FROM September 25th, 2023
The Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA) and GE HealthCare have taken a significant step towards improving maternal and fetal outcomes in Nigeria by signing a Strategic Cooperation Agreement (SCA) to equip midwives and nurses with the necessary knowledge and skills to effectively use ultrasound machines.
This initiative aims to empower healthcare providers with the tools to deliver better care to expectant mothers and their unborn babies. As part of this collaboration, GE HealthCare has donated eight Vscan ultrasound devices. These compact, portable devices are well-suited for use in resource-limited settings, where accessing traditional ultrasound machines may be challenging.
The agreement was ceremonially signed by Her Excellency Mrs Toyin Ojora Saraki, Founder & President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, and Mr Eyong Ebai of GE HealthCare at The Sofitel Hotel on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
In addition to the donation, WBFA and GE HealthCare are conducting comprehensive training for nurses and midwives which will impact over 96,000 mothers this year alone. These training programs in the states of Lagos, Abuja, and Kwara, include theoretical and practical sessions. Participants will receive hands-on training on the use of the Vscan device, covering basic principles of ultrasound technology, image acquisition, interpretation, reporting, and even basic obstetric ultrasound scans.
According to the World Health Organization, the Maternal Mortality Rate in Nigeria in 2017, was estimated at 917 per 100 000 live births; it increased by nearly 14% in 2020 to reach 1047 deaths2 with evidence suggesting that the increase in rates is due to three common signs of delay: in making the decision to seek maternal healthcare, in locating and arriving at a medical facility, and in receiving skilled pregnancy care when a woman gets to the health facility.
Her Excellency Mrs Toyin Ojora Saraki, Founder & President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa said “This collaboration between WBFA and GE HealthCare is a significant milestone in our mission to promote the wellbeing of expectant mothers across Nigeria. With the power of ultrasound technology, we can now detect warning signs early, ensuring the health and safety of both mothers and babies. By providing Vscan devices, delivering comprehensive training, and raising awareness within communities, WBFA and GE HealthCare is working towards healthier pregnancies, safer deliveries, and brighter futures for mothers and babies across Nigeria.”
Mr. Ebai from GE HealthCare said “We are proud to support the Wellbeing Foundation Africa in their mission to improve maternal and fetal outcomes in Nigeria. This will enable critical healthcare services in remote areas; GE HealthCare’s involvement supports our strategy in Africa to providing healthcare professionals with the latest technology, we are equipping them with the means to detect potential complications early, ultimately saving lives.”
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FROM September 19th, 2023
New York, United States – The year 2023, midpoint of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, marks a critical turning point in the global conversation around adolescent wellbeing and maternal healthcare. The Wellbeing Foundation Africa was proud to join the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) meeting this September, bringing together influential global players to address the pressing needs of adolescents and to shine a light on a critical, often-overlooked phase of maternal health: the fourth trimester.
More than ten global organisations, including the Wellbeing Foundation Africa in partnership with Reckitt joined forces with Fondation Botnar to commit to action aimed at tackling the challenges faced by the world’s 1.8 billion adolescents, including water, sanitation and hygiene, focused on our programming, Dettol Nigeria Hygiene Quest.
Alongside this, at CGI, I was honoured to contribute to ‘The Fourth Trimester: How to Provide Postpartum Support and Reduce Post-Birth Mortality’, addressing the critical issue that demands our immediate attention: the fourth trimester, that often-overlooked period from birth to 12 weeks. This is a time when the delicate dance of mother-baby bonding unfolds, and mothers embark on the journey of physical recovery from childbirth.
This phase represents a time of profound vulnerability for mothers as they navigate physical and emotional changes, including sleep deprivation, hormonal fluctuations, and the responsibility of nurturing a newborn. Unfortunately, inadequate support during the fourth trimester can lead to long-term health issues, including postpartum depression, anxiety, and increased risk of chronic illnesses.
Nigeria, like the United States, faces similar challenges in maternal healthcare. Maternal mortality rates remain a pressing concern, particularly for black, asian and minority ethnic rural and underserved communities in the USA. In this pivotal moment in history, it is imperative that we recognize the urgency of these matters and take global action to ensure that mothers and babies not only survive but thrive during the critical phases of healthcare.
