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EQUAL Research Reveals Factors Impacting Maternal Health in Yobe State

Findings from the Ensuring Quality Access and Learning for Mothers and Newborns in Conflict-Affected Contexts (EQUAL) project being implemented by the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) have shown that gender, cultural, and religious beliefs affect care seeking for mothers and their babies.

EQUAL Principal Investigator in Nigeria, Dr. Emilia Iwu stated this at an event in Abuja organized by the project to disseminate research findings from key informant interviews and literature reviews.

“EQUAL project is funded by the UK International Development from the UK Government. The research is working to generate evidence on effective approaches for delivering life-saving maternal and newborn health (MNH) in countries affected by conflict. The duration of the project being conducted in Yobe State is from July 2021 to April 2026,” she said.

She added that findings have revealed that women encounter violence, sexual abuse, and limited healthcare access resulting in preventable maternal deaths and psychological stress.

“While MNH services are generally accepted, cultural norms such as women requiring spousal permission to access medical care and the religious beliefs that home births are divinely sanctioned hinder the timely seeking of maternal and newborn health services,” Dr. Iwu said.   

She noted that despite existing maternal newborn health policies and initiatives in Yobe State, persistent challenges such as inadequate funding, equipment and health workers hinder effective implementation of the policies.

Dr. Iwu urged the government and partners to increase funding dedicated to free medical care to address inadequate financing and capped number of beneficiaries.

“Boko Haram insurgency in Yobe State has disrupted MNH services. There has been destruction of health care facilities, theft of medical equipment, displacement of staff, heightened risks of abduction and murder of health care workers.”

The Principal Investigator said that addressing determinants of care seeking through investments in the health system, creation of awareness, social behavior change and improved quality and coverage of care will improve access to health services by women and children.

Assistant Director of Education at the Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN), Mr. Tinbuak Yanai, who was also at the dissemination event, said that “Proper training and scaling up of training of health care workers will improve the health of mothers and newborn babies in Yobe state.”

Stakeholders from the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), International Rescue Committee (IRC), Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI), Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH), Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria (NMCN), USAID, Integrated Health Program (IHP) and others participated in the dissemination event.

The EQUAL consortium consists of partners such as the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN), the John Hopkins Center for Humanitarian Health, the Somali Research and Development Institute (SORDI), and the Catholic University of Bukavu (UCB).

ANRiN Project Provides Nutrition Services to 202,500 Children in Kano

More than 209,062 women and 202,529 children under five years have received nutrition services from the Accelerating Nutrition in Nigeria (ANRiN) project being implemented by the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) in nine Local Government Areas in Kano State.

ANRiN Project Director, Dr. Ishaya Madaki, who stated this, said that the project is improving the nutritional status of pregnant women through provision of iron, folic acid tablets and intermittent malaria prophylaxis.

“IHVN is also providing zinc-fortified ORS for the management of diarrhea in children 6-59 months of age. Our work is also aimed at improving vitamin A supplementation and routine deworming of children under five years. We adopted approaches such as bi-monthly communication outreaches, town hall meetings, radio jingles, and a men’s forum to sensitize men about actively supporting their wives to access and utilize the basic nutrition services,” he said.

The Project Director added that “in some communities, the women want to access care but their husbands tend to stop them because they do not know about the services that we offer. We have decided to sensitize them and are sure that with this, more women and children will benefit.”

He added that the project has more than 220 community volunteers combing Bunkure, Dala, Fagge, Gwale, Kano Municipal, Kumbotso, Nasarawa Tarauni and Wudil Local Government Areas in Kano State to provide nutrition services.

Project beneficiaries have said that the ANRiN project has improved the health of their families. 38-year-old Hajara Ahmed from Bunkure LGA said that she has seen many positive changes in her children. An ANRiN community volunteer visited their home to educate them about hygiene and good nutrition. “The community volunteer gave us Zinc ORC, micronutrients, vitamin A, and albendazole tablets. My daughter who was ill with diarrhea, is now healthy,” she said.

Another beneficiary, Sadiya Abubakar, said that “My husband is hardly around because his job requires him to always be on the road – he is a driver. We do not have a pharmacy in this community, that is why I could not take my children for treatment.”

She was relieved when a community volunteer educated her and administered medications to her ten-month and two-year-old children respectively.

IHVN, AFM, FCT Fire Service Collaborate on Fire Safety

The Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) has collaborated with Africa Fire Mission (AFM) and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Fire Service to train firefighters from Baze University, National Judicial Institute (NJI), Nile University and National Open University Nigeria (NOUN) on fire safety.

More than 25 Safety and Security Officers representing the organizations participated in the four-day training on “Advancing Firefighting Operations, Tactics and Leadership” held in the IHVN Campus in Abuja.

IHVN Chief Operating Officer and Managing Director, Dr. Charles Olalekan Mensah who welcomed participants to the training said that partnership with the Fire Service and organizations located in the  IHVN Campus environs is important to forestall fire incidences in the vicinity.

AFM facilitated the training and conducted a needs assessment to identify tools and equipment needed to further develop FCT Fire Service. AFM also donated firefighting equipment like firefighting coats, boots, gloves, suspenders and helmets to them for enhanced effectiveness in responding to fire incidents, saving lives, property, and critical infrastructure.

AFM Co-Founder and Executive Director, Nancy Moore, said that “the hands-on training was focused on preparedness for IHVN’s partners in the Committee of Stakeholders on general safety and security of Cadastral Zone C00 Abuja FCT.”

