Good morning. It is a pleasure to join you to present the Goodwill Message of Mrs Toyin Ojora Saraki, Founder-President of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA), Global Goodwill Ambassador for the International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) and Special Adviser to the Independent Advisory Group to the World Health Organization Regional Office for Africa.
Thank you to Dr Tunde Segun, Country Director for MamaYe! Evidence for Action, for the kind invitation to join you today on this 7th MamaYe Day, to discuss such an elemental and yet crucial aspect of health care service deliver: accountability.
According to the Global Strategy For Women and Children’s Health, the tracked indicators in Nigeria are some of the worst in Africa, with one of the fastest growing populations globally: our population is likely to reach 440 million people by 2050. We know the key issues Nigeria faces: from having the second largest number of people living with HIV, the highest burden of malaria globally – which remains the top cause of child illness and death – to having the second highest burden of stunted and malnourished children in the world.
To achieve accountability in health service delivery, we must be able to accurately assess the demographic need for health: which necessitates a well-designed civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS) system. Only with the collection and dissemination of accurate data can we hope to ensure effective delivery, evaluation and monitoring of sustainable, effective public health strategies.
In the late 1950s, Professor David Morley developed the ‘Road to Health’ chart in Nigeria for monitoring the growth of infants and young children. This home-based chart was originally designed to monitor growth in resource-poor countries, but developed into a record of a child’s growth and development, kept by parents – it was revolutionary in its time. At the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, we took that concept and designed the Personal Health Record (PHR), a book in which the medical records of each mother and child are recorded and stored for future reference and analysis. The PHR evolved from a child immunisation and growth record to a comprehensive CRVS tool.
This forms part of what I call the value of a statistical life. Without a centralised health database for many families to rely upon and keep them informed of the necessary health processes in a child’s first thousand days of life, the PHR came as an innovation that placed this knowledge directly into the mothers’ hands, and empowered her to provide, analyse and follow-up on her own data – to be in control of her own situational analysis. Home-based records have since been successfully deployed in countries like the UK and Japan.
Registering births and linking birth registration to vaccinations is an important part of CRVS and social accountability. Nigeria is currently battling with a situation where only 1 in 4 children, of our population of 198 million citizens, is immunised against preventable diseases. The Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunisation
(GAVI) has revealed that despite considerable investment – of about $700 million – we only have total immunization coverage of around 30%. CRVS would allow us to hold Governments accountable for their policy, spending and distribution decisions – including in cases such as this.
At the United Nations General Assembly in New York last September I attended the launch of the IAP report ‘Private Sector: Who is Accountable.’ That report rightly called on governments, parliaments, private sector partners and multilateral agencies to establish effective accountability systems. As I noted at the time, only two countries in Africa have met the Abuja declaration to pledge 15% of their government budgets to health. Meanwhile, tuberculosis kills more than 4,000 people every single day. This can be avoided – and there are five key interventions which would take us far closer to delivering the 2030 Agenda and achieving universal health coverage:
We know that the road to universal health coverage does not rest upon singular interventions, but rather on a plethora of interconnected interventions and initiatives; from water, sanitation and hygiene standards in healthcare facilities to breastfeeding education and training for healthcare workers. In a country as large as Nigeria, resilience throughout the whole nation’s system is necessary if we are going to be able to tackle critical health emergencies in fragile settings, for example in the north-east. That is why a strengthened primary health care system is imperative as the foundation and bedrock of achieving health for all and should be a focal point for investment.
Thank you once again for the kind invitation to join you today, and I look forward to working with all of you for stronger, more accountable, and safer health systems.