As we unite in our efforts to protect the wellbeing of mothers, their newborns and adolescents worldwide, let us forge a path toward a brighter, healthier future.
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FROM September 12th, 2023
London, United Kingdom: A global group of experts from the environmental, business, political, and philanthropic worlds have formed the 2023 Terra Carta Seal Expert Review Panel. The Sustainable Markets Initiative is announcing the seven distinguished panellists who will evaluate and select the 2023 Terra Carta Seal Award winners.
Launched in 2021 at COP26 by His Majesty King Charles III when he was Prince of Wales, the Terra Carta Seal recognises global companies that are actively leading the charge to create a climate and Nature-positive future. In May, the Sustainable Markets Initiative announced its partnership with Verdantix, an independent research firm that acts as a thought-leader for world-enhancing innovation. The Expert Review Panel will work with Verdantix to evaluate nominations and assess their alignment with the ten Terra Carta articles.
The 2023 Terra Carta Seal Award Expert Review Panel are:
Toyin Saraki has severally served as a judge on the annual MIT Solve competition of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and as a judge of the Cannes Lions Film Festival. Toyin also recently adjudicated as a Grand Global Jury Member of the Fight for Access Accelerator Nigeria, led by Reckitt and Yunus Social Business (YSB).
Based on agreed sustainability criteria, select companies are invited on an annual basis to apply for the Terra Carta Seal. Once invited, companies will need to demonstrate the success of a high impact, large scale company-wide project, initiative or strategy which aligns with one or more of the ten Terra Carta Articles. Verdantix, leveraging its 15 years of experience in climate and sustainability research and analysis, will support the Terra Carta Seal evaluation process by assessing the eligibility and impact of each nominated project against existing recognised global sustainability criteria.
Her Excellency Toyin Saraki, Founder-President of The Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA), said: “I am deeply honoured and excited to join the esteemed 2023 Terra Carta Seal Expert Review Panel. This prestigious initiative, launched by His Majesty King Charles III at COP26, holds the promise of a brighter and more sustainable future for our planet. It is heartening to see global leaders from diverse backgrounds come together to recognize and reward companies that are committed to positive change for both our environment and society.”
“The Terra Carta Seal Award represents a powerful commitment to addressing climate change and nurturing our natural world. I look forward to working alongside my distinguished fellow panellists and collaborating with Verdantix to evaluate nominations and ensure alignment with Terra Carta’s ten articles. Together, we will help identify and celebrate companies that are making a real difference in the fight against climate change.”
“This initiative is a testament to the power of collective action and shared responsibility. I am eager to contribute to this important mission and continue the work of promoting sustainability and wellbeing in Africa and around the world.”
Jennifer Jordan-Saifi, Sustainable Markets Initiative CEO, said: “It is an honour to have such a global and diverse group of sustainability experts to be part of the 2023 Terra Carta Seal Awards. Building on our partnership with Verdantix, the Expert Review Panel will further ensure an objective and rigorous evaluation process, rooted in sustainability excellence, for all nominees.”
David Metcalfe, Verdantix CEO, said: “Empowering seven judges representing diverse organisations and countries to make the final decision on Terra Carta Seal recipients, embeds independence, expertise and objectivity at the heart of our awards process.”
Applications for the 2023 Terra Carta Seal Award close Friday, 29 September.
FROM April 23rd, 2020
The World Health Organization was designed to address threats exactly like COVID-19—where global cooperation is our only chance of success.
The global community is racing to slow down the spread of COVID-19, a pandemic that has claimed the lives of over 160,000 people globally and sickened over 2 million more. As researchers and epidemiologists work around the clock to find a solution to halt both the deaths and the spread of the disease, our health workers are leaving loved ones at home to fight on the front lines of this crisis. I am moved daily by the stories of those doctors, midwives, nurses and other essential workers, who are working tirelessly to keep us safe, facing the dangers head-on, often with inadequate equipment and information.