Head of Operations, FCT Fire Service, Engr. Adesina Abioye, stated that the training has updated Fire Service Staff with modern professional ways of rescue and firefighting, and served as a refresher course on fire prevention and administration for the Senior Staff who participated.  “The importance of the partnership cannot be overemphasized; it has brought tremendous benefits to the partners and the stakeholders community. What would have cost the FCT administration a huge sum of money was made available at no cost due to partnership,” he said.

IHVN, RSUTH host US Consul General on Visit

The Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN) has joined the Rivers State Government in welcoming the US Consul General, Mr. Will Stevens, to the Rivers State University Teaching Hospital, PortHarcourt on a visit.

IHVN Chief Operating Officer and Managing Director, Dr. Charles Olalekan Mensah said that with funding from the US Government through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), IHVN has supported the HIV program in the facility to test more than 56,000 people for HIV and enroll more than 1,900 people for antiretroviral treatment from April 2019 to September 2023.

Dr. Mensah noted that the hospital has done excellently in caring for patients and providing accurate data on the HIV program. He thanked the US government for its funding support.

“On behalf of all the patients in this facility who receive HIV services, we thank you for your leadership. Since 2019 when we started providing HIV services in the state, the state government has been supportive. We ask that we are resourced more to enable the facility to do more,” he said.

Mr. Stevens toured the IHVN-supported PCR laboratory in the hospital which supports over 180 health facilities in Rivers and neighboring states with EID and viral load tests. The PCR laboratory analyses close to 3000 samples daily. He also interacted with mothers who have benefitted from the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV services provided at the facility and have HIV-free children.

The US Consul General said that the success of the HIV program in the facility and the state is a result of working together.

“United States is committed to partnering with the continent and working with this beautiful, amazing country to find a path forward on the challenges that face us, in climate change, health issues, and youth unemployment to work on and solve these problems together. I am grateful to be here. I love seeing how we are working together to help save lives,” he said.

Rivers State Commissioner for Health, Dr. Adaeze Oreh, said that the Rivers State Government appreciates the support of the US government for the support to close significant gaps in the care of people living with HIV/AIDS in Rivers State.

“The impact of this is that having more people know their status, being placed on treatment and with viral load suppression helps in the journey towards destigmatizing the ailment and this is key to the focus on health for all in Rivers State,” she said.

Global Fund Awards Nigeria $9 Million to Address HIV, TB, Malaria

The Honourable Coordinating Minister of Health and Social Welfare, Prof. Muhammed Ali Pate has launched the Global Fund Grant Cycle 7 award of $933, 156,931 to Nigeria to address HIV, tuberculosis and malaria from 2024-2026.

Prof. Pate, also the Chairman of the Global Fund Country Coordinating Mechanism, unveiled the award in Abuja. He stated that one of the expected results from the grant on HIV is that the country achieves the UNAIDS  95-95- 95 goal of ensuring that  95% of the people who are living with HIV know their HIV status, placing  95% of the people who know that they are living with HIV on life-saving anti-retroviral treatment, and making sure that 95% of people who are on treatment are being virally suppressed by 2025.

“It is a tall order and we will be very diligent and we hope there will be no fuzzy numbers. The mandate is also to scale of service among all the vulnerable populations and prevention of mother-to-child transmission services using the primary health care system as part of the sector-wide effort.

On tuberculosis, the goal is to increase the case notification rate for all forms of TB from where it is to sustain the current TB success rate beyond the initial target of 90% during this grant period; and to enroll 100% of drug-resistant TB patients on appropriate treatment by 2026. For malaria, the focus will be on improving access and utilization of vector control interventions and ensuring the provision of chemo prevention, diagnosis, and appropriate treatment for 80% of the target population,” he said.

The Coordinating Minister called on Principal Recipients of the grant to use the resources judiciously to deliver services.

“This CCM is committing itself to monitor and to have a robust framework for tracking the resources of governmental and non-governmental actors in a transparent manner.  We will ensure it happens because we signed a contract stating we will do that. I want to assure the donors that we will use these resources judiciously.

The grant will be implemented by Principal Recipients, the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA), the National AIDS and STDs Control Programme (NASCP), National Tuberculosis, Leprosy & Buruli Ulcer Control Programme (NTBLCP), Institute for Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN), National Malaria Elimination Programme (NMEP), Catholic Relief Services (CRS), and the Lagos State Ministry of Health.

Also at the event, Global Fund representative, Maria Kirova, congratulated the country for the successes recorded in addressing AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

“I’m pleased also to share with you the news that Nigeria has recorded one of the highest resource utilization rates of Global fund resources in the Grant Cycle 6 – more than 95%. That is a testament to your good work. We have no doubt that with all your leadership, mobilization, commitment, and expertise, the country will continue to drive a successful implementation path forward. I would like to reiterate the Global Fund’s commitment to fully collaborate with the CCM-Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Health, the Principal Recipients, and other partners, under the leadership of the honorable Coordinating Minister to ensure a successful implementation of the Grant Cycle 7,” she said.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Institute of Human Virology Nigeria (IHVN), Dr. Patrick Dakum assured the country and the international community of the commitment of the Principal Recipients to program efficiency and financial accountability.

“Our driving force is that at the end of the grant period, the country, the Country Coordinating Mechanism, and the Global Fund will be proud of our efforts. We will work assiduously to deliver the required services to Nigerians. As Principal Recipients, our role is to ensure that the sub-recipients deliver HIV, tuberculosis, and malaria services with accountability,” he said.

Representatives from bilateral, and multilateral partners, the United Nations, the US Government, legislature, international non-governmental organizations, civil society, and the legislature participated in the launch of the Global Fund GC7 grant.