Forget 'Boko Haram', Relish This Victory For Women's Health in Zamfara!
Last week, I had yet another opportunity of travelling up North Nigeria. This time, my destination together with our programs coordinator, Afolabi Imoru Ibrahim was Zamfara. Yes, you heard me! ZAMFARA :)
For most people and organisations in Nigeria, Zamfara or anywhere up North in this season of ‘Boko Haram’ is a no go area. Coupled with its application of the 'hadd' aspect of Sharia since 1999, the first in Nigeria, where a local had his hand cut off for stealing a cow and another also for stealing two goats, a trip to Zamfara was considered an unwise move by many even if it was to save lives.
Prior to our Zamfara trip, Brown Button Foundation’s effort had been centered on the west and we needed to impact more lives and save more women at childbirth. Zamfara, it was decided was the place to flag off our northern campaign.
The reason was simple. Using the result of the 2006 Census in Nigeria, the State has a population of 3, 259, 8946 people and about 100 skilled health workers. This is not surprising considering the high illiteracy rate in the North. Maternal and child mortality is extremely high in the State where poverty is not only thought but seen. Primary Health Care centers are dilapidated, without water, electricity, a functioning laboratory and a befitting labour room even in the capital ‘city’ of Gusau. If poverty had a face, surely, it will be ZAMFARA!
At the Sabon Gari Primary Health Care facility in Gusau, we met health worker Shafaatu Abubakar Jabbi, who took us round her facility. In shock and disbelief, the Brown Button Team went round in silence.
The Sabo Gari Primary Health Care caters for more than 11 settlements in Zamfara state. People come from as far as 15kilometers away to use the facility which has a record of more than 300 patients every month and an average of 10-15 deliveries in a month. The facility has no ward to admit patients so all patients including new mothers are discharged after delivery. Shafa is the only health personnel at this facility. Whenever she has a delivery to attend to, she is often assisted by a biologist, Jamila Bello. From the mats in the delivery room to the environment of the laboratory extension, it’s almost as if I had time travelled two centuries back.
Shafa informed us that few weeks to our coming, a new baby had been infected with tetanus due to the use of a rusted blade to cut his umbilical cord. Distance in getting to the health center had prompted a home delivery by the baby’s mother using unskilled and untrained birth personnel. She survived the ordeal. Only a few do…
Our action plan: Brown Button commenced intervention by donating large quantity insecticide treated nets as well as birth kits containing gloves, scalpel blades, gauze, cord clamps and delivery mats to birth attendants in Zamfara. We have also flagged off our training of birth attendants in the state with these kits.
For Sabon Gari Health Center, we intend to commence a facility upgrade starting with the donation of bed posts and mattresses to the facility.
We believe at Brown Button Foundation, your location at childbirth should not be an excuse or factor in determining whether you live or die.
So there you have it, a nice summary (even if I do say so myself)of our trip to Zamfara where we dared ‘Boko Haram’, set aside religious differences, ignored the distance and scored a victory for women’s health!
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