Much of the world is locked down, isolated in households and communities, renewing and deploying the age-old and time-tested techniques of personal, social, surface and environmental hygiene, which all depend on the availability of clean water—an essential resource often scant where it is needed most. In Africa, the virus has spread to dozens of countries within weeks. Governments and health authorities across the continent are striving to limit widespread infections.
As always in times of crisis, the most vulnerable among us will be the ones hit hardest. Women and girls will suffer the most from this disease, and we have already seen a rise in gender-based violence and rights violations of pregnant women. Sufferers of domestic violence are now locked down with their abusers, isolated from their support systems, and other at-risk groups are unable to access routine services. The ripple effect of COVID-19 runs far beyond the disease itself. Humanity will bear the scars of this pandemic for many years to come.
Around the world, we are seeing countries and communities acting both together and apart. Fear is impeding mechanisms for an effective response to the coronavirus pandemic, giving rise to anger, racism, a rhetoric of blame and a dangerous spread of misinformation. Beyond health services, countries with large ratios of informal economic sector citizens are struggling to feed themselves, increasing the present hunger and suffering, as well as the undeniably unwelcome prospects of unrest.
Now more than ever, the world needs a well-functioning global organization designed to facilitate international coordination. The global community must unite behind a strong World Health Organization, an institution designed to address exactly this kind of global issue, our standard-bearer in these unprecedented times for this unprecedented virus. Countries need factual information based strictly in science with the benefit of a global perspective to ensure the most vulnerable communities have the support and information they need to survive.
The WHO works closely with governments to provide evidence-based guidelines for response and facilitate adaptation to the country context. Remote support is being provided to affected countries on the use of electronic data tools, so national health authorities can better understand the outbreak in their countries. Preparedness and response to previous epidemics is providing a firm foundation for many African countries to tackle the spread of COVID-19. Following their lead, which has urged nations to track and trace in order to tackle and treat the coronavirus, my organization, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, has partnered with Pocket Patient MD to launch an app-based digital platform that enables individuals across Nigeria to run a health check and identify early symptoms of COVID-19.
Where basic preventative measures by individuals and communities remain the most powerful tool to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the WHO is helping local authorities craft radio messaging and TV spots to inform the public about the risks of COVID-19 and what measures should be taken. The organization is also helping to counter disinformation and is guiding countries on setting up call centers to ensure the public is informed. Every country is a beneficiary and a partner of the WHO’s work.
In the same vein, it is inconceivable to imagine a healthy future for our world without acknowledging the pivotal role of the United States in ensuring we realize it. The WHO has operated with the majority of its funding coming via the U.S. government throughout its 70-year history. We must recognize and respect the interconnected nature of our world, the relationships between countries and institutions, and the significant roles of member states in enabling such important institutions to function and deliver during these crucial times. We must prioritize unity and diplomacy at all levels.
COVID-19 is cruel in many ways. Many of us have been shaken by the loss of a loved one, made all the harder by separation enforced by lockdowns. But we cannot allow it to divide us, to pit us against one another—against countries, organizations and neighbors. If we allow that perspective to prevail, we will not only lose ourselves and experience greater isolation, we will also make ourselves more vulnerable. We must come together to manage this shared challenge, show solidarity as country and institutional leaders, advocates and allies, health workers and communities. We know, through hard-earned experience, that global cooperation is our only chance of success.
While many nations have attempted to build health security borders to combat the pandemic, COVID-19 is a stark reminder that humans are connected, and that what happens in one country can impact the everyday lives, social fabrics and economies of countries far away. Working individually does not shield us from the global framework in which we are operating – we are part of an interconnected world, and when we respond accordingly, we can more accurately and effectively combat our shared challenges.
Human connectivity holds power. The positive impact of our collective will to physically distance from one another alone shows what power we hold. In working together to promote unity, overcome global inequality and support measures to protect public health, we are striving to ensure that no one is left behind in our response to the pandemic.
Toyin Saraki is the founder and president of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, the inaugural global goodwill ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives and special adviser to the independent advisory group of the World Health Organization’s regional office for Africa.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.
FROM March 3rd, 2020
From labor shortages to racial bias, the barriers to achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3 – “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages” – are as diverse as they are high. But the chances of success are significantly better if we listen to those who understand the situation on the ground.
