Muslim Leaders Advocacy Group For Maternal Child Health In Nigeria
By Hadiza Aminu
In Nigeria, One in five children die before their fifth birthday. Over 40% of children miss out on school and work to earn a living. Health facilities are in bad shape and in need of repair, lacking basic equipments and drugs. In some districts in Northern Nigeria, less than 1% of children are fully immunised even though most child deaths are vaccine preventable. Malnutrition is a contributory factor in almost half of these deaths and the availability of health workers to give immediate treatment to poor and vulnerable children in rural communities falls way below the recommended global Human Resource for Health standard.
To address these issues and challenges, Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is working with Save the Children to lead advocacy efforts for improvement on Child survival in Nigeria.
Recognizing the role that religious leaders play in influencing change processes in their communities, Save the Children set out to build a partnership with Muslim religious leaders from Gombe, Katsina, Jigawa and Zamfara State for the purpose of promoting quality health care in these four Northern States. Being in constant contact with policy makers as well as community members, Religious leaders could play a key role in demanding for policy change implementation while also sensitizing community members on the need to seek and access health services.
On this basis, a Muslim leaders Group for Child Survival Advocacy was formally launched on the 19th of Sept at Maikudi hotel Katsina. A 2 day workshop was held by the Muslim group to identifying specific and strategic activities which they can do that could lead to improving child health indices. At the end of the workshop, a comprehensive work plan was laid down for each of the four States. The group called on Save the children to support them with updated information and assist with improving their capacity to deliver on the contributions they are expected to make for Maternal and Child health.
A sermon guide was also produced containing various quotes from the Holy Qur’an and sayings of the Prophet Mohammad that supported maternal and child survival. These Islamic quotes were specifically calling for breastfeeding of children till the age of two years, proper child nutrition, vaccinations uptake, birth preparedness and post natal care. (See attached for the sermon guide) The developed sermon guide is the product of 30 Muslim religious leaders from Northern Nigeria who strongly recommended that the final copy be shared with them before publication and their ownership of it stressed and confirmed.
The newly constituted advocacy group conducted a visit to Katsina State Primary Health Care Development Agency (SPHCDA), the State Ministry of inter-Religious Affairs and State Ministry of health to discuss burning child survival issues with the various policy makers. The idea of a religious group for MNCH Advocacy was recognised as a first by the policy makers they visited and was warmly welcomed. The policy makers acknowledged that Ulamas are the most respectable people in the eyes of community members and that government is ready to work with the MNCH Ulamas to improve the health of women and children.