Oyo landlords move to save babies from early deaths

Neonatal mortality, which is the probability of a child dying within 28 days, constitutes more than half of the under-five deaths in south-west states of Nigeria. This report by SADE OGUNTOLA looks at how communities are supporting the government to tackle the problem in Oyo State.


Watching Alhaji Busari Mamunu talk with passion, it was evident that healthy babies and mothers were ultimate in his mind as well as others living in Oke Adu, a suburb of Ibadan

“Many pregnant women do not want to go to the hospital. But we go from house to house to talk to them not to have their babies at home, but at the health centre,” said Alhaji Mamunu, the head, Oke Adu Community Development unit.

Alhaji Memunu said where the woman in labour has no money or the relations are not around, the community takes it upon itself to get her to the hospital to deliver her baby safely.

According to him, “We raise money among ourselves, we have had many pregnant women going to labour that do not have the money or do not have good husbands. We must help them deliver safely. We have been doing this for years.”

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Oke Adu in Ibadan city has 18 compounds, with each having about 200 residents. It has a primary health centre but many women still resort to delivering their babies at home or with traditional birth attendants. Even after delivery, their babies miss out on vaccinations against childhood killer diseases.

Strangely enough, Oke Adu is like many other communities in Ibadan North East, Saki West, Ibarapa North Local government areas. Communities in these LGAs are ranked highest in child deaths in Oyo State in 2016. In fact, these were places unsafe for babies to be born, before the advent of the Accelerated Action for Impact project.

Alhaji Dauda Odelade, Community Development Council, CDC, chairman, Ibadan North East, stated that the National Orientation Agency (NOA) worried by the situation had approached the community to intervene.

According to him, “we went from one house to another educating that pregnant women should deliver their babies at primary healthcare centres and that afterwards, they should ensure their babies take all the immunisations. We told them that children not immunised easily develop measles and other diseases.”

Unfortunately, Alhaji Odelade said many parents claimed that they did not know that they ought to go to the health centre rather than a faith-based home to deliver their babies.

Dr Bola Hassan, Health Specialist, UNICEF Akure Field office, speaking at a two-day South West media workshop with the theme: “Improving Health Outcomes for Children in Oyo State through Accelerated Action for Impact” listed Oyo State as one of the states where child deaths is very high based on the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in 2016.

“Oyo State is the third highest contributor to neonatal deaths in absolute numbers in South Western Nigeria in 2016; it ranked with 15 other states contributing 50 per cent of newborn deaths in Nigeria,” said Dr Hassan.

Sadly, the babies were dying because of many factors, including poor cord care, immunisation, vitamin A and handwashing, as well as inadequate exclusive breastfeeding, poor health-seeking behaviour, and poor access to quality health services.

According to her, “These are preventable newborn deaths using interventions that address all these issues until the child becomes an adolescent in these high burden states, thus crashing the overall neonatal rate for Nigeria.”

To intervene in Ibadan North East, Saki West and Ibarapa North Local government areas, Mr Mosudi Olaleye, a deputy director of programmes, NOA, Oyo State, said the body with the support of UNICEF, started community dialogues on promoting immunisation, exclusive breastfeeding and practices that eliminate neonatal deaths.

These dialogues, Mr Olaleye, said were also supported with IEC materials to promote immunisation, exclusive breastfeeding and elimination of neonatal deaths. Compliance of households was tracked using the UNICEF/NOA support checklist.

He stated: “the engagement of community leaders in household sensitisation and mobilisation impacted positively on patronage. Also, now nursing mothers and pregnant women are promptly referred by CBAs/TBAs to approved health facilities for immunisation and other child health services.

“Also, sensitisation and mobilisation of nursing mothers and general community households have now become a continuous exercise through the field activities of Community Development Association volunteers.”

What is more, Mrs Eunice Niyilola, the state’s immunisation officer, assured of improvements in immunisation coverages now in these AAI intervention LGAs.

“Before the intervention, Ibadan North East, Saki West, Ibarapa North Local government areas had over 2000 children that were not reached with immunisation. This had reduced to 510 children in these LGAs.

“For Saki West local government, immunisation coverage jumped from 20 per cent to about 66 per cent and for Ibarapa North local government, it moved from 17 to 67 per cent. The most outstanding is Ibadan North East local government which moved from about 56 per cent to 102 and down to 94 per cent because of the involvement of the community who worked at the target populations.”

Mrs Niyilola declared that behavioural change training for health workers and increased involvement of community, traditional and religious leaders, as well as landlords, had ensured more children are vaccinated in these communities.

“At Saki West LGA, the local government chairman gave two motorcycles to ensure hard to reach children in places like Okerete are also immunised,” she declared.

She added that what was done in these three LGAs is an eye opener on how to tackle the problem of unimmunised children in other communities within the state.

Nutrition Officer, Oyo State Primary Healthcare Board, Dr Khadijat Alarape, stated: “three months, post-intervention review of NOA indicated an improved knowledge in the practice of exclusive breastfeeding.”

In addition, she said, “the severe and acute malnutrition case identified at the baseline reduced from 16 to 12 during the intervention that was carried out between May and November 2018.”

What is more, she added that the exclusive breastfeeding rate had increased from 30.4 per cent in 2013 to 49.5 per cent in Oyo State in 2017. Also, she added that the early initiation of breastfeeding has improved.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has called for media support on an accurate report on preventable child death in the country.

The Communication Officer, Blessing Ejiofor said that the dialogue was organised to provide the media with information and materials to support informed media advocacy on preventable-child death and the accelerated action-impact initiative as a game changer to fast track reduction of preventable child death in Nigeria.

Ejiofor said the essence of the programme was to draw the attention of the government to the need to scale up actions with a view to reversing the trend of newborn death in the country.


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