A rural town in northern Nigeria called Angwar Agage is celebrating two years of zero infant and zero maternal mortality, thanks to an improved education to expectant mothers on how to prevent complications during and after childbirth.
Home to about 6,000 people Angwar Agage is a two hour drive from the nearest urban northern city of Katsina. The village which has neither electricity nor sophisticated amenities achieved this feat through the help of the Partnership for Reviving Routine Immunisation in Northern Nigeria and Maternal, New-born and child Health Initiative (PRRINN-MNCH). PRRINN started in 2007, in Jigawa, Katsina, Yobe and Zamfara state solely funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) to boost routine immunisation of children. Due to the successes recorded, the Norwegian government has recently included added the maternal health scheme.
Under this scheme, women especially teenage mothers are taught how to recognise signs of danger in pregnancy in other to avoid complications during and after childbirth. This, it achieves by setting up a Young Women Support Group (YWSG) where under the guidance of a Local Engagement Consultant(LEC), the members hold weekly meetings to discuss their pregnancies, motherhood, nutrition, hygiene and issues that affect them in their communities
Naturally this success story will not be complete without mentioning the contribution of the menfolk. In the first place, they collaborate by giving their wives permission to be taken to a health facility, a commendable gesture considering the cultural barriers of a mainly Islamic population where the women are often restricted to the home. Secondly, the men are trained by PRRINN-MNCH on how to recognise signs of anaemia in their pregnant wives, they are also taught how to carry their pregnant wives in times of emergency to a health facility.
But that is not all, because the menfolk also serve as blood donors, so that when a pregnant woman is taken to a health facility, between four to six men follow her and proudly present themselves as blood donors. This has the further advantage of making these men aware of their blood group.
This is great news indeed especially in the face of uneducated and unsubstantiated campaigns by many international bodies to reduce Africa’s population, in the name of preventing infant and maternal mortality. Evidence shows once again that understanding the local terrain, culture and difficulties is the first step to finding solutions to simple problems.