Monday, January 21, 2013

Gov. Mimiko, Ondo State Discusses Infant/Maternal Health Program With US Media

Revolutionary Infant and Maternal Health Program is Nigeria’s New Found Hope

In an effort to continue giving African government and business leaders an opportunity to interact with U.S. media during official visits to the United States, AMIP News hosted another media roundtable event, this time with Ondo State governor Dr. Olusegun Mimiko and his visiting delegation. It was held at the Gaylord National Hotel and Convention Center. This article is written by AMIP’s Frederick Nnoma-Addison who moderated the event attended by about a dozen reputable news organizations including, Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) and Afrikan Post. Other U.S.-based media agencies represented were African Mirror, African Searchlight, Sharp Edge News, AkDey Productions and Per Second News.

Washington, DC
Thursday January 17, 2013

By Frederick Nnoma-Addison

Governor’s Mimiko’s crusade to make sure that pregnancy is no longer a death sentence for women in his state has attracted international attention and repositioned Ondo State and Nigeria as a destination of new possibilities. The internationally acclaimed, revolutionary and safe motherhood program (Abiye) instituted by Dr. Olusegun Mimiko (a medical doctor) sounds too good to be true, yet it is true and can be backed with empirical evidence and proven testimonials from ordinary female traders, farmers and professionals. One member of his delegation describes him as “deep,” and he has to be, in order to champion the cause of women with such passion and conviction. When I asked the governor what motivates him to pursue safe motherhood the way he does he replied;

“You know I am a medical doctor myself and I saw all kinds of scenarios in my professional life. I have seen a woman lose her seventh consecutive pregnancy because of something very trivial and you know that is not fun. For me what I do as governor is more than a job, it’s like a calling. I had to take career risks, I run for governor on the ticket of the Labor party which is not as big as the PDP and won. That was the only way available to me if I really wanted to influence policy on infant and maternal health and other sectors.”

Before Abiye, Nigeria was listed as one of the 10 most dangerous countries in the world for a woman to give birth. With only 2 percent of the world’s population she accounted for an estimated 14 percent of maternal deaths worldwide each year. In recent years, the federal government has devoted greater policy attention and resources to maternal health and Ondo state is leading the way in tackling the challenge in a strategic and comprehensive way.

The Abiye program was launched in October 2009, with sponsorship from the World Bank. The mandate which remains true three years after was to develop and provide sustainable, equity-based, and universally accessible healthcare services. The goal for the pilot project which began in Ifedore LGA was to reduce child and maternal mortality by at least 50% and increase facility utilization by at least 60% by the end of the year 2011. This was achieved with distinction.

Development in Africa is often silent on human capital. Politicians are usually heard trumpeting their agendas and successes in developing infrastructure, building sustainable economies and creating jobs, but not creating a mechanism that almost guarantees safe pregnancy and delivery for every woman, at no cost to patients at the point of service. A male-led state government initiative that puts safe motherhood at the core of development is therefore revolutionary to say the least and no doubt a pointer to where Ondo State in southwest Nigeria is headed, even as the governor prepares to be sworn in for his second term, on February 24.

In most developing countries, free is associated with cheap which explains why Ondo residents themselves and many international organizations were initially skeptical when this program commenced. Within a short time they learned that the pregnancy tracking mechanisms, the health rangers, ambulances, cell phones, paramedics, and medication were there to stay and now even women from neighboring states visit Ondo state to benefit for the program originally created for permanent residents. At the Mother and Child Hospital in Akure the wife of a millionaire shares a ward with a messenger’s wife by choice, simply because the facilities are state-of-the-art and the professionals and services, world-class. Governor Mimiko explains that lack of finances is the number one reason which prevents families from seeking good infant and maternal health care, therefore to guarantee the results he was seeking with this program his administration pushed for a completely free service.

The Mother and Child Hospital Akure was established as part of the strategies of the Abiye project to address the phases of delay contributing to maternal and child deaths in Ondo state and factors militating against achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) 4 and 5. It was commissioned to mark the first year anniversary of the Mimiko administration on the 27th of February 2010, as the premier state-of-the-art, 100-bed facility dedicated to the care of pregnant women and children less than 5 years of age, offering tertiary level health services free of charge. The mandate for the hospital was to reduce in-state maternal and child mortality by 50% and 30% respectively by the year 2013, and the goal was to run an integrated maternal and child care facility fully poised to offer qualitative and critical interventions when required.

The center and program are underway to achieving their goals and Governor Mimiko expressed confidence that his state will achieve MDG goals 4 and 5, a day after he made a presentation at the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS). Aside support from the World Bank, Ondo State collaborates with CSIS, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and other international medical establishments and will soon be signing a sister-state agreement with the state of Maryland, USA.

The success and promise of Abiye and Ondo State in the past few years is proof that one man and one administration can make a difference, in a country where many of the nationals both at home and abroad are extremely disillusioned by an apparent illusiveness of prosperity in the midst of abundant resources. Governor Mimiko is the man who almost never became governor; who had to contest the original results of the 2007 gubernatorial race for 22 months in court before becoming governor.

Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa, and Governor Mimiko describes it as “a sort of big brother with big opportunities and equally big challenges.” He says however that the current hunger for change in the status quo, especially from the youth is certain to trigger and sustain the much needed change. This is the second time the governor has led a delegation to the United States. In 2010 he led a trade and investment delegation to Washington to forge strategic partnerships with U.S. corporations and investors.

Mimiko was awarded Governor of the Year – 2011 by Ben TV, London and Governor of the Year – 2011 by the Nigeria Union of Journalist (NUJ). In March 2012, he received the prestigious Zik Leadership Award for exemplary leadership and the Governor of the Year – 2012 Award from African Newspapers Nigeria Plc, publishers of The Nigeria Tribune, Nigeria’s oldest newspapers. In October, 2012, the United Nation Habitat (UN-Habitat) honored him with its Scroll of Honor Award in recognition of his contributions to sustainable human settlement and urban development.

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