The Safe Birth Initiative is a critical intervention that aims to tackle the high rate of maternal and newborn deaths in Nigeria. The initiative is focused on supporting doctors and nurses to achieve successful birth outcomes by strengthening the capacity of target public hospitals in three critical areas. These three areas are: the procurement of vital maternal and neonatal medical equipment and supplies to enable safe deliveries and post-delivery emergency cares; training biomedical engineering technicians to improve equipment maintenance and uptime; and reactivating a large stock of abandoned medical equipment wasting away in public hospitals.
The first phase of the initiative is currently underway and will be implemented across 15 major public hospitals recommended by the Federal Ministry of Health, who will receive hospitals equipment, kits and supplies with a total conservative value of about $10.8 million, i.e. over N3.8 billion.
The first full consignment, 4 units of 40-foot shipping containers of medical equipment, have been delivered for the inaugural project at the National Hospital, Abuja. Consignments for Federal Medical Centres in Ebute-Metta and Owerri and the General Hospital, Alimosho, Lagos are scheduled to arrive in the coming weeks while needs assessments are currently ongoing at other approved hospitals to determine their specific requirements.
The equipment was formally handed over at a special event at the National Hospital, Abuja. Some of the dignitaries in attendance were Prof. Isaac Adewole, Honourable Minister of Health, who gave the keynote address; Hajiya Aisha Abubakar, Honourable Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development; Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs; Her Excellency, Mrs Toyin Saraki, Founder and President, The Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA); and Dr. Eugene Kongnyuy, Country Representative, United Nations Population Fund. As part of the event, dignitaries joined in a facility tour and tape-cutting ceremony, led by the Honourable Minister of Health.
The Business Unit President, Coca-Cola West Africa, Peter Njonjo, said, “We recognize that the many factors responsible for the very high maternal and newborn deaths will require different kinds and levels of interventions. We also recognize that no one platform or programme can possibly deal with all the factors. One such factor that stands out clearly is the fact that knowledge, skills and commitment alone are not enough to save lives. Technology makes the difference in every aspect, from diagnosis to treatment, and has become increasingly vital in the neonatal area. We want to support the untiring efforts of our hardworking doctors, midwives and nurses who battle against great odds in our public hospitals to manage life-threatening complications affecting mothers and the newborn".
According to the National Demographics and Health Survey (NDHS, 2013), Nigeria loses as many as 576 women per 100,000 childbirths and 37 newborn deaths per 1,000 live births, placing the country among the worst ratios for both maternal and newborn deaths globally.
The Honourable Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, noted, “We must reduce maternal mortality. Our women are not disposable - when a woman dies, the baby is likely to die and the communities suffer. We must have the right indicators and solutions to address the issues. We are currently working with states in the country to gather and understand the data, and improving facilities to ensure people have a place to deliver. This relationship with Coca-Cola is part of our efforts at improvement. We call on other private sector players to join Coca-Cola in building partnerships like this. We thank Coca-Cola for making our women safe; keeping them alive and putting into effect the statement that they must not die while giving birth.”
Hajiya Aisha Abubakar, Honourable Minister of Women Affairs and Social Development, commented, “This initiative is very commendable, considering the recently released human index report, which was very appalling for Nigeria. I commend the partnership, which will certainly ensure sustainability and capacity building for our people within the healthcare system.”
Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, Senior Special Assistant to the President on SDGs, also said, “We thank our partners, Coca-Cola and Medshare International, for supporting the effort of the government of Nigeria with this very important initiative. This is a demonstration of a strong commitment to our national development priorities and the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. The life of every mother and child counts. Coca-Cola has been a strong collaborator and a wonderful partner in ensuring that every mother and every child stays alive. We believe in partnerships. The Federal Government cannot do it alone. Coca-Cola has demonstrated leadership and will continue to lead by example. I congratulate the Honourable Federal Minister of Health and the entire hospital management for this strategic partnership.”
Dr. Jafaru Momoh, Chief Medical Director of the National Hospital, also commented; "We are here today, having received four container loads of equipment and consumables, including facilities that will benefit other departments apart from paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology – anaesthesia machines, ICU machines, resuscitators, and ultrasounds. Across the hospital, we have received equipment that will be beneficial to many patients. We thank the Federal Ministry of Health, Coca-Cola, Medshare and OSSAP-SDGs for this laudable initiative. It is no longer a wish-list - the equipment are on ground and have been installed."
SBI recently celebrated the graduation of 20 biomedical engineering technicians who had undergone an intensive two-week capacity training focused on improving equipment maintenance and uptime. The technicians came from 10 leading medical institutions across the country, comprising university hospitals, federal medical centres and general hospitals and the training was conducted by US-based Engineering World Health (EWH) at the School of Biomedical Engineering, Lagos University Teaching Hospital.