Toyin Saraki Advocates Better Care For Women

“The cheapest coffin in Nigeria is N150,000. So it costs more to bury our women than to keep them alive.”

President of Wellbeing Foundation Africa, Mrs. Toyin Saraki.
President of Wellbeing Foundation Africa, Mrs. Toyin Saraki.

The President of Wellbeing Foundation Africa, Toyin Saraki, has criticized response to the wellbeing of mothers and babies across Nigeria, saying it was senseless spending N150,000 on a coffin than spend less to keep a woman alive.

“It is cheaper to catch a woman during pregnancy and to invest in that pregnancy. The most expensive thing in managing a woman who is pregnant is actually administration,” she told a West Africa regional caucus meeting at Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen.

“There are only four drugs you can safely give a pregnant woman that do not cross the placental membrane. I am not asking for much. So this is not a question of investment when you don’t know when the investment is going to finish.”

She estimated drugs required in pregnancy period—from conception, four antenatal visits, one ultrasound scan to delivery—cost around N50,000.

“All that plus a Caesarean section, if she needs it, cannot cost more than N120,000,” said Saraki.

“However, the cheapest coffin in Nigeria is N150,000. So it costs more to bury our women than to keep them alive.”

Her comments came as the largest gathering of proponents of women and girls’ health met in Copenhagen to relate the Sustainable Development Goals to women.

The caucus was to back advocacy for better women’s health in West Africa, using improved data.

Saraki pushed for Nigerian government to go beyond keeping “simple registers of birth and death.”

“I mean, come on, there is 176 million of us, and our women are still the largest contributors to maternal deaths in the world, and then all we want to do is count how many children are born and how many children are dying. I’m sorry, I don’t want to be part of that game, because that is not a game changer. That is just an accounting clerk of death.”

Experts have used data from a range of activities related to women to draw up policy briefs to suggest up to 12 key aspects where investment can better women’s lives and health.

Pillars of Investment

The policy brief, presented by the McKinsey Global Institute at the conference and based on the SDGs, call for investment in nutrition, access to modern contraception and access to sexual and reproductive health services.

It also calls for comprehensive health services—free or insured—basic health services, reduction of render-based violence and harmful practice.

The briefs also demand equitable administration, a boost in women economic empowerment and stronger partnership and decision making.

Saraki disclosed that the most important lesson for Nigeria is investing in its citizens, especially in women and girls.

“Twelve pillars of investment have been identified as the road to dignity and the road to transformation. It is now time for Nigeria to face it challenges, make those investments, get to the roots of the problems and remove itself from this position of being the second largest contributor to all the scourges of the world and let’s be the second best in contributing to innovation.”

Two back-to-back interventions to reduce maternal deaths in Ondo state came on exhibition at the caucus.

The first, Abiye, uses health rangers with mobiles and checklist to seek out pregnant women for registration and delivery at a health facility.

The second, Agbebiye, got traditional birth attendants to refer their clients to hospital in exchange for N2,000 per women.

Both are believed to have helped Ondo push the rate of women dying around childbirth from 745 out of every 100,000 livebirths in 2009 to 317 three years later, Ondo health commissioner Dr Adedayo Adeyanju told the caucus.

Latest estimates put maternal death rates at 106 by last year.

Adeyanju attributed Ondo’s success to “strong political will to reverse maternal mortality and ensure Ondo is safe for pregnancy and ensuring pregnancy does not translate to a death sentence.”


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