ABUJA – We have a decade left to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and we are nowhere near where we need to be to succeed. One crucial reason is that women remain largely excluded from decision-making processes, which leads to policies that do not provide women the support they need to prosper – or even to survive. Nowhere is this dynamic more apparent than in the health sector.
Women comprise roughly 70% of the global health workforce, and perform the majority of the sector’s most challenging, dangerous, and labor-intensive jobs. Yet they hold only 25% of the health sector’s senior roles, and are rarely represented adequately in policymaking. Instead, they are often expected to remain passive actors, quietly finding ways to do their jobs in difficult – even impossible – circumstances.
The reality for women health workers was reflected in a recent letter to the medical journal The Lancet from two Chinese nurses describing the conditions they and their colleagues face on the frontlines of the battle against the new coronavirus, COVID-19, at its source in Wuhan, China. It may be an extreme case (and the letter has now been retracted over claims that it was not a firsthand account), but the challenges described, from shortages of protective equipment to chronic overwork and exhaustion, are all too familiar to health workers everywhere.
Such conditions make essential health-sector jobs unattractive, contributing to severe labor shortages worldwide. The World Health Organization estimates that, for all countries to achieve SDG 3 (“ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages”), an additional nine million nurses and midwives will be needed globally by the year 2030.
Closing this gap is matter of life and death. For example, midwives are often the difference between safe childbirth and newborn or maternal mortality. Lack of access to them – especially for vulnerable populations, such as poor rural dwellers – is a major reason why two-thirds of all maternal deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. The WHO estimates that adequate midwifery care (including family planning) could prevent 83% of all maternal deaths, stillbirths, and newborn deaths.
Infant and maternal mortality are hardly limited to developing countries. In the United States, the maternal mortality rate has actually increased in recent decades, from 7.2 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1987 to 16.7 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2016. More than half of these deaths could have been prevented if the mothers had better understood the importance of – and had easier access to – quality prenatal and postpartum care.
There is a clear racial dimension to this disturbing trend. In the US, a black woman is 3-4 times more likely than a white woman to die from complications in pregnancy. In the United Kingdom, that multiple rises to five. While this discrepancy may be partly explained by health complications black women experience, racial bias also plays a role. Black women often report feeling that they are not taken seriously by medical professionals.
The health consequences of not listening to women extend further. Children born to healthy mothers are more likely to remain healthier throughout their lives. Because a woman is most likely to engage with the health sector during pregnancy, the support of a midwife or nurse can pull a woman’s entire family into the health-care system.
In a bid to recognize their vital contribution in the health sector, the WHO has designated 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife. But beyond celebrating nurses and midwives for their hard work, we must seek to rectify structural inequities that exclude women from leadership positions in these professions. That is a key goal of the upcoming Women in Dev conference – a women-led, women-focused initiative that deserves the support of us all.
From labor shortages to racial bias, the barriers to achieving SDG 3 are as diverse as they are high. But the chances of success are significantly better if we listen to those who understand the situation on the ground, and work to enhance inclusion at all levels, taking into account varying socioeconomic conditions. This will require a fundamental shift in mindset, with publics and policymakers alike recognizing that women – as nurses, midwives, and mothers – are often the gatekeepers of health.
A decade of rapid progress toward SDG 3 is possible. But women must be at the helm.
H.E. Toyin Saraki is the President and Founder of The Wellbeing Foundation Africa.
FROM December 12th, 2019
Abuja — Today, as we mark International Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Day, I am encouraged by the growing momentum behind the belief that every single person should have access to the care they need when they need it, and that no one should be forced to suffer financial hardship or forgo treatment they cannot afford.
The Wellbeing Foundation has committed to employing a whole system approach for health for all with ten essential features, centering on the provision of quality primary health care for all, with a focus on women, infants, and children. It has been three months since the High-Level Meeting (UN HLM) on Universal Health Coverage at the 74th UN General Assembly, in which leaders around the world recommitted to their promise of health for all. At the heart of this progress is the understanding that quality maternal care should be at the centre of our drive to achieve universal health coverage.
