Written by Ijeoma UKAZU

Oyo: Making Giant Strides in Newborn Health

To prevent most newborn deaths, health experts say, it is important to invest in the first 1,000 days of a child as it is key to boosting the immune system which helps fight against childhood diseases.

Global health put breastfeeding as one of the best investments for a child, as every $1 invested in breastfeeding generates $35 in economic returns.

According to National Bureau of Statistics, (NBS), Nigeria's Neo-natal Mortality Rate, (NMR) contributes nine percent (almost 1 million) to the global number of newborn deaths annually (these are children who die within the first 28 days or 4 weeks of life).

Oyo State, South Western Nigeria, is among the 15 States contributing to nearly 50 percent newborn deaths in Nigeria and the third contributor of Neo-natal Mortality Rate in absolute numbers.

The Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey, (MICS), 2016/2017, says Oyo bears 42 percent of newborn mortality rate.

To improve newborn health outcomes in Oyo State as well as ensure no child dies from preventable causes, the United Nations Children's Fund, (UNICEF) and Primary Health Care Development Agency in the State is tackling neonatal mortality through Accelerated Action for Impact, (AAI) intervention.

This intervention is geared towards ensuring that the estimated 334.073 newborns and 1,670,366 under five children in the State reach their full potential in health and well-being.

So far, the six month old AAI intervention has produced tremendous achievements when compared with previous health records in the State.

Within this period, Oyo has reduced the number of unimmunized children in three Local Government Areas, (LGAs), Ibadan North-East, Ibarapa North and Saki West from over 2000 to 510 through the AAI intervention.

For Ibadan North-East LGA, Iwo Road Primary Healthcare Centre, (PHC)  Exclusive Breastfeeding, (EBF) has increased from 103 to 189.

This improvement in health of neonates is also connected with the participation of Community Development Council, (CDC) through partnership with the Oyo State Primary Health Care Board.

Speaking on newborn health outcomes, the Immunization Officer, Primary Health Care Board, Oyo State, Mrs. Eunice Nihinlola said that, newborn death was common place in the State due to low immunization coverage, hence the introduction of different intervention designed to save newborns and increase immunization by UNICEF.

According to her, "we started with training of health workers because we had problems with their data documentation and data analysis. We also have issues of how they were addressing mothers, and the kind of attention they were giving these mothers then, made many of them stay away from the facilities."

She said the training has yield positive results as it has helped in increasing the number of mothers coming to the facilities to have their children  immunized properly against killer diseases, adding that it has reduced the number of unimmunized children from over 2,000 to 510 in the three focal LGAs .

According to Nihinlola, "to address the issue of handling vaccines to hard -to-reach areas, the Chairman, Saki West LGA provided motorcycles to enable us move down to those areas."

She revealed that religious beliefs and ignorance were major factors affecting immunization coverage in the LGAs.

Nihinlola said several meetings with religious and traditional leaders have paved way for smooth immunization processes in the State.

She stated that, "during these meetings, we enlighten these traditional leaders on the importance of vaccination and the need for children to get all the immunizations including; BCG to prevent tuberculosis, oral polio.

"Hepatitis vaccines, pentavelant vaccines, pneumococcal vaccines and measles vaccination. Today cultural and religious barriers are history. As even the Imams help us when we have issues."

During a field trip organized by UNICEF to Iwo Road PHC, Ibadan, the immunization, Senior Community Health Extension Worker, (CHEW) Mrs Jolasinmi Adebola told journalists that the number of women who usually bring their newborn for immunization has increased, from 56 to 78 on a monthly basis in the centre

On storage of the vaccines, Adebola said a solar refrigerator and cold boxes was part of the intervention to preserve the vaccines before distribution to other PHCs in the area.

Also speaking, the Assistant Immunization Coaching Officer for Ibadan North East Local Government Area, (LGA), Mr Ayobami Akinola, said the vaccines provided ranges from BCG, Oral Polio Vaccine, Pneumococcal Conjugate, Hepatitis B, Inactivated polio vaccine,  Measles, Yellow fever, Vitamin A, amongst others.

Due to high rate of neo-natal and infant deaths in Ibadan North East, the post natal services for Iwo Road PHC was re-established, Akinola said, that has provided room for mothers to bring in their children for health education.

The re-established post- natal services, he said, has given rise to a tremendous increase to the practice of Exclusive Breastfeeding, (EBF) in the centre from 103 to 189 as at February this year, adding that women were being taught on the benefits of EBF to the child as well as the importance of immunization, post-natal services, amongst others.

Also on Exclusive Breastfeeding, a Community Health Extension Worker, at Iwo Road PHC, Mrs Akinyomi Oluwatosin said that in the facility women are now embracing EBF.

Oluwatosin said the CHEW'S ensures that these women breastfeed their newborn exclusively and as well keep to immunization appointment.

She said "prior to the AAI intervention, neonatal deaths in the PHC was high but with the intervention, there is no record of newborn deaths."

At the community level, the Chairman, Community Development Council, (CDC) , Ibadan North East, Alhaji Dauda Abimbola Odelade said, "the State National Orientation Agency came to us last year, orientate us that we need to talk to the women in our community to access the health facilities in their area and also vaccinate their children against childhood killer diseases.

"We went from house-to-house to educate our people. And that has yielded a great result."

Speaking further on UNICEF engagement in various intervention programmes to assist Oyo State in minimising the high prevalence of death of newborns at a two- day media dialogue on "Improving Health Outcomes for Children in Oyo State through Accelerated Action for Impact," the Health Specialist, UNICEF, Akure Field Office, Dr Adebola Hassan said the trend are changing.

Newborn health, according to Dr Hassan is a conglomerate of many factors, pointing that "some neonates die from ill health after birth due to, probably the mother was not breastfeeding or the umbilical cord care was poor. There are so many things that could kill that newborn in the first 28 days of life."

Hassan added that poor nutrition, improper breastfeeding, lack of immunization and poor delivery system, were amongst newborn mortality in the Oyo State.

She said, Ibadan North-East, Ibarapa North and Saki West LGAs were among the six local government in the State with highest neonatal and infant mortality.

With UNICEF and Oyo State collaboration, through various interventions, Hassan said, there has been an improvement.




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