By Chukwuma Muanya (Lagos) and Emeka Anuforo (Abuja)


THE Federal Government has taken measures to encourage mothers to embrace ante-natal care (ANC) to curb maternal and infant mortalities and other problems associated with inadequate or absence of medical attention during pregnancy.

Central to government’s intervention in this regard is giving of cash rewards to mothers for attending ANC clinics, giving birth in a Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) under the supervision of skilled birth attendants/midwives and for bringing forward their children for routine immunisation.

This new scheme is to be executed with funds from Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) on maternal and child health.

The government has also approved fresh engagement and immediate deployment of 3,426 health workers to rural PHC facilities nationwide and planned to launch an initiative to save one million lives by 2015.

The gesture, according to the Minister of State for Health, Prof. Muhammad Ali Pate, and the Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Ado Muhammad, is in fulfilment of government’s assurance to Nigerians on judicious spending of proceeds accruing from partial removal of fuel subsidy.

Pate in an exclusive interview with The Guardian said: “One of the basic service pillars which will sustain the Midwives Service Scheme (MSS) is the maternal and child health (MNCH) aspect of the SURE P. We piloted a ‘conditional cash transfer’, which has never been tested at this scale and to incentivize mothers to attend ANC, be attended to by skilled birth attendants when they are about to give birth and being rewarded for immunising their children. That was tested here at Karu (Federal Capital Territory) and it was able to raise ANC attendance in that particular ward by 100 per cent. So, that was something that was new. It was not there and it is going to be continued. From now until December, the pilot is going to be expended to six states in 2013 even more under the SURE programme.”

The minister said: “’The Saving One Million Lives Initiative’ is an initiative that was put on the table to show that it was possible for Nigeria to save one million lives from now till 2015 by scaling up interventions that were known to be cost-effective.

“Those interventions are in a few clusters and the saving one million lives initiative has several components to it. One is the maternal and child health. We need to expand access to ANC. We started with the MSS, we are now expanding it with the use of the SURE-P on maternal and child health component focusing on the demand side to provide conditional cash transfers, to building the human resource capacity in the front lines,” Pate said.

The NPHCDA boss said the 3,426 health workers, which the agency was deploying, were made up of retired but able and unemployed midwives, female nurses and community health extension workers who would begin their job orientation, under the SURE-P on maternal and child health, from September 9 to 22 this year in all the six geo-political zones of the country.

Muhammad explained that the programme would consolidate on the gains of over 4,000 midwives and 1,000 community health extension workers engaged and sent to health facilities in all states of the federation, under the MSS in the past two years.


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