I believe that it is critical that next year has been identified as the World Health Organization (WHO) Year of The Nurse and The Midwife. The year, which fittingly marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, presents us with a unique opportunity to consider the role of gender parity and equality in health coverage and health provision.
In March 2019, the WHO, the Global Health Workforce Network, and Women in Global Health produced a report on Global Health and Social Workforce entitled “Delivered by Women, Led by Men: A Gender and Equity Analysis of the Global Health and Social Workforce.” Strikingly, the report found that ‘women deliver global health and men lead it’. The report highlighted that women comprise 70% of the global health workforce, but only 25% hold senior roles, while women face gender discrimination, barriers, and inequalities not faced by their male colleagues at work. Gender inequality within the sector is not only unacceptable, but it ultimately weakens the quality of healthcare that we are able to provide.
Nurses and midwives represent half of the professional health workforce and are overwhelming, although not exclusively, women. They play a critical role not only in delivering healthcare to millions of people in every country, but they are key to transforming health policies, disease prevention, emergency care, and supporting the families of patients. They are necessary partners supporting the health and wellbeing of the communities they serve in a multitude of ways that include health care delivery, education, and counselling. If we are to build universal health coverage that is of quality and value, it is essential that we ensure that frontline workers in maternal care have not just a have a seat at the table but sit at the head.
As nations develop UHC frameworks, I am encouraged to see a groundswell in the number of individuals and organisations advocating for sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) and prioritising the needs and rights of women and girls. SRHR means liberating women and girls with access to family planning and empowering them with the information and confidence to make informed decisions about their lives. Strong SRHR frameworks include education, awareness, and choice: the choice to have children in clean and safe conditions. The choice to space children, so that resources can be distributed to maximise the opportunities of each child. The choice to be properly informed and empowered in the decision-making process that surrounds these issues is important for the young. Effective SRHR may prioritise women and girls, but it also cannot afford to exclude men and boys; these are issues that affect everyone.
In 2013, at the World Health Assembly, then-President of the World Bank Group, Dr Jim Yong Kim, asserted that “we must be the generation that delivers universal health coverage.” I couldn’t agree more: now is the time to get this right.
In alignment with World Health Organization recommendations, the Wellbeing Foundation Africa’s whole system approach to UHC is comprised of ten essential components:
1)Pregnant women should receive the right care, at the right time;
2) Newborns should receive essential care immediately after birth;
3) Small and sick babies should be well cared for in a facility;
4) All women and newborns must receive care that prevents hospital-acquired infections;
5) Health facilities must have an appropriate physical environment;
6) Communication with women and their families must be effective and respond to their needs;
7) Women and newborns who need referrals can obtain them without delay;
8) No woman should be subjected to harmful practices during labour, childbirth, and the early postnatal period;
9) Health facilities need well-trained and motivated staff consistently available to provide care;
10) Every woman and newborn should have a complete, accurate, and standardized medical record.
Each of our flagship programmes and initiatives; our Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care programme, our Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene programme, our Personal Healthcare Record Book initiative, our Alive and Thrive programme, and our MamaCare/MamaCare+N programme are tailored to meet these priorities.
This year, leaders made progress by affirming UHC as a key strategic interest. But millions of lives hang in the balance of this essential promise, a promise on which we must deliver. The WHO cites that today approximately half of the world’s population live without full coverage of fundamental health services while an estimated 100 million people are being forced into extreme poverty due to health care expenses.
The equivalent of one in ten people is spending over 10% of their household budget on critical health care costs. We know that there is a myriad of ways that health will impact the achievement of sustainable development, including, but not limited to the health-specific objectives.
How can we solve poverty if people are forced into bankruptcy themselves to pay for treatment? We will only meet all of the SDGs by 2030 if everybody is able to access affordable, safe, respectful, and quality healthcare.
Today I call on all health partners and stakeholders to urge our leaders to deliver on their promise of UHC. I wholeheartedly believe that we must collectively champion UHC frameworks that are grounded in equality and inclusion and take into consideration not only the unique experiences of women in the health workforce, but that centre on SRHR policies that prioritise women and girls.
Toyin Ojora Saraki is founder-president of Wellbeing Foundation Africa