate of maternal and child mortality”.
According to statistics, each year in Nigeria, 33,000 mothers die, three quarters of which could have been prevented with existing health interventions, while 946,000 children under age five die and 241,000 newborns die yearly; 70% of which could have been prevented using existing health care packages.
With the deployment of these midwives, they are expected to compliment health service providers on ground at primary health care facilities, it expected that it would reduce the high rate of maternal and child mortality rate.